One of the first points that Mr Cleugh apparently made was to the effect that the ISI's issues primarily revolved whether the school automatically passed allegations of abuse to the authorities without "investigation". As I understand it, Mr Cleugh claimed that of course the school has always referred all cases (or was it nearly all cases?), and that the "investigation" carried out by the school is just a basic check to see whether there is any issue to refer. He claimed that the issue with the ISI boiled down to a semantic one of whether this should actually be called an "investigation" in the the Child Protection Policy, and that he was able to make the child protection policy fully compliant by minor edits replacing "investigated" wherever it occurred with some other form of words..
If I've understood this correctly, then this is absolute rubbish. Mr Cleugh has accurately described the change he made in the May 2010 version of the policy, but it is decidedly not the case that the Child Protection Policy stated that all cases will automatically be referred. This is paragraph 23 of the May 2010 version of the policy.
23. Referral guidelines: A referral to the SSD or police will not normally be made where:This is not a form of words which indicates a policy of automatic referral. The referral doesn't happen if against the wishes of the pupil, or if the school's internal procedures (whatever they are) can handle it. I've analysed this paragraph in more detail elsewhere. This is far from the only example of text which provides for substantive decisions before a referral is made. Look back through past articles on this blog. I've analysed the child protection policy paragraph by paragraph, starting here. Then make up your own mind as to whether this was a policy of automatic referral.
However, if during the course of the internal procedures and the procedures required under paragraph 5, it appears that the situation is more serious, the Designated Teacher will again consider whether a referral should be made in accordance with paragraph 22 above.
- a referral would be contrary to the wishes of a pupil complainant who is of sufficient maturity and understanding and properly informed, and contrary also to the wishes of the complainant's parents; and
- the case is one that can be satisfactorily dealt with under the School's internal procedures, the parents being kept fully informed, as appropriate.
Interestingly, and apparently as a result of the DfE's intervention, this paragraph has been changed. In the September 2010 edition of the policy, it now reads as follows:
23. Referral guidelinesMuch better. But there are other related paragraphs that haven't yet been brought into line with this. The Designated Teacher is normally the person supposed to make the referral, and yet paragraph 22 still doesn't specify what the Designated Teacher must do on receiving a report. Instead, paragraph 22 gives a long list of things that the Designated Teacher "will take into account". I've analysed the May 2010 version of para 22 in more detail here. Some items in the bullet list in the September 2010 version have been changed, and so the current version is somewhat improved. But it still has this fundamental weakness.
Our policy is to refer all matters of concern to the Social Services Department.
And as for Mr. Cleugh's claim that the school actually always reports cases, this is not borne out by the ISI's findings. This is what the ISI says about the reporting of allegations
The allegations against Fr DP were referred to social services by the school following disclosure by a pupil. The school’s safeguarding records since 2003 do not mention any other report to social services in connection with concerns related to staff, volunteers, trustees or monks. All have been family or other matters. Safeguarding contacts have also been maintained with the Westminster Diocesan Safeguarding Commission. The Abbot made a statement disclosing the cases of Fr DP and another monk, and each headmaster issued copies in March 2006, with covering letters to parents.The rules on reporting apply to governors and Trustees just as much as they do to staff. And yet, since 2003 Father Stanislaus Hobbs has been arrested and tried and Father Gregory Chillman investigated. Both have resigned as Trustees. And yet no records of any referrals concerning them (or any other staff member or trustee) were found by the ISI or produced by the school.
The rules are even more strict about resignations or sackings in circumstances where a person's suitability to be in charge of children is in question. Since about 1959 it has been a statutory requirement for a school to return a Notification to the authorities (used to be to the Department for Children Schools and Families, now it is to the Independent Safeguarding Authority) describing the circumstances. This is what the ISI report stated about this matter.
At the time of the follow-up inspections, the school did not have a fully established policy for reporting directly to the Department for Education and Skills (later the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and currently the Department for Education) or to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for such referrals since 20 January 2009. The advisability of making such referrals is now clearly understood even when there may not be a strict legal obligation to do so, and an historical referral was made in May 2010.In fact, this is not quite true. The school does have a written policy on this. This is the last paragraph of Section 26.
If the School ceases to use the services of a member of staff (or a governor or volunteer) because they are unsuitable to work with children, a compromise agreement will not be used and there will be a prompt and detailed report to the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Any such incidents will be followed by a review of the safeguarding procedures within the School, with a report being presented to the Governors without delay.This is perfectly clear and in fact is one of the few well-written parts of the Child Protection Policy. There's just one small problem: in the cases of Hobbs and Chillman, they didn't follow the policy.
Now, this is a very serious matter. It means that not only was the school's policy seriously inadequate, but the school didn't even bother to follow the bits of it that are clear.
Let us be perfectly blunt about this. In failing to make those Notifications, the school has broken the law. So merely getting the school's written policies into a fit state will not guarantee that the school will actually follow the policies.
