Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 21

Winding down now, but even in the last few pages of the St. Benedict's School child protection policy there are still some interesting little nuggets.
27. Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage One - Pre-Preparatory School and Nursery: The School will inform Ofsted of any allegations of serious harm or abuse by any person living, working or looking after children on the premises of the Pre-Preparatory School or Nursery (whether that allegation relates to harm or abuse committed on the premises or elsewhere), or any other abuse which is alleged to have taken place on the premises and of the action taken in respect of those allegations. The School will inform Ofsted of these allegations as soon as reasonably practicable but in any event within 14 days of the allegations being made.
The first and most obvious question is why is there a special provision here for reporting allegations of harm to EYFS and Key Stage 1 pupils? Why do the older pupils in the school not benefit from the same provision? I suspect that what has happened is that the Senior School, Junior School and Pre-prep/Nursery used all to have their own separate policies, and that at some point it was thought a good idea to combine them. Whoever got given the task did a copy & paste job, eliminated obviously duplicated paragraphs, and left everything else more or less as it was. And then nobody bothered to look the document over for consistency and usability. That would explain why here and elsewhere there are differing provisions for senior school, junior school and nursery, without there being any good reason for them.

The second question is what is meant by "serious harm"? The term is not defined in the policy. Without a definition, there is huge scope for the threshold to be set differently for allegations of harm from monks or staff members, and allegations of harm from others.

Third question is why is Ofsted mentioned? The school is not inspected by Oftsed, it is inspected by ISI. Neither ISI nor Ofsted is a body tasked with investigating allegations of abuse. Ofsted would not have the faintest idea what to do with such a report if one were to be sent to them. Reports of this kind should go to the local Safeguarding Children Board. I suspect this paragraph has never actually been used, otherwise this weakness would have come to light. I suspect also that it hasn't even been reviewed since ISI took over inspection of the school from Ofsted, whenever that was. The recent ISI report suggests that this is probably the case, since it reports that according to school records, no allegation of abuse by monks or staff has been passed to the authorities at least since 2003.

Fourth, it is worth noting that "The School" will inform Oftsed. Unless the task is allocated to a specific person, then it will never get done, and nobody will be to blame because it wasn't anybody's specific responsibility. And again, the ISI report suggests that is exactly what has happened.

By the way, in any school with good safeguarding practice, allegations of abuse should be reported a heck of a lot quicker than within 14 days.

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