Monday, 16 August 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 14

Next section.
16. Duties of employees, trustees, school advisors and volunteers

The Headmasters, all other employees and trustees of the School as well as every school advisor and volunteer who assists the School is under a general legal duty:

a) to protect children from abuse;
b) to be aware of the School's practice and policies on Child Protection and to follow them;
c) to know how to access and implement the procedures, independently if necessary;
d) in dealing with a child protection issue to remain as objective as possible. Never assume that you “know” which categories of children are at risk;
e) to keep a sufficient record of any significant complaint, conversation or event. Information should be recorded verbatim, if possible. Do not prompt, lead or suggest information to the child;
f) to refer to the Designated Teacher (or in his/her absence, the Deputy Designated Teacher) immediately;
g) in the case of allegations brought against a colleague to refer the incident to the Designated Teacher who will then refer this to the Headmaster immediately (please see the section below on Staff Allegations);
h) to undertake appropriate training including refresher training at three-yearly intervals.
What's this business of a "general" legal duty? Why the qualifying adjective? In what way is a "general legal duty" different from a plain "legal duty"? The impression given is that a general legal duty is one that need not be taken too seriously, that it is something in the background which does not result in any specific action required of staff. This is reinforced by the rather vague descriptions of procedures which are listed.

It is not stated how employees, governors and volunteers will initially acquire the knowledge necessary to carry out their duties. It should be stated that they shall take up their duties only after they have undergone an induction in which they are made aware of their duties in respect of child protection, the school’s policies and procedures, and the relevant people to contact.

Then there is a matter of a "sufficient" record of events. Sufficient for what purpose?

The duties and the procedures for executing them should be separated for clarity and the avoidance of confusion. Where there are two descriptions of the same procedure (as for instance here and paragraph 18) there is inevitably scope for confusion as to which is the correct procedure to follow. To avoid such confusion, procedures must be kept separate from other text, must be stated only once, and should be entirely clear as to the extent of discretion available to a staff member when following the procedure.


  1. There are two big problems with safeguarding in independent schools. Firstly, Heads who are ignorant of and incompetent in fulfilling their obligations and fearful of bad publicity. This is a strange inconsistency, because if matters are seen to be dealt with promptly and effectively parents actually become more confident, whereas when cover-ups come to light, as they inevitably do, the opposite happens; so often what looks like bad publicity may actually send a message that this is a place where decisive action is taken and children are protected.
    Secondly the lack of independence and competence of the trustees and governors who see their roles as titular and honorary, rarely know anything about the workings of schools or have any involvement with their day to day affairs.
    To make matters worse, at St Benedict's the very monks under suspicion are and have been the trustees and governors.
    The fundemental error is ever to assume that a profession of piety is a guarantee of probity. Governors and Trustees must maintain independence and must ensure that what they are being told is true; these are important duties and the people who perform them should ensure that they are properly prepared through suitable and on-going training. This is not work for people who are out of touch through reasons of age, negligent or ignorant or their remit. Volunteers or not, professional standards are needed and should be expected!

  2. 10:32, Can you substantiate your claim that monks who are trustees at St Benedict's are under suspicion? I don't think this has been alledged previously.

  3. An interesting post at 10.32.

    A number of important matters are highlighted including the vital role governors should play in the life of any school. Truly independent governors are vital for every institution to stay healthy, but they are difficult to find. St Benedict’s has a particularly inward looking structure among two sets of people - governors and school advisers. Clearly everyone is comfortable with each other – they are ‘PLU’s’ – people like us. I doubt very much that anyone will challenge much as this will be seen as 'rocking the boat,' be too demanding because 'we all muck along together.' I am sure it is all very 'nice' as it is in many independent schools. Governors of course can't get sacked because it is only the governors that can sack a governor and that is usually for rocking the boat! The system is flawed.

    Bring on the American class system of governance, and a board packed with independent members, and one representative from the parents. Of course people who ensure complacency and groupthink is left at he door are also needed to fill the positions.