Next is the issue of Father Stanislaus Hobbs. He is living in the monastery under restricted covenant, imposed because he was considered a danger to children. The ISI made this issue the subject of its first recommendation.
1. Ensure that any staff or members of the religious community live away from the school, if they are subject to allegations of misconduct related to safeguarding or convicted of wrongdoing.I understand that the Abbot gave a long speech on how Father Stan is old, unable to live by himself, that finding alternative accommodation for him is not easy and that the Abbot is negotiating with the ISI and DfE to gain their agreement to an exemption in his case. That may all be so, and ultimately the ISI and DfE might agree to an exemption. But until it is agreed, it is grossly misleading for Anthony Nelson, the school's solicitor, to have told The Times in August that the school was fully compliant with the ISI's requirements when he knew perfectly well that this issue had not been resolved. It think it's not unreasonable simply to call this a lie.
I'd now like to address the idea that almost all the cases are historical and needn't concern current parents. As I understand it, this line was pushed pretty consistently throughout the meeting. But a parent rather pricked the balloon when he asked whether there had been any cases in the last 12 months other than those referred to in the ISI report. It appears that Mr. Cleugh hesitated somewhat before admitting that a teacher is currently suspended while an investigation is carried out concerning child abuse allegations. He quickly went on to say that Social Services have been brought in, but the police are not interested that it is not a criminal matter, that the children are all entirely safe, and while the investigation is continuing he can't provide further details.
To a degree I can have some sympathy with this. But that sympathy doesn't extend to condoning the claims he had made only a few minutes earlier that we were primarily dealing with matters that had occurred 20 years ago. Don't make claims that aren't true, especially about the safety of children. Parents are apt to get rather upset about it. By the sound of it, the effect on the parents of Mr Cleugh's admission could hardly have been greater had a bomb gone off next door.
Unless the policies are perfectly clear, and they are properly implemented, then there is a very great risk that a new long-term paedophile could get onto the staff, or even still be on the staff undetected. After all, if the trust has lost a third of its Trustees to paedophile abuse in the last five years, what is the probability that there are really no abusers amongst the staff? No doubt part of the reason Father David Pearce was able to carry on abusing for so long (36 years) is that some at least of those around him on hearing rumours disbelieved them because they believed that somebody like him would never do such a thing. There is no profile for paedophile abusers. They can be from any social class, any occupation, any level of intelligence, any creed or colour. In fact the intelligent and socially respectable ones are the most dangerous, because they can work themselves into positions of trust where they do damage to very many children. The reason that automatic referral to Social Services is so vitally important is that they won't know the alleged perpetrator, and so will not be burdened by the belief that he is a splendid fellow who would never hurt a fly, let alone a child.
And what is this about wanting to keep the press out as it is a private meeting? Child protection is a very serious issue, and if the school is as thoroughly in the clear as the headmaster and the Abbot were trying to suggest, then they should have welcomed the press in to hear the parents' questions and their answers. but they didn't do that. They even barred parents of former pupils from attending.
If they have nothing to hide, why has the Abbot repeatedly refused my requests to meet him? And if the school gives such priority to making the Child Protection a model of excellence, why did the Abbot and headmaster ignore my email to them commenting on problems with the child protection policy last November?
Then there is the issue of the Inquiry by Lord Carlile. There seems to be a fundamental contradiction here. If the problems of the school are as minor as Mr. Cleugh was apparently suggesting, then why call in such a major establishment figure to conduct an inquiry? I dread to think how much Lord Carlile will be costing the school - probably something approaching the fees of 20 senior school pupils for the whole year. The school would never voluntarily spend such a sum of money which could otherwise be spent on improved sports facilities for instance. So I do rather wonder who has been twisting the Abbot's arm about this, and therefore who has sufficient concerns to think that such a major and expensive step is necessary. It's obviously not the parents, because the inquiry was decided on before any parents knew about the ISI report. It can hardly be the Trustees, since the Abbot was standing alongside Mr. Cleugh when he was energetically minimising the problem. I would be surprised if it were the ISI, because if they had made such a demand it would have been included in their report. By process of elimination, the obvious candidate is the DfE. It rather suggests they take an extremely dim view of the situation at the school.
I've written a line-by-line analysis of that the ISI supplementary report says and means. Read it for yourself and decide whether you think the school has been open with you.
- The ISI Supplementary Report - 1 (Introduction and situation at the time of the inspection)
- The ISI Supplementary Report - 2 (Reporting, and responsibilities of Trustees)
- The ISI Supplementary Report - 3 (Regulatory requirements)
- The ISI Supplementary Report - 4 (Recommandations)
But at the moment they fall far short, and the headmaster and the Abbot are trying to kid you otherwise. They are playing word-games with the safety of your children. It is for you to decide if you are going to put up with that.