Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 22

Here's a quick run through the final paragraphs of the 24 May 2010 version of the St Benedict's School child protection policy - the one published a week after the second ISI visit on 17 May and which in August the school's solicitor Tony Nelson claimed in The Times was "completely compliant with [the ISI's] requirements". In a future article, I'll summarise the changes that have been made in the new September 2010 version of the policy.
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. Monitoring

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.
The 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!

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 Information

Senior School:

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
Very 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!

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
No explanation as to why any of these are there, or under what circumstances any of them may be called. And There's no reason for OFSTED to be in the list at all because the school is inspoected by ISI, not OFTSED. OFSTED has nothing at all to do with the school.

Finally, there is Appendix 1.
Appendix 1

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

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.
This 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.

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.


  1. I think you will find that reference above to Ofsted is because they have the responsibility for nursery and pre-school inspections, even of independent schools.

  2. The second paragraph of the Junior School Report for the November 2009 ISI inspection suggests that ISI now has responsibility for EYFS inspections in ISC schools, and Section 7 of the repert addresses the EYFS provision of the school.

  3. I'm extremely grateful to you for all the good work you're doing with this blog to try and hold St Benedict's Scool and Ealing Abbey to account. I was a pupil at St Benedict's school in the early 1980's and although I was never sexually abused it was the most unhappy period of my life, and has cast a shadow over my entire adult life, due to the fact that I was bullied throughout my school career by that revolting bastard David Pearce, the vicious alcoholic Father Gregory and the positively satanic Dom Laurence Soper, who must have caned me upwards of a dozen times. They are evil men who left me with absolutely no self confidence or self worth. I think one important question that needs to be asked is what people like Strahan and Nonhebel, to name but two, were doing while Pearce was sexually abusing schoolboys. Everyone knew what was going on.

  4. Dear 00.13, Thank you for your posting. What you have confirmed is a culture of abuse that perhaps still exists in this paedophile "sweet factory."

    Non abusive staff clearly thought they were powerless to do anything. They saw the Governors controlled by Soper, with five of his cohorts two of who were appointed directly by Soper (ISI report April/May) - and gave up.

    Non abusive staff were clearly more worried about losing their jobs and their pensions. And had they been kicked out for raising this matter, it is unlikely they would have got a job in independent education again.

    I hate all of this - it was the same at my independent school which was a sexual abuse factory. Inert and fearful staff who saw nothing! - but in reality saw everything.

    Their silence has much to do with the structure of independent education in this country. Would another headmaster appoint a sacked whistleblower from another member ISC school?
    And then we have the farcical body that claim to be “inspectors” the ISI. Imagine, they fetch up at St Benedict’s in 1980 to “inspect” but what they should be inspecting is actually not on their list of “to do’s” but parents and teachers really do not understand that. They wear the badge “inspector” but their brief is rather slimmer. So they leave having looked at bits of paper and little else and declare quite wrongly in all senses “exceptional school,” let’s not forget they did this last November.
    Such a proclamation empowers a corrupt administration – and there is a clear precedent demonstrating the awful affects of this “independent school clubbiness” folly.

  5. Re the post of 11th September 2010 at 17.31- Strahan and Chillman are now both at St. Augustines Girls School. Is the camaraderie of these two continued in that school as well?

  6. Oh, please. Enough, already. I applaud Jonathan's "terrier with a rat" approach as I believe he is motivated by a concern to do good. His efforts have, I believe ,probably enabled some who would otherwise hesitate to speak, to come forward. On the other hand, bandying random names about because people were in the same building at the same time serves no useful purpose. No organised ring- really not, Some abuses, yes, unfortunately, yes.

    I wonder what on earh prompted the last post.

  7. The last post was prompted by the fact that other people within the school were aware of what Pearce, Soper and Chillman were doing to us but turned a blind eye and reported nothing. In my eyes that makes them as guilty as the abusers. As 2 of the names are still associated with each other, albeit in another school, one has to consider why. Its time to get everything out in the open once and for all.This blog appears to be one of the only means to achieve that end as the inspection agencies etc have been shown to be ineffective. So its not a question of bandying random names, these people do have a connection and any connection past, present or future should be looked into.

  8. To 09:15, if you were abused by anybody at the school, it is not too late to tell the police about it. There is obviously an active investigation going on, and the police will certainly take seriously reports from anybody else who comes forward. The school in the latest version of its child protection policy has very usefully provided an appropriate contact for anybody wishing to do so. I've repeated it below.

    Metropolitan Police Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT):
    Northwood Police Station
    2 Murray Road
    Northwood, Middlesex
    Contact : Duty Officer – Sharon Brookes
    Tel: 020 8246 1901