    Institutions that like St Benedict’s that conceal abuse think they are doing it for the best. Unlike St Benedict’s, most schools did at least return Notification’s under the Education Acts. Returning these statutory tools carries no benefit for an abused child, the Notifications system was merely a means of ‘tagging’ an alleged perpetrator. An abused child is not entitled to any support under the statutory framework, because there is no requirement in law that any school must report alleged abuse to the police, the LADO or children’s services. The guidance presented by the DfE documentation suggests the opposite, but this is counterfeit as the senior mandarins at the DfE know. When rumbled they suggest it is far better to introduce a policy through ‘persuading’ teachers they ‘should’ report rather than ‘a statutory requirement forcing the report.’ Tell that to an abusee.

    As a result of this absurd logic we have in reality only a ‘professional expectation’ that school staff ‘should’ report alleged or actual abuse. This situation, perhaps unintentionally, presents all head teachers of independent schools in particular with a conflict of interest when considering reporting alleged and/or actual abuse. And if the head wants to report alleged abuse, but the chairman of the board overrules him – what then? There is no breech of the law so this sort of conflict can very easily arise!

    It explains why independent governors are so important – and there are none at St Benedict’s where the structure of board of trustees according to the ISI follow up report suggests the abbott controls the board by default.

  4. 15.30

    The 10.32 posting is not mine, but to address part of your question, it has been suggested on this site in a number of locations that monks who are had have been trustees and governors are under suspicion. Just review past postings by Mr West and contributions by others.

  5. Thanks for answering but my concern is about present trustees and/or governors. If any of them are currently under suspicion it would be a serious matter. I cannot find any contribution suggesting this. Maybe Mr West knows?

  6. Whenever an inquiry is announced one should always question who is appointed and why contrary to some suggestions on this blog. What is the scope of the inquiry, the terms of reference, the background and experience of ‘expert’ advisers, and of course who commissioned the inquiry and who will pay the bill? All these matters can have an effect on the outcome. One hopes that this latest ‘inquiry’ is genuine given the shambles of the previous two (?) evidenced by only one ‘executive summary’ of exceptionally limited use.

    It seems unlikely that Mr. West will release the ‘bone’ until verifiable explanations emerge from the management of St Benedict's. To quote the ISI follow up report - "As a result of information provided by a member of the public, further work was conducted after the inspection of the school in November 2009 and after the publication of the senior and junior school reports." If left to the ISI’s inspectors one wonders if they would ever have discovered what a member of the public brought to their attention about this school that has now resulted in this latest inquiry.

    Let’s also not forget that the school failed completely to return Notifications under the Education Acts, one of the very few statutory requirements in the educational framework. This indicates we either have a school with incompetent trustees successfully running a £10m business, or trustees described in the ISI report as “shrewd” who appear prepared to break the law to protect the “reputation” of the business.

    Few ‘inquiries’are successful, look at the last Government’s record. What is the definition of success for St Benedict’s? I expect each of us has our own idea and perhaps at some stage in the future Mr West might like to invite opinions that are no more that say 80 words.

    Sadly, and all too early in the process, those driving the inquiry have made mistakes. Mr Nelson, solicitor for Ealing Abbey, said (Times 6/8/10) the school’s child protection policy was now “completely compliant” with the requirements of the ISI and the Department for Education.

    Wrong :

    • It is the DfE only that drives the very limited legislative framework that exists.
    • The ISI has no powers over the regulatory framework, they only inspect that schools are meeting the expectations contained in DfE “guidance.”

    Does the current policy (24th May) meet the DfE requirements? No!
    Did it pass the ISI’s inspections of 30th April and the 17th May? No!

    Evidence from the ISI’s ‘follow up report’ published last week “Shortcomings were also apparent in the school’s safeguarding policy”

    Why did Nelson feel the urge to utter this nonsense? It seems he was intent on re-veneering the school’s reputation before the ‘inquiry’ had even started.

    You see, this sort of unwisdom from someone involved in these matters sends all the wrong messages to victims who will be watching proceedings closely.

    The ISI also mistakenly told us in their November 09 report, which quite staggeringly has now been reloaded uncorrected onto their site:

    “The trustees and advisers are fully aware of, and 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.

    This flies in the face of their ‘follow up report,’ commissioned by the DfE and which employs robust language stating the opposite.

