Friday, 3 September 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 20

This is where the policy plumbs new depths unreached previously even by the dismal standards of this document.
26. Allegations Against Staff Members

The School has procedures for dealing with allegations against staff (and volunteers who work with children) that aim to strike a balance between the need to protect children from abuse and the need to protect staff and volunteers from false or unfounded allegations. These procedures follow the guidance in chapter 5 of Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education.
The school might have procedures, but they aren't written down here! And there is a little phrase that is very striking: "the need to protect staff and volunteers from false or unfounded allegations". I've come across that phrase before. At Father David Pearce's sentencing hearing, it was revealed that the publicly-stated reason for Pearce having been put on a restricted ministry was "to protect Father David from unfounded allegations". That was a letter written by Abbot Martin Shipperlee. The allegations, stretching across a great many years, were all-too-well founded, as the Abbot knew perfectly well. After all, Father Martin (as he was then) was Father David's immediate successor as Junior School headmaster. But that didn't stop that little phrase from getting used to cover up the true reason for Pearce's restricted ministry.
Suspension will not be an automatic response to an allegation. Full consideration will be given to all the options, subject to the need to ensure:
  • the safety and welfare of the pupils or pupil concerned; and
  • the need for a full and fair investigation.
If there is an allegation of mistreatment of a pupil by a member of staff, it is hard to imagine how the pupil's safety can be assured by any means other than the removal of the member of staff from proximity to the pupil. And it is hard to imagine how that can be done without the removal of the staff member from the premises. That means suspension. A suspension in such circumstances while an investigation is carried out should not be regarded as a disciplinary action, but rather as an administrative procedure. It shouldn't carry any implication as to the guilt or innocence of the staff member.

Oh, and that "full and fair investigation"? The school's not supposed to even attempt that. If there is a case of any substance, it should be referred immediately to the Local Safeguarding Children Board. But the policy strangely doesn't say that.
Where an allegation or complaint is made against the Designated Teacher, the matter should be reported immediately to the Headmaster. Where an allegation or complaint is made against the Headmaster, the person receiving the allegation should immediately inform the Chair of Governors, or in his absence the Prior, without first notifying the Headmaster.
This is great, except that the next step is completely missing. What is the Designated Teacher, or Headmaster, or Chair of Governors or Prior supposed to do with this reported allegation or complaint? Based on what is described in this policy, the answer is nothing, because nothing is precisely what is included on the subject.
Appendix 1 of this policy gives guidance to staff on how to ensure that their behaviour and actions do not place pupils or themselves at risk of harm or of allegations of harm to a pupil.
I'll come to Appendix 1 later.
If the School ceases to use the services of a member of staff (or a governor or volunteer) because they are unsuitable to work with children, a compromise agreement will not be used and there will be a prompt and detailed report to the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Any such incidents will be followed by a review of the safeguarding procedures within the School, with a report being presented to the Governors without delay.
This is actually not all that bad a paragraph. It ought to be elsewhere in the policy, as it deals with a rather different stage of the procedure, where as a result of an investigation it has been decided that the teacher is unsuitable to work with children. There's a whole lot of text that ought to be in the policy describing how you get from there to here which is entirely absent.

But the real problem with this paragraph is that we know the school ignores it. How do we know this? Because the ISI report says so, and they visited the school in April and May this year and examined the records. This is what the ISI had to say about the reporting of allegations.

"The allegations against Fr DP were referred to social services by the school following disclosure by a pupil. The school’s safeguarding records since 2003 do not mention any other report to social services in connection with concerns related to staff, volunteers, trustees or monks. All have been family or other matters."

Now, since 2003, there have been the following incidents.
  1. The arrest and trial of Father Stanislaus Hobbs. At the time of his arrest in 2005, he was a Trustee. He was acquitted in 2007, but was placed on restricted ministry. To the best of my knowledge, he is still at the Abbey on restricted ministry.
  2. The civil case brought by "C" against Father David Pearce and the school in 2006. The school lost the case and Pearce was placed on restricted ministry.
  3. The various trials and convictions of John Maestri in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Admittedly Maestri had left the school (rather suddenly) in the 1980s, but the trials were concerned with offences whose victims were pupils at the school at the time, and the police investigations must have involved visits to the school.
  4. The resignation as a Trustee of Father Gregory Chillman in 2010 and his being put on restricted ministry, at the time of a police and Social Services investigation.
Under various Education Acts from about 1959 onwards, if a governor or member of staff is sacked or resigns in circumstances where his or her suitability to work with children is at issue, there is a legal obligation to notify the event to the authorities. Over the years, with various government reorganisations, where the Notification should be sent has changed. In recent years it has been the DCSF Teacher Misconduct Section, but in 2009 it was changed to be the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Within the meaning of the Act, the Trustees fulfill the role of Governors, and so the resignations of Hobbs and Chillman at the very least should have been notified.

