Did anyone explain or does anyone know why the ISI has removed from its website the most recent inspection report for St Benedict's? All that is presently available is an 'out of date' report. This is unusual.As it happens, I do have an answer to this. I have been in communication with Jeanette Pugh, Director, Safeguarding Group at the DCSF (now the DfE). She addressed this specific point in an email she sent to me on 9 April this year.
For those who seem unable to recognise a question, I am keen to know if someone here understands the cause of this very unusual action by the ISI.
ISI tells us that, since the publication of its inspection report on St Benedict's School, information has been received from a number of interested parties. ISI has removed the report from its website whilst enquiries are made to ensure that the report is accurate in relation to the various safeguarding reviews that have taken place and the school's subsequent actions. Departmental officials are actively considering with ISI the best approach to take in ensuring that full and accurate information is provided in its published inspection report.Clearly, if the ISI feels the need to "ensure that the report is accurate in relation to the various safeguarding reviews", it must have serious concerns that the originally published version of the report of its November 2009 visit is not accurate in some serious and significant way. The withdrawal of a report in this way is an extremely unusual event.
This is what the original report had to say on safeguarding. The identical paragraph appeared in the reports both of the Junior and Senior schools.
The trustees and advisors are aware of and are diligent in discharging their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures. A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimise risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented.The inaccuracies in this paragraph are obvious to anybody with a passing knowledge of the situation, but I'll summarise them again anyway, for the benefit of those who don't feel that they are expert in the matter.
- Father David's 36-year (at least) paedophile career at the Abbey involving multiple sexual and indecent assaults against pupils of the school (and this is just the crimes he has actually been convicted of) have been compressed into a single "serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community".
- The convictions of John Maestri which have occurred since the previous inspection in January 2004 have not been mentioned at all.
- At the time of the inspection, the then-current version of the school's child protection policy was dated 1st September 2009. I met the Abbot on 11th September of that year, and suggested that an independent enquiry ought to be set up. At the meeting he did not promise an independent enquiry, stating that the possible need for one had not until then occurred to him, but that he would think about it. Therefore, any review subsequently decided on cannot possibly have been implemented into a policy document that had been approved ten days before my meeting with the Abbot.
- Abbot Martin Shipperlee did promise an "independent review" in his various public statements on 2nd October 2009. A summary of that review was published on 18th March 2010. The summary did not include the school within its Terms of Reference, and made no recommendations regarding child protection procedures at the school.
- "Proper steps" to review and evaluate the child protection policies and the Trustees' diligence in discharging their duties have not been sufficient to prevent the long paedophile careers of both Father David Pearce and John Maestri, and were not even sufficient to prevent continued abuse by Father David Pearce even after he had ceased to be a teacher at the school and had been placed under restricted ministry because he was known to be a danger to children. If they were diligent and failed so spectacularly, then they must instead have been incredibly incompetent.
- The fact that the Charity Commission had conducted two Statutory Enquiries was not mentioned, nor was the fact that at the time of the visit, the Charity Commission was about to issue a spectacularly critical report concerning the safeguarding procedures of the Trust. (I subsequently learned that the neither the ISI nor the DfE was aware of the Charity Commission Enquiries at the time of the ISI's visit in November 2009).
No doubt you will be aware of the recent inspection report on St Benedict’s which judged Child Protection to be good and overall pastoral care to be outstanding.It is inconceivable that the school hadn't been advised of the withdrawal by that time, so the Abbot must have known full well that the original report was no longer valid and was in the process of revision. And of course, the Abbot also made no mention of the Charity Commission's criticisms. This isn't an outright and direct lie - the inspection report did originally say roughly what he claims, but it is nonetheless a deliberate deception, the telling of a partial and unrepresentative subset of the truth.
In a later email to me, dated 8 May 2010, Jeannette Pugh expanded on her previous statement.
ISI removed its recent report from its website in order to check some of the information that underpinned the report, and has carried out further work, including a visit to the school on 30 April, in relation to material that has been drawn to its attention since the inspection in November. We understand that ISI intends to update its report, or provide a supplement, which will include material from this further work, as soon as possible.This clarifies things in an interesting way. The ISI are going to "check some of the information that underpinned the report". The only source of information concerning the report is the school itself, since it is a report of the school. This is therefore clearly stating that the ISI has doubts about the veracity of information provided to them by the school. To put it bluntly, they think the school has been lying to them. They have made a further visit on 30 April, presumably for the purpose of learning the truth of the matter, and why the school lied.
This isn't little old me having doubts, this is doubts being expressed by the inspecting organisation appointed via OFSTED by the Government, and these doubts are being communicated by the Director of Safeguarding at the Department for Education. In other words, doubts are being expressed and communicated by those who are expert in this matter and have national responsibilities with respect to safeguarding.
So, we are still awaiting the publication of this revised report and the report of the subsequent inspection on 30 April. I have since had further correspondence with Georgina Carney of the Independent Education & Boarding Schools Team at the Department for Education. In response to questions I had put to ISI about the inspection and which I had copied to her, she wrote the following to me in an email on 18 June.
I should point out that the Inspection/follow up action is still on-going.So, don't think that this will all blow over. There is still official interest in the safeguarding arrangements at St. Benedict's. So, on 18 June, follow-up action was still continuing. But the latest version of the school's child protection policy is dated 24 May 2010, and makes no significant improvements relative to the September 2009 version. In a phone call I had with Georgina Carney a day or two before, she most carefully assured me that the 24 May version of the school's child protection policy is not the outcome of that follow-up work, and that work was still in progress on an agreed update to the school's child protection policy.
The report has not been published yet, therefore the ISI is not in a position to respond to any of these detailed questions. The ISI as relevant inspectorate will be publishing and responding to this Department as the school Regulator in the first instance. What I can confirm at this stage is the ISI’s point of reference for scrutinising an independent school’s safeguarding and child protection documents is the Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education guidance that schools are required to comply with under Standard 3(2)(b).
So when Peter Turner wrote to me (coincidentally also on 18 June) conveying the Abbot's statement that:
The schools current child protection policy has been approved by the Independent Schools inspection team.I already knew this was a lie, though there is no reason for Peter Turner to have realised that it was a lie at the time that he passed on the message.