Thursday, 9 September 2010

The ISI Supplementary Report - 4

Now let's look at the Recommendations the ISI makes in its report:
Recommended action

In view of the previous incidents, it is recommended that an enhanced emphasis is placed on safeguarding and that the following precautionary action is taken where possible.
An "enhanced emphasis". Nice way of putting it. In other words, make some passing attempt at keeping the children safe from abusers.
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.
The ISI has had to tell the school to remove staff and monks suspected of abuse from the  premises! It is extraordinary that a school needs to be told this.

It will be interesting to find out whether this has been done with respect to Hobbs and Chillman.
2. Follow the advice given to render the safeguarding policy a model of excellence in its wording, implementation and review.
Unfortunately, as it stands this recommendation is totally useless, because we don't know what advice has been given! So parents will have no way of knowing whether or when this is done. If the school is serious about improving safeguarding, they should be prepared to publish the correspondence from the ISI which contains this advice.
3. Ensure that referrals are always made to the Independent Safeguarding Authority when appropriate. For historical cases, ensure that all relevant information is passed to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
And this shows how weak-willed the ISI is. Rather than recommend that the school be prosecuted for breaking the law, it is just asking the school retrospectively to put its paperwork in order.

The ISI isn't saying how far back the school must go in respect of "historical cases". One year, two years, 30 years? We don't know. In the absence of a specific timescale, the school is almost certainly going to be very tempted to interpret this recommendation in the narrowest possible way. Remember, the school's failings in this respect (for instance in the case of Father David Pearce) have led directly to additional pupils of the school being abused. This is not a mere administrative matter of inadequate record-keeping. This has wrecked pupils' lives.
4. Give greater emphasis to safeguarding in the school personal, social, health and citizenship (PSHCE) programme and reflect this in the school improvement plan.
There is no evidence that this has yet been done, nor any indication as to how (or if) the ISI will enforce this.

As far as I’m aware, the School Improvement Plan is not published, so again parents cannot enforce this because they can't tell what the targets are and whether they are being met.
5. Emphasise awareness raising and training in safeguarding across the whole community of school, Abbey and parish, with formal contact between the child protection officers.
There is no evidence that this has yet been done, nor any indication as to how (or if) the ISI will enforce this. On the matter of Parish safeguarding, it appears that no lessons have been learned. The safeguarding page of the Ealing Abbey parish website has a statement on safeguarding which contains no procedures, it is merely a statement of good intentions. The page also contains a reference and link to the CSAS model procedures, but doesn't say that those procedures are actually being followed in the parish.

For the CSAS procedures to be followed effectively, far more is needed than a mere link to the CSAS website. Actual written procedures need to be developed that are specific to the abbey and the parish, and for them to be published and regularly reviewed. Names of individuals need to be given, with details of who is responsible for what.

This was touched on in the Diocesan review published earlier this year. Curiously, the Diocesan review addressed procedures in the Abbey (but not the school), and yet the sumary of the review is only available on the Information for Parents page of the school website! One does get the overwhelming feeling that the Abbot is looking to do as little as possible about all this and hope that all the bad publicity eventually blows over. He shows no sign of any interest in actually doing the right thing and getting child protection working properly.

Se let's summarize. The ISI is recommending a variety of measures which could make a real improvement in the quality of safeguarding. However, they have not stated how they propose to ensure that these measures are actually put into effect by the school, and they have not provided enough information about the recommendations to enable parents to check this for themselves.


  1. For the benefit of the ISI in particular Ms Ryan and Mr Barnes.

    An insight into what the ISI missed and the destruction it causes.

    You should be ashamed.

  2. There is a solution to the complete loss of trust and confidence in the St Benedict's administration, and it is one that parents should consider, providing of course you decide to become engaged with safeguarding instead of adopting the middle class default of “it will never happen to us.” If your child is in any school – it can happen to you and yours.

    There is no mandatory requirement in law to report actual or alleged child abuse. When abuse occurs in a school the administration are collectively convinced that they must ‘conceal’ these matters from the external authorities in order to avoid the school’s reputation being damaged. It is at this very point when all issues can be put on a path of recovery both for the child and the school provided the administration possesses a robust moral compass. Few do, and they are also inexperienced in the subject and apply adult logic to the challenges they face. This is now turning into a disaster for the child and the school.

    Sadly I am familiar with independent schools which have taken ‘conceal’ actions. What independent schools do not understand is that concealment of abuse attracts perpetrators to the setting because there is usually more than one abuser operating in a setting at the time abuse is discovered. Concealed departures bring huge problems to a school, but these will not be discovered until a few years later.

    If St Benedict's, and indeed all schools, commit in writing in their safeguarding policies to refer all allegations of abuse to the LADO and/or children's services, then this is a contract made with parents and to which parents subscribe when sending their children to the school.

    The creation of the LADO was precisely to independently assess such situations. A school should not be investigating incidents or handling them ‘in-house.’
    Any institution unwilling to subscribe to an arrangement like this is to be viewed with suspicion because it forms part of the DfE guidance in Safeguarding Children Safer Recruitment in Education.

    St Benedict’s parents still have nothing like this despite the latest attempt in the September 2010 version of their safeguarding policy.

    Getting the Governor's of this school to create a clear Safeguarding policy that commits the school to reporting all allegations to the LADO is like watching a maggot twist on a hook.

    The present policy does not commit the school to this simple requirement and therefore it does not accord with the London Safeguarding Children's Board guidance - clause 15.2.1

  3. The Governors of St Benedicts are in fact the Abbot and the community of monks. Then of course there are the Advisors, who advise the Abbot but who do not have any real power. The way to change everything and make it safe for all children is to remove the Abbot and the community and therefore the Advisors from the school and to set up a proper PTA and a board of Governors who can be contacted without having to go through the school/abbey so are independent of any influence or consealment. The Abbot has a nasty habit of burying his head in the sand and not responding to correspondence if there is something he does not like to hear. This is no way to run a school - let's have some transparency and a proper board of Governors.