But according to the ISI, this didn't happen. If the ISI report is correct, this is a clear breach of the law by the school. Twice.

The ISI appears only to have examined the school's records as far back as 2003. One does wonder what happened in previous years. For instance it would be interesting to find out whether a Notification was sent at the time of John Maestri's abrupt departure from the school in the early 1980s, or whether a Notification was sent at the time of David Pearce's "retirement" as Junior School Headteacher. Since John Maestri was able to obtain a teaching post elsewhere after he left St. Benedict's, we can only conclude that no Notification was issued. That would rather suggest that the school has been breaking the law for the better part of 30 years.

This is utterly dreadful. Even where the school has a policy to report, it doesn't actually apply the policy, and breaks the law as a result. There is a very important conclusion to be drawn from this. Even if the policy were to be be rewritten properly, the school could still not be trusted to follow it. There is no more reason to expect the school to properly apply a good policy than there is to expect it to follow the good fragments of a bad policy.

Until such time as the Abbot and Headmaster show themselves to be trustworthy, they will have to be watched like hawks. Who is going to have to do that watching? You, the parents. There isn't anybody else who can.

The ISI can't do this for you. According to its report:

"Soon after the inspection visits, the school had posted on its website a fully compliant version of its safeguarding policy"

The inspection visits occurred on 30 April and 17 May. The version of the school's child protection policy I have been reviewing is dated 24 May. This is the policy the ISI thinks is "fully compliant". That should tell you all you need to know about the ability of the ISI to protect the pupils at the school.

Parents. Know this. You are utterly on your own.


  1. The big problem seems to be a lack of inter-agency cooperation. This was the failing in Soham and with Baby P. ISI can only report and recommend; there is an assumption that a kind of 'gentlemen's agreement' exists and that recommendations will necessarily be followed. This is fine in the case of a recommendation to set better homework or mark books a bit more carefully, because these recommendations are easily carried out, and nobody gets harmed if they are not. It is extraordinary that the police do not prosecute heads who have broken the law by failing to report child protection issues. Were this to begin to happen a clear message would be sent. Similarly the Charities Commission should set criteria for trusteeship where there are potential safeguarding dangers (in schools, hospitals etc). There should at least be a requirement to be adequately trained for the role, an audit trail showing how the role is carried out and some form or monitoring. The ISA is supposed to facilitate inter-agency cooperation, but unless the legal requirement to report is followed up by prosecutions and trustees stop seeing themselves as a rubber-stamp there seems little way forward.

  2. An interesting post @09.32 but it appears to contain a misunderstanding.

    In England there is no mandatory requirement to report child abuse to the authorities. The word authorities include - police, social services or the LADO. Reporting child abuse abuse to one of these three agencies guarantees the child will be impact assessed and receive appropriate medical or psychological treatment if needed. This report also commences a criminal process if it becomes apparent that criminal actions have occurred. It is this particular report that schools fear making because no school wants child abuse to go to court for very obvious reasons.

    There was however a statutory duty on schools to return a Notification in circumstances where a member of staff been dismissed or has resigned and left the school in circumstances where had they not resigned s/he would have been dismissed as a result of their behaviour towards a child/ren. This Notification – in effect a letter – needed to be returned with 30 days of the incident to the DfE (and forerunners) and until January of 2010 to the ISA. This requirement has now been revoked as a result of the introduction of the SVGA (Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) and now there is a requirement for a “referral” to be made which actually substantially raises the threshold before child abuse needs to be “non mandatorily” reported to the "authorities."

    The return of a Notification or a referral has absolutely no benefit for an abused child. Firstly this is an administrative tool designed to track an alleged perpetrator. Notifications / referrals are filed by name of perpetrator, with no cross reference to the name of school where the incident happened. It is claimed by the DfE that its IT contractor is unable to provide this facility. There are many failings in this process which I'll try to write about in future. When a Notification arrives at its destination it might contain clear details of crimes against a child but nonetheless be unaccompanied by a contemporaneous police report. This is because there is no obligation to report alleged abuse to the “authorities” including the police. If a crime is unreported to the police and this becomes apparent – the DfE did nothing further. Fully aware that a child had been abused even raped and unreported by the school, the DfE Safeguarding team did nothing. Since the ISA has taken over the same protocol applies – but I have heard unofficially that they do recheck with the local police to see if a report was filed. But once again no further action is taken.

