Thursday, 2 December 2010

Welcome to the new Maths teacher!

Let me add my welcome to Mr. Cox on his arrival at St. Benedict's School, as announced in the November Headmaster's Newsletter, and express my hope that he has a successful and productive time at the school.

Let me add my thanks to Mrs Williams and Mrs de Mucha de Vila who have been covering maths classes since September, also as mentioned by the headmaster on the front page of the Newsletter.

And also let me note the complete absence of any information as to whose classes they have been covering or the reason for the need for that cover.

The cover of course had to be arranged because of the departure of the teacher suspended last term over allegations of abuse. I think that departure and the reasons for it might conceivably have justified a small mention in the newsletter, unless the headmaster is again industriously engaged in sweeping dirt under the carpet.

There may be some cause for embarrassment, as the departed teacher was a very long-serving member of staff. A friend has sent me a school photo dating from 1989 in which he appears. But the embarrassment is not going to go away by keeping quiet about it.

Let me say that I don't know all the relevant facts, or even enough of the facts to feel justified in naming the teacher concerned at this time. But there are some interesting questions that need to be asked.
  • Did he resign, or was he sacked?
  • Was a Notification promptly sent to the Independent Safeguarding Authority on his departure, stating all the relevant details of the case?
  • Was a compromise agreement used to ease his departure?
The way in which parents appear to have been kept in the dark is extremely fishy. If, as the headmaster stated at the safeguarding meeting in September, this case was unrelated to any of the other past cases referred to in the ISI report, then here was an ideal opportunity to polish up the school's image a bit.

There could have been a letter to parents saying that allegations had been made about the teacher concerned, that in accordance with school policy Social Services had been informed immediately, and the teacher had been suspended pending an investigation which had subsequently found enough evidence of misconduct to justify his departure.

This could have been proudly displayed as a sign that for all the past problems they have had, the school is now being vigilant about abuse and the rapid reporting of this incident indicates that the new policy is working well. There is no shame in there having been an incident of abuse - no school can guarantee that it will forever remain 100% free of such cases. The key point is to ensure that such cases are detected quickly, reported immediately and that action is taken so that the harm to children is kept to a minimum.

For all I know, that might have happened here. Any school would have every justification in claiming such an incident as a success and a demonstration of the effectiveness of its procedures. So it seems very odd that the school hasn't taken the opportunity to announce it as such.

There's obviously more to learn about this. I'll keep you posted if and when I discover it.


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  2. He was not the subject of abuse allegations - check your facts. Hope he sues you

  3. I have my facts perfectly straight thank you.

  4. There, see, there's nothing in the least suspect about our Jonathan, not even his facts! He and they are as straight as straight can be.

  5. Why so many sceptics? Of course, Mr West has his facts. He has a number of reliable, albeit under-aged, informants. Besides, bear in mind, Mr West‘s just little bit special; he’s not a sceptic but a *skeptic*. Very different to you lot! So, you can trust him with complete confidence every step of the way.

  6. Mr West confidently tells us:

    ‘…cover of course had to be arranged because of the departure of the teacher suspended last term over allegations of abuse. I think that departure and the reasons for it might conceivably have justified a small mention in the newsletter, unless the headmaster is again industriously engaged in sweeping dirt under the carpet.

    There may be some cause for embarrassment, as the departed teacher was a very long-serving member of staff. A friend has sent me a school photo dating from 1989 in which he appears. But the embarrassment is not going to go away by keeping quiet about it.’

    But, then, almost in the same breath, Mr West confesses:

    ‘I don't know all the relevant facts, or even enough of the facts to feel justified in naming the teacher concerned’

    Can these statements be reconciled?

  7. The remarkable thing about the circumstances in which St Benedict’s finds itself is the scale of the institution’s denial. You can almost hear the school administration saying "we've done nothing wrong!" This debacle is the equal of the scandalous events at Ampleforth College where Hume determinedly denied access to the authorities when child abuse exploded at the school. It took an independent outsider to tear the Abbot's fingers from the bolt to the entrance.

