28. Allegations against pupils: A pupil against whom an allegation of abuse has been made may be suspended from the School during the investigation and the School's policy on behaviour, discipline and sanctions will apply. The School will take advice from the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) on the investigation of such allegations and will take all appropriate action to ensure the safety and welfare of all pupils involved including the pupil or pupils accused of abuse. If it is necessary for a pupil to be interviewed by the police in relation to allegations of abuse, the School will ensure that, subject to the advice of the LADO, parents are informed as soon as possible and that the pupil is supported during the interview by an appropriate adult. In the case of pupils whose parents are abroad, the pupil's Education Guardian will be requested to provide support to the pupil and to accommodate him/her if it is necessary to suspend him/her during the investigation.It is very instructive to compare this wording with the paragraph concerning allegations against members of staff. The Staff paragraph falls over itself to suggest that allegations might not be true, and that staff members must be protected against unfounded allegations, and that suspension will not normally occur while an investigation is carried out.
There is no such sensitivity towards pupils similarly accused. It is perfectly clear how the school views things. The children exist for the glory of the school, instead of the school existing for the education and welfare of the children.
And what is this business of the "Education Guardian"? Clearly this isn't a reference to a national newspaper, but it would appear to concern somebody standing in loco parentis when a child's parents are abroad. Such a situation is only likely to occur if the child is boarding at the school. But St. Benedict's doesn't have boarders!
29. Suspected harm from outside the School: A member of staff who suspects that a pupil is suffering harm from outside the School should seek information from the child with tact and sympathy using "open" and not leading questions. A sufficient record should be made of the conversation and if the member of staff continues to be concerned he or she should refer the matter to the Designated Teacher.The most obvious thing missing from the policy is what the Designated Teacher is supposed to do with this information when it is received from another member of staff.
But there is an additional point - it seems to be the situation that a referral to the Designated Teacher will only be made if "the member of staff continues to be concerned". So it appears that the record that the staff member makes of the initial conversation isn't supposed supposed automatically to go to the Designated Teacher, and from there to Social Services. This is wrong.
I have now become exceedingly cynical, and view this as another case of the school looking to pick and choose whether or not a case is reported, and the wording being such that abuse by non-teaching monks is regarded as harm from "outside the school" and that they want ways of not having to report it.
30. MonitoringThe Designated Teacher has the major part of the actions (or inactions) specified by the policy. How on earth is the Designated Teacher supposed to monitor himself? This is ludicrous!
a) The Designated Teacher will monitor the operation of this policy and its procedures and make an annual report to the Board of School Advisors and Trustees.
b) The Board of School Advisors and Trustees will undertake an annual review of this policy and how the related duties under it have been discharged.
c) The Trustees will ensure that any deficiencies or weaknesses in regard to child protection arrangements are remedied without delay.
We have no means of knowing whether the Advisers and Trustees carry out item (b) or what the review consists of because it appears that the minutes of their meetings are not published.
And the school simply doesn't operate item (c) at all. I pointed out many of these shortcomings in the child protection policy in emails to the Abbot and headmaster in November last year. Precisely nothing was done. I received no reply at all from the Abbot, and nothing more than an acknowledgement from the headmaster that the policy was reviewed annually. Then earlier this year, through Peter Turner, the Diocesan Child Protection Adviser, I requested a meeting with the headmaster and Abbot to discuss these matters, and they refused.
If they did operate item (c) as described, then the ISI supplementary inspection visit probably would never have happened!
31. Essential InformationVery interesting to note that there are "other staff with child protection responsibilities". This phrase occurs nowhere else within the policy, and so we have no idea what their responsibilities are. Also, given that Mr. Simmons is Deputy Designated Teacher and Junior School headmaster, we are in the ludicrous position of him being required by some of the procedures to report events to himself!
Designated Teacher for Child Protection: Mr Stephen Oliver
Deputy Designated Teacher for Child Protection: Miss Fiona MacTaggart
Other staff with Child Protection responsibilities: Mr Joe Foley
Mr Peter Halsall
Junior School/Early Years Foundation Stage:
Designated Teacher for Child Protection: Mrs Monica McCarthy
Deputy Designated Teacher for Child Protection: Mr Rob Simmons
Other staff with Child Protection responsibilities: Mrs M Lawry
Lastly, paragraph 32 lists contact details for verious agencies. Included are
- Ealing Social Services Child Protection Advisors.
- The Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Team
- Independent Safeguarding Authority
- Parentline (Opus)
- Ealing Hospital
Finally, there is Appendix 1.
Appendix 1This is all concerned with how staff can ensure that any touching they do cannot be construed as abuse. But it is terribly misguided even so. The first paragraph of "Where physical contact may be acceptable" is just plain wrong and dangerous. If a pupil is distressed, the first task of the teacher is to discover the cause of the distress. This is not done by "physical comforting". This is done by sitting the child down somewhere quiet and acting as a reassuring presence without physical contact, and giving the child time to recover to the point where he or she is able to describe what is wrong. Inappropriate physical contact from somebody else might be the source of the child's distress, and so the last thing the child needs is some teacher giving them a hug.
Physical Contact with Pupils
It is not realistic to suggest that teachers should never touch pupils and they, and other staff, have the right to use reasonable force to control or restrain pupils in certain circumstances.
Physical contact may be misconstrued by a pupil, parent or observer. Touching pupils, including well-intentioned gestures such as putting a hand on a shoulder, can, if repeated regularly, lead to serious questions being raised. As a general principle, staff must not make gratuitous physical contact with their pupils. It is particularly unwise to attribute touching to their teaching style or as a way of relating to pupils. Teachers and other staff do, however, have the right to use reasonable physical force to restrain pupils in certain circumstances.
Any form of physical punishment of pupils is unlawful as is any form of physical response to misbehaviour unless it is by way of restraint. It is particularly important that staff understand this both to protect their own position and the overall reputation of the school.
Where physical contact may be acceptable
There may be occasions where a distressed pupil needs comfort and reassurance which may include physical comforting such as a caring parent would give. Staff should use their discretion in such cases to ensure that what is normal and natural does not become unnecessary and unjustified contact, particularly with the same pupil over a period of time. Where a member of staff has particular concern about the need to provide this type of care and reassurance they should seek the advice of the Head Master.
Some staff are likely to come into physical contact with pupils from time to time in the course of their duties. Staff should be aware of the limits within which such contact should properly take place and of the possibility of such contact being misinterpreted.
There may be occasions where it is necessary for staff to restrain a pupil physically to prevent them from inflicting injury to others, self-injury, damaging property, or causing disruption. In such cases only the minimum force necessary may be used and any action taken must be to restrain the pupil. Where an employee has taken action to physically restrain a pupil they should make a written report of the incident in the form prescribed by the school's policy on restraint.
Young children (junior school age) are usually very wary about who they will accept hugs or other physical contact from, and except from their parents they generally do not want physical contact with somebody twice their size if they are distressed. Young children might wrap their arms round a teacher's legs in the playground, but that is when they are happy and pleased to see the teacher, not when they are distressed.
With older children, their hormones are likely to be raging and physical contact when they are distressed is most unwise. The same strategy should be followed - a reassuring presence but no initiation of physical contact. Otherwise, there is a very high risk of the contact being interpreted in a sexual fashion. This would result in a highly dangerous situation whether it is welcomed or not by the pupil. If it is welcomed, you are on the first steps to an inappropriate and illegal sexual liaison between teacher and pupil, and if it is not welcomed, there is a great risk of a complaint against the teacher.