Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Paul Foot Award

Sean O'Neill and David Brown of The Times have been Highly Commended in the judging for another award, the Paul Foot Award for the best investigative campaigning journalism of the year. According to Private Eye their commendation is for their report "on the failure of Ealing Abbey to protect children from a known paedophile priest".

Congratulations again.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What a joke!

Ofsted has just issued a notice in which it pats itself and the other inspectorates on the back for all the good work they are doing.
Ofsted has praised the quality of inspections carried out by the three inspectorates (other than Ofsted) that inspect independent schools - and advised them on how to continue improving their inspection services.


In our recent letters to the inspectorates, Ofsted noted that all inspectorates were operating well and met the standards for an approved inspection body in independent schools.

Ofsted also recognised the expertise of the lead inspectors across all the inspectorates, the good evidence base they gathered to substantiate judgements, their good communication and engagement with schools and the fact they all took safeguarding very seriously. Their reports were clear and useful to schools.
In the 2010 report letter on the quality of the inspections and reports by the ISI, written by Christine Gilbert, HM Chief Inspector of Schools (i.e. the head of Oftsed) to Christine Ryan, Chief Inspector of the ISI, Gilbert is full of praise for the professionalism and efficiency of the ISI inspectors. The letter was written on 25th August 2010. It makes no mention of safeguarding or child protection. It makes no mention of any shortcomings in this area, with respect to St, Benedict's or any other school (and there have been failings at other schools as well).

This is praise for the ISI inspectors who completely missed the clear regulatory failings in the Child Protection Policy at St. Benedict's School, and who only noticed that there were any problems when they made a further visit at the insistence of the DfE, who had in turn been told by a member of the public (i.e. me) about convictions of former teachers during the current inspection period.

What a joke. What a sick joke.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Yet another update to the Child Protection Policy

St Benedict's School has published its third version this year of its Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy, and its second version in September.

I've checked through the new version. The changes are solely in Appendix 2. Last month I described some Continuing shortcomings in the Child Protection Policy. These have mostly not been addressed in the newest version. The main improvement in the policy is to make it clearer that referrals of allegations to outside authority should specifically go to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection).

But Appendix 2 is still contradicted by various other bits of the policy. Although Appendix 2 mentions the LADO, section 23 simply mentions "the Social Services Department", and Section 22 mentions referral to SSD as well. because of these sorts of contradictions (there are far more than I have mentioned here) even this third version of the Child Protection Policy is still too full of holes to be worth much.

A child protection policy and procedure shouldn't be all that hard to write and to write clearly. In circumstance X, you do Y. Make sure that X and Y are adequately defined. Make sure that you don't have two different Ys for the same X in different parts of the document. Make sure that overall you cover all contingencies that you can think of as being reasonably plausible. For the unanticipated events, have a default situation of asking for guidance from the appropriate people in Social Services - the LADO for adult-on-child abuse, Childrens Services for child-on-child abuse.

This isn't hard to do. For the school to have such a poor child protection policy even at the third attempt this year means they really aren't trying. They are looking to make the minimum changes they think that they can get away with in terms of persuading the ISI and DfE that they have met the regulatory requirements. There is no sign of any interest in fulfilling Recommendation 2 of the ISI Supplementary Report, to "render the safeguarding policy a model of excellence in its wording, implementation and review".

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Call for Evidence on the OPA website

Lord Carlile's Call for Evidence has been placed on the home page of the OPA website. An email has also been sent to everybody on the OPA email list.

The text of the Call for Evidence on the OPA site is the same as that which was published in the Gazette, but with the addition of Lord Carlile's email address carlilea@parliament.uk.

However, the home pages of the school and abbey websites still make no reference to the Call for Evidence. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Meeting with Lord Carlile

Some friends and I met Lord Carlile today to discuss the sex abuse scandal at St. Benedict's School as part of his inquiry, and it was a very constructive meeting.

Lord Carlile has asked that the meeting remain private, and that I do not blog about what was said at the meeting until after he produces his report, and I have agreed to this. However there were two points which he is happy for me to repeat here.

The first concerns allegations of criminal activities. He expressed the view that if anybody wishes to come forward with allegations about David Pearce, then it would be advisable to do so sooner rather than later. The more time that passes, the greater the likelihood that Pearce's lawyers would be able to get any prosecutions struck down for abuse of process because of the delays involved. I might not have the form of words that he used exactly right, but this is the essence of it. So if you are a victim or a witness and have an account of abuse by Pearce, then his suggestion is that you should come forward and give a statement to the police about it as soon as possible.

The second point concerns the timetable for the inquiry, and specifically the closing date for the Call for Evidence. Apparently there are further notices going into the national papers this week, and he intends treating the 28 day period as starting from when these final notices are published, so that means the end of that period will be on or around 10th November. But he made it very clear that he doesn't regard that as a hard cutoff. Submissions that arrive a bit after that date will be considered if at all possible, though of course submissions that arrive very late, once the final report writing is underway, probably will not be able to get very much consideration. The date should be regarded as a target rather than as a limit beyond which submissions will not be considered. That said, if you have a contribution and you can get it to him within the 28-day period, he would find that helpful.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

You couldn't make it up!