    Let me remind you of current St Benedict's thinking by providing a link to this post which appeared
    on the 17th July 2010

    The history of Ealing is, I can assure you, well known to all concerned - the social services, the police, the archdiocese, the Benedictine order, the parents of St Benedict's school and the parish at large. Over time, whatever issues remain to be dealt with will, with the intelligent support of those just mentioned, be resolved. Of that I have no doubt.

    Nonsense is peddled here because only one event was reported to the Police when and only when it could no longer be ignored. No Notifications under the education acts were ever returned to the DfE or its predecessors as the law required. The school in the case of one abuser let him “quietly leave” whereupon he resumed a career in teaching unimpeded and unreported to the DfE via a Notification which, had one been returned it would have stopped him working with children.

    However, I have to remind you and other readers of this blog that, accusations on this blog notwithstanding, no serious assault, sexual or otherwise, was committed against any boy at St Benedict's. All the offenses (sic) were relatively minor.

    Today 03/12/10 at 10am two former teachers from St Benedict’s, Messrs. Pearce and Maestri appeared in West London Magistrates Court to answer charges of child abuse against boys.

    What the administration of St Benedict’s does not understand is that abuse of children is secretive and addictive behaviour. What has the administration done to assist those people who may today be on the staff and who are concerned about their feelings or behaviour towards children?

    I expect the answer is nothing because the administration appears so self absorbed with the repair to reputation and image - which they are getting incredibly wrong.

    Further information for people concerned about their behaviour, or the behaviour of others towards children will appear on this blog shortly. It is a challenge all of us must consider but about which the school may have done nothing.

  8. “Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

    It is only too easy, 16:01, to quote things out of context and to one's own advantage. As far as I recall what you quote above was written well into the campaign of this particular blog which had been far from reticent in spreading the news about Ealing Abbey. Furthermore, notice of these events and the subsequent charges brought against David Pearce had been published in both the local and national press. In short, these events were well know to all and sundry. Now the term ‘serious; is, of course, a relative term. But, as has been pointed out many times on this blog, in passing sentence on David Pearce the Judge stressed that his offences were at the *minor end* of the scale. In other words, the offences of David Pearce involved nothing like the sort of things suggested regularly on this blog e.g. buggery and rape.

    So, what exactly is the above contributor getting at? What his quotes offer is neither 'peddled' nor 'nonsense', but merely statements of fact!

  9. .
    You are once again shooting the messenger 17.44. You really do not want to get it do you.

  10. .

    The point about ‘the messenger’ is that he/she is NOT single but LEGION. The message was delivered and understood, long ago, but then other messengers come along proclaiming the self-same message the implication being, as in your own contribution, , that on one has ‘got it’. The quotes @ have been wheeled out more than once for, out of context, they may seem justification for the calim that no one, other than Mr West and his allies, acknowledges or accepts what has gone on at St Benedict’s.

    What, Mr West’s critics are criticising, is *not* the fact that he has spread ‘the message’, but that he and his allies refuse to acknowledge that those contributors whom they regard as opponents have ‘got it’. No one has denied, or is attempting to deny, what has transpired at St Benedict’s over several years. Claims to the contrary are boorish attempts to blacken whoever refuses to jump onto Mr West’s particular bandwagon.

  11. Then if what you claim is true 14.53 can you please explain why it is that the current child protection policy at St Benedict's does not commit to reporting all allegations of abuse to the Ealing LADO?

    The current child protection policy was never approved by the DfE, contrary to the claims of the school. Why did the school make this claim?

    The current child protection policy does not conform to 'guidance' promulgated by the Ealing Safeguarding Children's Board. Why not?

    St Benedict's is so far from 'getting it' that the administration of the school still does not have an effective safeguarding policy in place all of seven months since the lid was lifted on the criminal history of the school.

  12. And let's not forget the Trust knew of the criminal history of the place as the ISI follow up report made clear.

    The Trust and it's deadwood school advisors even permitted a known perpetrator to live on campus. The Trust and its advisers, collectively the morally robust officers of St Benedcit's, did absolutely zero.

    A stellar example of "getting it."

