Monday, 19 July 2010

Why was the ISI report withdrawn?

Grimersta in a comment to a previous blog article asked:
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removed from its website the most recent inspection report for St Benedict's? All that is presently available is an 'out of date' report.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.

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.
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.
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.
  1. 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".

  2. The convictions of John Maestri which have occurred since the previous inspection in January 2004 have not been mentioned at all.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. "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.

  6. 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).
Note that I was advised by Jeannette Pugh on 9th April that the report had been withdrawn because of concerns about its accuracy. But the Abbot wrote a letter to parents on 22nd April. In it, he stated:
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.

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, 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.

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.


  1. I see that the ISI reports have also been removed from St Benedict's School's own website. I can not believe that the headmaster would have deleted them unless the ISI had compelled him to do so.

    All of this unpleasantness could have been avoided if only the school had told the truth in the first place.

  2. The reports seems to be there. St Benedict's home - news tab - bottom item.

  3. So it is! There used to be prominent links to the reports on the home page of the site. Those have been removed.

    I wonder what the ISI thinks about that!

  4. This does provide a more grounded reason for the ISI's removal of their last report for St Benedict's School. Pure embarrassment at getting it so wrong is probably #1. The ISI's credibility for safeguarding is being questioned in many quarters as other posters have commented. Despite the veneer it would not be an overstatement to say the ISI is inept at this discipline of their inspections.

  5. There are a number of points to consider following your post. If the DfE instructed the ISI to undertake a further inspection of St Benedict's predicated upon ‘information received’ - the ISI report that follows is non disclosable (to the public). Why this should be the case is interesting but flawed. The DfE it seems is very keen to protect the commercial interests of schools. I have heard the words "we do not want to destabilise an otherwise good school" many times. It’s nonsense and wrong, but then so much in the world of safeguarding is wrong as a result of the byzantine structure that almost no one in the DfE understands from end to end.

    This article in the Times clearly demonstrates the point I am making. if you want access to a report commissioned by the DfE you have to apply for it under FoI. By now the Department may have plugged this leak in their secrecy. They fail to understand that safeguarding requires open honest dealings. Where this to happen we could all have confidence in the outcomes. But because the DfE is terrified that its intervention will "destabilise a school" the Department’s effectiveness with safeguarding is extremely weak. They are also independent school illiterate – and this is a very important point. Were they to understand the modus operandii of independent schools when abuse appears within these settings, a viable, working, literate and well structured framework could be assembled for all schools. While the department effectively ignores independent schools because they only educate 6% of children, then these problems are set to continue.

    I suggest Mr West seeks clarification from Ms Pugh. Did the DfE commission a further inspection from the DfE? Will this report be published in full on the ISI's website? Depending on the reply you may need to submit an FoI to the DfE because there is a whiff that the Department intend permitting a form of “edited highlights” only to appear in any reissue or supplement of the current but unavailable report.

    The DfE has to understand that they cannot deny parents information which directly affects the education and welfare of their children. In this particular case parents are paying to educate their children at a school over which serious questions hang. These questions need to be answered in full for us to retain any confidence in the school, the ISI or the safeguarding group at the DfE.

  6. Well the silence from the petulant screamers who were so eager to disrupt this site suggests that someone has told them to remain silent. Throughout their postings not a single fact was posted by them to this blog – just go and check. But they did dispense plenty of personal abuse, bullying, misquotes, and repeatedly and mind numbingly claimed alleged libel – on and on and on they went.

    It is amazing the lengths people driven by blind faith will go to defend the indefensible.

  7. Ahh - the Abbeyvistas - they were something!

    Travelled in threes they were so insecure.

  8. Well, dears, I do hope everyone is aware that most of the above came from a single source? Talk about 'specks' and 'trunks'!

  9. 19.18 - Priscilla - Aged 12. Nothing changes.

  10. Playground patois as ever 19.18 - no facts, no content, no contribution, just "ya boo sucks" language that contributes nothing. But then I can understand the reluctance to contribute under the circumstances.

  11. 'contributions' ?

    No one, but West in his many aliases, is going 'contribute' anything but scorn to this blog.

  12. Aliases and repetition. repetition and aliases! Yes, the only reason anyone now visits this blog - other than Mr West, himself, of course - is, I suspect, to observe its various phases of manic obsession!

  13. Oh dear....I don't understand a word of that! So, it's not a contribution, is it?

  14. Nop, can't be. Perhaps, we'd better get back at these Abbeyvistas and quote some serious May West lines at them!

  15. Some compassion, please! Forget May West!! Remember, instead, Frankie Howard's line: 'It's wicked to mock the afflicted!'

  16. Wait for it folks! We're in for a really serous blast from the 'real' Mr West, I can feel it coming. Perhaps, if we're lucky, hell be in his role of 'fellow victim'! I,personally, always enjoy that one, it reminds me of Lear! Oh, go on, you non-Abbeyvistas, you know who I mean..... ..Edward!

  17. You gets so exited at the prospect that one's spelling just goes for a burton!

  18. So what would you say to the ISI who continue to investigate 'concerns' from a number of sources?

  19. Oh dear Mr West again; but in a bit of a downbeat mood, it seems!

  20. Well, that's enough from me for today. Or to put that in language comprehensible to non-Abbeyvistas: