Friday, 24 September 2010

Continuing shortcomings in the Child Protection Policy

I have to say that as a result of the DfE having a hissy-fit about the May 2010 version of the Child Protection policy, the new September 2010 version is somewhat better. But it would have required a very serious effort to make it worse than the May 2010 version, so saying it is an improvement isn't that much of a commendation. There certainly isn't enough of an improvement to justify the policy being described as "good" or even "adequate". It still has very serious deficiencies. These are some of the most obvious:

Section 22 deals with the duties of the Designated Teacher, but does not specify what the Designated Teacher will actually do on receiving a report or allegation of abuse, but rather there is a list of things which the Designated Teacher "will take into account". This kind of wriggle-room is precisely what a Child Protection Policy ought not to have.

The training requirements with regard to safeguarding remain wholly inadequate. Section 9 specifies that the Designated Teachers and deputies shall receive "basic child protection training and training in inter-agency working and will attend refresher training at two yearly intervals". Other staff, according to section 16(h) are to undertake "appropriate training including refresher training at three-yearly intervals". What is "appropriate" is not specified, but is presumably less than the "basic" training specified for the Designated Teachers. This falls far short of the recommendations of the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board, as indicated in their Training brochure. This document indicates that the Ealing SCB Target Group 3 training is suitable for Designated Teachers and people with comparable levels of responsibility for safeguarding matters, while Target Group 2 training appears to be the level suitable for other teaching staff, and Target Group 1 is suitable for ancillary staff who have occasional contact with pupils. Only the Target Group 1 training could reasonably be described as "basic". The Child Protection Policy should be specific in describing the required levels of training, and should reflect the recommendations of the local Safeguarding Children Board.

The ISI supplementary report mentions that a member of the Board of School Advisers has been appointed as the "child protection governor". However, this person's name and duties are not stated anywhere in the Child Protection Policy. Also, the policy makes reference in section 31 to "Other staff with Child Protection responsibilities", but does not describe what their responsibilities and duties are. There's no point in having such positions unless there is some description of what the occupants of those positions are supposed to do.

Appendix 2 appears to have been copied and pasted whole from the policy of another school. No attempt has been made to harmonise the text with the rest of the policy. An obvious example is that Appendix 2 refers to "Child Protection Officers" rather than "Designated Teachers". It is clearly necessary that this new Appendix is properly integrated into the policy and that any necessary consequential changes to other clauses are made, to ensure that there is no contradiction or confusion between potentially conflicting requirements in different clauses.

Although the policy is now clearer about always referring cases to Social Services, it doesn't state that allegations of adult-on-child abuse shall always be referred specifically to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection (LADO). This needs to be changed.

The policy is silent on the procedures to be followed on completion of a police or Social Services investigation, either in terms of what to do with a teacher pending a criminal trial, or in terms of what procedures to follow if the case is passed back to the school for further investigation and/or disciplinary action under the school's internal procedures. This is a particular concern, since the school is presumably applying these non-existent procedures to the current investigation of the suspended teacher.

Section 30 requires that the Designated Teacher shall monitor the operation of the policy and procedures. Since a large proportion of the procedures are carried out by the Designated Teacher, we have the ridiculous situation where the Designated Teacher is supposed to monitor his own actions. A more independent monitoring scheme needs to be put in place.
The overwhelming impression is that the school has made the minimal changes necessary to scrape through the regulatory requirements, and that there is no desire or intention on the part of the school to make the thorough overhaul of both its policies and the school culture that would be necessary to promote excellence in its safeguarding practices, as described in Recommendation 2 of the ISI Supplementary Report. The headmaster even tried to pass off the May 2010 version as "wholly compliant" until the DfE rumbled him. It took me 22 articles to highlight the shortcomings of that version, and even then I probably missed a few!


  1. This child protection policy is woefully inadequate and, if it remains so, sadly once again abusers will slip through the net. As an old boy of St Benedict's of more than 30 years ago, I know from my own memories that there is truth in the allegations. The guilty parties, like Nazi war criminals, must stand trial and be sentenced as an deterrent, as well as, of course, for purposes of justice. It is very sad that so many of us feel unable, for complex but understandable reasons, to come forward. What really irks me is that, even now, there is a coverup going on. I was there at the school, and I know the truth. Why is it that this online service from Jonathan does so much more than anyone else to reach us?