  13. Thank you, Mr West. I now have some idea of what you, at least, imagine the 'it', @14:53, was referring to.

  14. ok 12.28

    is it a law?
    is it a guideline?
    is it part of a policy?
    is it any of your dam business?
    if the answer is yes to any of the above then speak to the local council, DFES or any other prat that will listen to you.
    because how I see it the school is still open.

  15. What a delightfully simple mind 13:40 has! You don't have to think, feel, be loyal to colleagues, try to limit damage to a school with a long tradition and several famous alumni or see conflict or complexity in anything. No, none of that nonsense; just blindly follow *his* guidelines. Get it? If only every one would see things his way or, at least, in just *one* way.

  16. 16:39 > you describe the flawed dream of every fundamentalist.

  17. Well you see 15.33 this is where you are demonstrating that you have not read the many interesting and factually correct postings on this site about safeguarding.

    This is what the National College for Leadership of Schools and Childrens Services has to say on the subject, and you will notice the strapline is the same as one used in a posting by grimersta who has significant understanding of the subject.

    In this posting however he informed us that he has written to the DfE to ask what action they are taking as a result of the administration of the school breaking primary legislation by failing to return statutory Notifications relating to the decades of child sexual abuse at the school. We all of us await the answer with interest.

    St Benedict’s and potential closure.

    Why is this subject interesting? There is only one meaningful tool in the box of the administratively weak DfE and that is deregistration of an independent school by the independent school’s registration team run by Margaret Pattinson. In light of events at St Benedict's one wonders how much child abuse and concealment of it there needs to be before a school is deregistered. The events at St Benedict's for the last few decades are sufficient in my book but then as Mrs Pattinson once informed me "we have never deregistered a school." I asked if she thought this could ever happen? "No" came her reply. So the ultimate deterrent in the silo is a chocolate missile.

    Why would they not use deregistration? This is to do with the ecology of the educational landscape. The following coded words can be heard in the corridors of Great Smith Street ‘we do not want to disturb an otherwise good school’ which translates to ‘short of mass murder the place stays open because closing a school causes chaos.’

    Educational ecology means that our choice of schools is extremely limited contrary to political claims. If you want a private secondary day school in or near Ealing for a boy – what is the choice? Very limited is the answer. It’s the same all over the country. Limited choice, limited competition, because there are limited physical sites, and this ‘ecology’ can easily lead to complacency. In such an environment, think of the chaos a closure would cause, the impact does not bear thinking about. So the DfE becomes incontinent when a school like St Benedict’s goes off the rails and is keen to see the place back on track quickly. Closing an ‘independent school’ would be a complex matter, but replacing the administration would be far less complicated, especially with the charity commission on board. But thus far it has never happened.

    One speculates that St Benedict’s is testing the patience of the DfE. But once again it seems this is not understood by some posters because they don’t ‘get any of it’ as 16.39 demonstrates with his posting. Using his logic anything can be justified, but then it is also an example of the complacent thinking non competition generates.

  18. Mr West we *do* 'get it'. You may be battling, as you see it against all the odds, with bureaucratic and largely impotent organisations like the DfE; you may often feel you’re floundering in a morass - but your explanation of this situation is straightforward and clear and not beyond anyone, save the completely witless. And as you make clear in the above posting, @23:57, none of your issues, fears or suggestions are lost on DfE which, in your colourful phrase, are - in face of these problems - 'incontinent'.

    You and your colleagues, Mr West, have much to do, - together with others - to get St Benedict's, the DfE and similar bodies 'back on track'. From now on, can we hear more of your concrete suggestions? Simply, shouting about how terrible the situation is, does no good. Behind your moral outrage, there obviously lurks a whole continent of practical problems. Anyway, your last posting is and for the first time I think beginning to admit something of the 'complexity and 'conflicting interests' to which the contributor @16:39 refers.

  19. I am sorry if this news disappoints you 10.36 but the posting @ 23.57 has nothing to do with Mr West and I see no reason for your suggestion other than it may suit your agenda, whatever that might be.

  20. No particular agenda, 13:06, just a desire to maintain a reasonably balanced and more rounded picture.

    I'm surprised you don't see why your postings are attributed to Mr West. Their format is so very similar. You offer all his editorial tricks - bold type, coloured hyperlinks, etc.