The Call for Evidence is now on the school website - in the same inaccessible spot as the terms of reference.

Home page -> Information for Parents -> School Policies and other Information -> Call for Evidence by Lord Carlile QC

Let me make it easier for you. It is here.

It has the same form of words as the advert in the Gazette, with the same 28 day time limit, but the document is undated, so you can't tell when the 28 days started.

You couldn't make it up!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Publicising Carlile

So, we are nearly 3 weeks on from when Carlile's inquiry and its terms of reference were announced in the parents' meeting, and about 2 months on from when the Times first broke the story of the Carlile inquiry. I think it is about time we had a look at what the Trustees have done to ensure that people can contact Carlile to contribute evidence.

First let me describe what was promised at the parents' meeting on 14th September:
  1. Lord Carlile would be at the school on 5th October, and any parent who wished to speak to him could make an appointment via the headmaster's secretary Mrs. Simmonds.
  2. Notice of the inquiry would be placed in national and local newspapers, so that people can contact Lord Carlile directly at his chambers, and that parents could do this if they wished by email.
So far it appears that there has been one advert placed in last week's Ealing Gazette, on page 17. It provided a postal address to contact Lord Carlile, but no email address, although that had been promised. The advert failed to mention the word ‘crimes’ or ‘convictions’ and failed to mention that the inquiry is on the subject of child sexual abuse at St. Benedict’s school.

Although friends have been looking out for the adverts in the national press, there have been no sightings of any so far. If you happen to see one, do please email me to let me know.

The Terms of Reference are on the school website, in what web designers call a "level 4" location. i.e. one that can only be reached by at least 3 levels of link from the home (level 1) page of the site.

Currently on the home page of St Benedict’s we have the understandably vital announcement that there are a series of ‘Open Mornings and Evenings’ for which dates and times are provided. We also have the Latest News box on the home page which informs us of the following highly important events:
  • International Music Festival Success
  • Open House in The Cloisters
  • Four Shipwrecks, a Wedding and a Funeral
  • Historic first Tournament Win for U12 Netball Team
  • Lower Fourth Green and Orchard Picnic
  • Papal Visit – Twickenham and the Big Assembly
  • A day to remember at Lord’s
  • New Outdoor Play Area in Junior School
  • Fencing Victory against Eton
  • ‘Deutsche Abenteur’ at the German School

But strangely, no mention at all of an inquiry being conducted into child sex abuse at the school.

No one in web design expects any visitor to find anything posted in a level 4 location. And interestingly, even the level 4 page is lacking some rather important information. All of the following is missing.
  • The timetable for the inquiry.
  • Who the inquiry team wish to hear from
  • Whether discussions with Lord Carlile will be confidential
  • When it is expected that the report will be issued.
  • Contact details and methods of contributing to the inquiry
  • Location and dates of meetings
  • Contact details for Lord Carlile
The people most likely to have suffered child sex abuse in the past at St Benedict's School are the former pupils there. In other words, Old Priorians. The school knows how to contact Old Priorians - there is even an OPA email list for getting OPA and school news out to them. An obvious step would be to send out an email to the OPA mailing list to tell them about the inquiry and explain how they could get in touch and give evidence if they wished to. I have friends who are OPA members and on the email list. No such email has been received by them.

The overwhelming impression is that the school is keeping as quiet as possible about this inquiry, and doing all it can to ensure as few people as possible try to contact Lord Carlile. Then Carlile can produce a report saying that he didn't receive much evidence of abuse at the school, and this can be presented to parents as suggesting that it is all a storm in a teacup.

But if nobody (apart from readers of this blog) knows about the inqury, then the fact that Carlile receives relatively few submissions isn't evidence of anything at the school.

Parents, this is the kind of manipulation that is going on. The Trustees show no sign of any interest in having the inquiry get at the truth, they want an inquiry that can be presented as showing there is no evidence of widespread abuse.

And you might also like to consider that delay of a month between the ISI Supplementary Report being issued and copies of it being provided to you. Might it possibly be that in the intervening time, your cheques for the next term's school fees had to be sent? Of course, that wasn't the stated reason for the delay, the stated reason was that it would be impractical to contact parents during the holiday period. Of course it would. A letter might remain on your doormat for  whole fortnight before being opened. So to prevent that, they delayed sending it for a month instead. Much more practical. Definitely. No question.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Bevins Prize

The shortlist for the 2010 Bevins Prize for investigative journalism has been announced.

The Times's Sean O'Neil and David Brown are on the shortlist for their investigation into the child sex abuse scandal centred on Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's school.

These are some of the articles written by The Times back in April.

Britain’s top Catholic ‘protected’ paedophile

The Catholic boy abused by Father David Pearce whose life fell apart

Catholic Church’s bluster over child abuse puts its good work at risk

Archbishop of Westminster ‘dodged apology over sexual abuse’

Congratulations to Sean, David and The Times.