  2. The answer to your eloquent posting is that you, and many former pupils, are the inconvenient truth to St Benedict's.

    The administration would prefer you remain silent and in the shadows.

    Plus ca change.

  3. Even memories from 30 years ago can be useful to the police. There are ongoing police investigations into at least three former teachers at St. Benedict's: John Maestri, Father David Pearce and Abbot Lawrence Soper.

    If you have any memories that might conceivably be useful to the police, about them or anybody else, then I do recommend that you contact the Northwood Child Abuse Investigation Team. Their phone number is 020 8246 1901.

  4. Let's not forget that this tsunami of safeguarding failure has been ongoing for decades at St Benedict's, and once again it went unnoticed by the ISI which is meant to be at the vanguard of safeguarding inspection in independent day schools.

    Looking at the ISI's team, none of them seemed to be 'Designated Officers' at their own schools at the time of the inspection - so limited safeguarding experience was attendant within the team! No surprise there – it is the ISI default.

    The ISI 'inspectors' are meant to be independent from the 'setting' they are inspecting. Perhaps the ISI will therefore explain why it invited the headmaster of Worth School, part of the same educational franchise as St Benedict's, to be a member of the team on this occasion?

    This failure of independence should be brought to the attention of Mrs Christine Gilbert HMCI Ofsted. It is she who during the day, and with unintended irony given Ofsted’s safeguarding inspection abilities, wears the T shirt that says "Quality Assurance Supervisor"


  5. Further to the first comment above, my own, the kind of dilemmas I face in coming forward include (1) is my own complaint enough - an allegation that one of the three parties under investigation would regularly squeeze my thigh high-up during regular extra coaching sessions as a tongue-in-cheek and slow punishment for getting answers wrong? It's horrible to have to explain it and even worse if it doesn't help the police make a case.(2)Although I know this is wrong, one cannot help having a sense of guilt about betraying Benedictines who, along with abuse, did actually help me a lot, and I have had it said to me by a former old boy contemporary that to go public with any complaint would be a very wicked thing to do. It would certainly upset a lot of people if they were to know.
    In fact,I feel it is probably right to come forward, let the police make decisions on relevance, and take responsibility for doing what is right - but it introduces immediate emotional complexities, evidence that the Benedictine education system, with its inherent corruption, did its intended job well. I am considering my position. Meanwhile, I mention that the overhaul needs not just to introduce child protection policies but also to address the Catholic church - or any institution's abuse of power. If an institution assumes the authority of a God which it claims has the power to punish by sending to hell for enternity (as certain St Benedict's monks stressed constantly to me), it has the ability to scare the life out of small boys. The abuse of this authority assumes horrific proportions - as victims may feel that disobedience could land them in hell. If any of these small minded people who put respectability above integrity in the interests of protecting the name of a corrupt system want to argue their case with me, I will have some cruel words.

  6. A former pupil with whom I met told me he had been asked by a former teacher against whom I had filed a complaint for sexual abuse, if he would provide the man with a character reference for the trial.

    “I declined and wrote to him informing him I was not going to assist. He had clearly forgotten the occasion he put his hands down the front of my shorts.”

    At the time this conversation occurred the case had finished. I asked if he had considered filing a complaint with the police – “no it (the abuse) was nothing” came his reply.

    I was shocked and was about to remonstrate but though better of it. I said I was amazed at the consistency of huge discount abusees applied to their experiences. I then asked about his daughter who was at a famous girl’s school.

    “James – if I was your daughter’s science teacher and she informed you that I had put my hands in her knickers would you do nothing?”

    He made very clear that teacher would be in serious trouble. I asked him to explain therefore why his own experiences at the hands of the abusive teacher warranted no complaint. He was either unwilling or unable to explain but the point was taken.

    Of course his decision to remain silent on the justification that ‘it was nothing ‘was illogical, but there is an explanation for this very human decision.