Sunday, 19 September 2010

Correspondence with the headmaster

After the original November 2009 inspection reports were issued, I wrote to the headmaster.

From: Jonathan West
Date: 11 February 2010 17:02
Subject: ISI Inspection reports
To: Senior School Headmaster

Dear Mr Cleugh,

I have just had the opportunity to read the ISI inspection reports for both the Senior and Junior School.

There is one matter about which I am extremely curious and I would like your help in clarifying. Paragraph 4.4 of the Senior School report and paragraph 4.5 of the Junior School report both make mention (using more or less identical wording) of an independent review that was conducted of the measures taken to minimize risk, following the case of Father David Pearce (though he is not mentioned by name in either report).

I notice that the most recent child protection policies published on the school website are dated 1st September 2009. I met the Abbot on 10th September to discuss issues arising from the conviction of Father David, and suggested that an independent review would be a good idea. He said that he would give the matter some thought, but did not promise to proceed with such a review.

On 2nd October, the day Father David was sentenced, the Abbot made a press statement in which he promised an independent  review.

The promise of an independent review is also mentioned in the report published in December of the two Statutory Inquiries held by the Charity Commission. The Commissioners stated that they looked forward to receiving the report of this review.

The Abbot again promised a review in a statement made to the Ealing Gazette in response to the Charity Commission criticisms. This statement was included in an article published on 7th January this year.

I have in the past asked the Abbot for details of this independent review, but he has not so far been willing to provide any.

So perhaps you could help. Could you please indicate what information you provided to the ISI inspectors that led them to state that the review had been conducted and that "the advice from the independent experts has been fully implemented."

Furthermore, I have some quite serious concerns about the adequacy of the existing safeguarding policy as published. I have made those concerns known in writing to the Abbot in his capacity as chairman of governors, but have not had the courtesy of a reply.

I attach a copy of the comments I made to the Abbot. As you can see they go into considerable detail concerning the procedures described, and their shortcomings in terms of clarity and consistency.

Yours sincerely
Jonathan West
The list of comments I attached was the same as I had previously sent to the Abbot (without receiving any reply), and had subsequently published.

Mr Cleugh replied two weeks later.

From: Senior School Headmaster
Date: 25 February 2010 11:54
Subject: RE: ISI Inspection reports
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West

My apologies for the delay in replying to your e-mail dated 11th February, but the school was closed for half term and I myself was away.

I do assure you that we do take our child protection procedures most seriously and review our policies regularly and with the guidance of both the Diocese and the Local Authority.  The safety and welfare of all the children is of paramount importance to us.

When we are next reviewing our policies, which will be towards the end of this academic year, we shall take your comments into account.

Yours sincerely

Chris Cleugh
An email assuring the paramountcy of the welfare of children is a waste of electrons unless it is backed by policies and procedures that actually protect the welfare of children. I replied as follows:
From: Jonathan West
Date: 25 February 2010 18:46
Subject: Re: ISI Inspection reports
To: Senior School Headmaster

Dear Mr Cleugh

Unfortunately, you have neglected to answer the specific question I put. It was this:

Could you please indicate what information you provided to the ISI inspectors that led them to state that the review had been conducted and that "the advice from the independent experts has been fully implemented."

I would be grateful for a response on this particular point.

Jonathan West
And answer came there none.

As it turns out, the DfE agreed with me that the school's procedures were inadequate - the headmaster would have been better advised to take some notice of me.

It's probably worth repeating Section 4.4 of the ISI's November report on the Senior School.
4.4 The trustees and advisers are fully aware of, and diligent in discharging, their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures. A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimize risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented.

In the meeting last Tuesday, Mr. Cleugh gave a somewhat confusing account of this, suggesting that the ISI had managed to get two completely different cases mixed up, that there had been a separate review of the risks posed by Father Stanislaus Hobbs in addition to the diocesan review of Father David Pearce.

But if that were so, then the ISI would surely have made reference in this paragraph to two cases. But they didn't. The only reasonable conclusion is that the ISI was not made aware of the Hobbs situation. Given that Father Stanislaus Hobbs resigned as a Trustee in 2005 at the time of his arrest, the school had a statutory duty to send a Notification to the DCSF Teacher Misconduct Section in Darlington. And that Notification should already have been available to the inspectors when they arrived in November 2009.

And if the failure to make a Notification at the time in 2005 had merely been due to an oversight, it ought to have been rectified in information provided by the school in the pre-inspection questionnaire, so that the inspectors had full information by the time they visited.


  1. -
    Oh! what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!


  2. This is a man in complete denial. Were he to walk into assembly one morning to find a monk sexually abusing a child in full view of the entire school, then it is possible that he might make the connection between the fact that his school is wholly owned by a group of unaccountable, secretive, sexually frustrated autocrats and the suffering of little children. But I doubt it.

    In such a case Mr Cleugh would probably point to the fact that of the six hundred children in that hall only one - just one - was being abused, and announce that the matter was being taken very seriously and would be fully investigated in line with the policies of the Diocese.

    And if you think this is over the top, just wait until David Pearce returns to live at the Abbey in 2012. 'So many boys, so little time' as we used to say when we first heard the astounding news that he was to become Headmaster of the Junior School.

    St Benedict's is a paedophile paradise thanks to people like Cleugh et al.

  3. I recognise the picture you paint that if one of six hundred children is being abused then an administration will embrace the notion that the alleged perpetrator can only ever have abused one child. "It's a one off." They also conveniently believe there is only one perpetrator, and absolutely no likelihood of others being present at the school.

    This is the default setting of all independent schools - the difference between St Benedict's and other settings in my experience, is that other schools returned Notifications under the Education Acts to ensure the alleged and actual perpetrators could not return to working with children.

    St Benedict's failed ever to fulfil this statutory requirement as we are informed in the ISI follow up report.

    What is the DfE going to do about this breach of primary legislation which caused children to be at risk of known abusers from St Benedict’s?

  4. How many St Benedict's advisers and trustees does it take to stand on the manhole cover to stop it blowing skywards?