    The ISI’s safeguarding abilities do not bear close inspection. If they inspected aeroplanes I’d choose the boat – I usually do.

    This is not the first time that such errors have been made by the ‘peer review’ inspectorate. Let’s not forget the sheer number of St Benedict’s abusers they missed in November and the missing Notifications. This is five star incompetence but one can expect little more from this safeguarding illiterate inspectorate and its inept accomplice the DfE.

  7. In terms of suspicion, let's split the question into monks, and the smaller group specifically of trustees.

    In terms of those who are currently listed as monks, yes, there have definitely been concerns expressed about some of them, and the ISI report mentions that two are living under restricted ministry.

    In terms of those currently on the list of trustees, I am not aware of anything against any of them in terms of them abusing children. (Covering up abuse is another matter altogether.) Had you asked the question in March this year, the answer would have been different. In the intervening time, Father Gregory Chillman has disappeared from the list of Trustees. Had you asked in early 2005, the answer would also have been yes, as Father Stanislaus Hobbs was then a Trustee.

  8. General Legal Duty17 August 2010 at 21:57

    In my view it should be "are" rather than "is" under a general legal duty as the subject is plural "The Headmasters.....are".

    The term "general legal duty" indicates a duty of care which is not laid down in any specific statute but is part of common law. A google search of the term shows it is often used in the negative as in this example:

    "1) There is no general legal duty to assist the police or to obey police instructions. Rice v Connolly [1966] 2 QB 414."

    I do not agree that the word "general" qualifies the duty in the way you describe. When you drive you have a "general duty of care towards all other road-users" - that's a serious obligation.

    Also in Fr Stan's defence, if I may, at the Trial the Judge had two lever arch files full of character witness statements in support of Father Stan. The character statements came from old boys who had known him over decades. Apart from the complainant in his trial not one other complaint was made against him. We know that once abusers are arrested often other victims come forward and complain - this did not happen in Father Stan's case despite the great publicity.

  9. I understand the remarks you make about the lever arch files of references. The same can be said for the convicted paedophile, author and top drawer member of the establishment Roger Took. Few of his friends believe he is an abuser, “it’s all such nonsense” can still be heard in many gracious embankment homes. I also understand your comment "no one other than the complainant" came forward to allege abuse. When child sexual abuse is on the agenda, adult logic must be suspended.

    Why? None of what follows relates to St Benedict's, but these examples will perhaps indicate the unwisdom of logic being applied to this subject.

    Is it logical that two brothers (a year and a bit between them) were abused by the same man at a school, whilst he was simultaneously having a long, and from the vivid descriptions he gave me whilst I was eleven, a highly charged affair with their mother?

    Is it logical that one of the brothers then sent his own son to the same school when the man who abused him was still there in a more senior position?

    Is it logical that despite the eventual revelation that this man was/is a paedophile, neither of the brothers knows they were each abused by him, and neither has ever discussed what is now in the public domain?

    Is it logical that the father of the two sons now knows that both sons were abused by the same teacher who had an affair with his wife, but he will not raise the matter with either of them. He finds it incomprehensible that one of his sons sent his child to the school when the abuser was still there.

    Do I find it strange? No because I nearly sent my own son to the school but I came to my senses and filed a complaint with the police that resulted in the man being charged.

    Question – How does the former abused pupil who sent his son to the school ever tell his wife or his family what happened to him as an 11 year old, knowing that such was the state of his denial, guilt, call it what you will, that he sent his son to the school whilst his abuser was still there as a teacher?

    When the case against the abuser went public – neither of the brothers filed a complaint.

    Mind you the lever arch files were full of character references, a number provided by known former victims of the man’s abuse.

  10. Evening Standard today 18th Aug 201018 August 2010 at 20:45

    Page 4 - Evening Standard (Wednesday 18th August 2010 [WEST END FINAL]

    in brief:

    Headline: Child Abuse claim at Catholic School

    "Police are investigating claims of child abuse at a Roman Catholic school in London. The allegations against three teachers have been made by two former pupils of St Benedict's School in Ealing.

    One of the accused is former head Father David Pearce, jailed last year after admitting abusing pupils between 1972 and 2008."

    This article does not appear to be on-line.