    The Notification / Referral is meant to then be automatically copied to the Inspectorates for them to inspect against. This area is also failing for reasons which the DfE seems unwilling to discuss. The inspectorates live in fear it seems of having to inspect and report upon potential safeguarding failings. It’s all about parents being reassured and passive or “coshed” – no matter how dreadful the school might be on the safeguarding front.

    Parents are being lulled into a completely false sense of security and the inspectorates and the DfE know it.

  3. The insanity of it all is probably perfectly normal to those who work on the inside of this stupidity. Or perhaps it’s just pension protection inertia, ‘don’t rock the boat' mentality that pervades many government bodies. But it stinks and I need to consider what to do.

  4. quote/…

    From: DmartinW5@xxxxxxxxxx
    Date: 4 May 2006 18:57:21 GMT+02:00
    To: xxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx
    Subject: St Benedict's


    Mr Cleugh passed on to me your email. I am sorry it has taken me a while to contact you.

    I have no adequate words to respond to your account of St Benedict's and I can only express my sorrow and anger that you should have been left with such memories. Some of the things you talk of are completely new to me (I was not at school at St Benedict's and entered the monastery in 1981). One thing, however, I know absolutely for sure, is that since I became abbot in 2001 all and any allegations made against any of the monks have been investigated by outside authorities. If therefore, there is anything you know or suspect about any individual that you would like or feel able to tell me, now or at any time in the future, please get in contact. You have my email address and my direct phone number is XXX XXXX XXXX.

    Yours sincerely,

    Abbot Martin

    end quote/…

    Mr Cleugh didn't actually respond to my email. He simply passed it to Martin Shipperlee. As we all know, Pearce was also to carry on abusing boys and other members of the Ealing Abbey community have been questioned, arrested or summoned to help police with their enquiries in the past month or so.


  5. The email to Cleugh, to which Shipperlee responded. Plus a comment from someone who didn't go to St B's, included because of its grimly amusing reference to Tory MPs, and to the reaction he recalled to a groping teacher at the prep school we both went to at different times.


    Begin forwarded message:

    From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Date: 24 April 2006 19:12:32 GMT+02:00
    To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Subject: FW: Father David Pearce

    ------ Forwarded Message
    From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 18:41:16 +0100
    To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Subject: Re: Father David Pearce

    That's fucking rank.
    I remember you told me about that cunt once.
    Even St. Pxxxxxxxhad Mr. Lowe, who was fond of drying boys off after they had showered. But when some parents complained to xxxxxxx their concerns were just brushed aside with the usual British school / military "bah, poppycock" attitude.

    And one wonders why these kids grow up to be Tory MPs...


    On 21 Apr 2006, at 01:29, XXXXX XXXXXX wrote:

    Dear Mr Cleugh,

    As an old boy without, I regret to say, any fond memories of St Benedict’s (1974 – 1977), all I say about the recent scandal involving Father David is that I am astonished that it took this long for the truth about this horrible individual to emerge. I am afraid that I find it hard to believe that he got away with it for so long without, it seems, anyone in authority noticing. It is scandalous and, moreover, quite clear that there has been a thirty-year cover-up of this obvious pederast’s activities.

    He attempted to persecute me at one point because I resisted his advances and I believe that I was singled out for a bit of victimisation by Pearce and a couple of his fellow pederasts amongst the monks on the teaching staff because I and a couple of friends also threatened Pearce when it became clear to us that he was interfering with one of our friends, who became very depressive as a result. I recall that the proclivities of a couple of pederasts, including Pearce, were referenced in a magazine produced in 1978 by friends of mine in the senior classes (after I had left) and the authors of the magazine were threatened with expulsion.

    I was surprised to learn about Father Stanislaus. There were two or three monks and one layman on the teaching staff whom I would have fingered as pederasts before I thought of Fr Stanislaus. So, where has the Order sent these two turd-fondlers? To some Third World outpost where they can amuse themselves with relative impunity or have they really been removed to a place where they cannot get at young boys? I sincerely hope so...and I hope that the other dubious characters who were active when I was there have also been removed from contact with young boys.

    I am a journalist and editor myself but I shall not be writing about this. I just felt that you ought to know that there are quite a few old boys with unpleasant memories of St Benedict’s as a result of what can fairly be described as a looseknit cabal of people like Pearce, who were able to do what they did with impunity. I wonder how many boys they ruined.


    ------ End of Forwarded Message

    end quote/…