    Maybe you would like to offer the rest of us a brief tutorial on these techniques?

  21. Just a quick addition to my response - what you've written, @23:57,is not at all unbalanced and is in fact a very useful contribution.

  22. Thank you 13.26 - and the links are just a question of knowing a bit of HTML which you can google, and the requirements of 'Blogspot' available on Help.

  23. .
    As, Paedophilia is far from uncommon, may I ask Mr West, and any of his supporters who care to answer, what he would do if a friend or a member of his family (e.g. brother, sister, son, daughter)was accused of this form of child abuse?

  24. It is a question that requires little thought. Any crime against a child, particularly paedophilia requires reporting. I would report anyone without hesitation because it is for the experienced authorities to investigate such crimes.

    Jack Straw's brother is a convicted paedophile. There is no reason he should not have been brought to court - is there? Ronnie Barker's son remains’ on the run over child pronography despite his dead father’s wish that he hand himself into the police.

    There is no point running or hiding from this - it’s got to be faced in order to avoid more children being targetted by the same person.

    I know the longterm effects of this highly addictive and secretive crime as a result of being serially sexually abused as a child.

    No child should be abused by an adult.

  25. Okay, a good reply about a response now from Mr West?

  26. I would take much the same view. If a relative had committed such offences, I would want them to face up to what they had done, including in a court of law.

    If they hadn't admitted it, but I nonetheless had good reason to think that abuse was happening, then I would report it and look for a proper investigation by police and/or Social Services. Similarly, I would report a case of domestic violence committed by a relative if I were aware of it. Protection of the victim takes first priority.

    Once the immediate danger to the victim was past, I would want to see what I could do to steer the person away from re-offending by getting whatever psychological help or other support that is available. For instance, I've heard good things of Circles of Support and Accountability and I would encourage them to request a Circle for themselves.

    Ideally we want as far as possible that people do not wish to offend in the first place. Where there is a danger that somebody does, steps should be taken to limit their opportunity.

    For somebody who has offended in the past, both strategies should be taken together so as to provide the best possible protection.

    It seems to me that responsible relatives living nearby have a definite role to play in providing support and monitoring, both to prevent future victims and to try and prevent further harm to the offender through his own actions.

  27. Thank you, Mr West. A second, equally good answer.

  28. .

    So far, two people have answered the question posed @7 December 2010 11:33, one ‘anonymous’ the other Mr West. Both are, as has been noted, good answers. One says the question requires ‘little thought’ while Mr West writes: ‘If a relative had committed such offences, I would want them to face up to what they had done, including in a court of law.’

    Anonymous’s ‘little thought’, in fact, results in the same action as proposed by Mr West – get 'em into court. I can’t help feeling that rather greater thought might leave both wondering whether an immediate resort to law is indeed the best move. We were assured not long ago that ‘prison works’. While this is true for some offenders, it is undoubtedly *untrue* for many others. As we know, this latter point of view is currently being urged upon the government, not least by Ken Clarke. In the case of paedophilia I would suggest that prison does absolutely no good at all. One ready response to such a suggestion, of course, is that anyone who is locked away can do no harm to others. But, once abuse is uncovered it should not be too difficult to protect the abused from further harm while, at the same time, securing help for the perpetrator. Real help in this case would, I imagine, have to be prolonged therapy of some kind, preferably psychotherapy or analysis. Does it work? I’m not sure and I certainly haven’t any useful statistics to hand. If, however, it doesn’t work, then one is left with an uncomfortable, but inevitable, suspicion that nothing will.

    If nothing will help eliminate this tendency maybe it’s because it’s too deep-seated, maybe as deep-seated as any other sexual orientation. How many of us would be capable of casting that aside, as a result of imprisonment or anything else? So what do we do? Shall we resort to castration, branding, brainwashing or what? Those who maintain that ‘prison works’ conveniently overlook at least two facts: a) these prisoners will be housed with others who have committed the same or a similar crime, so finding themselves in a rather congenial atmosphere; b) that every prisoner will eventually be released, once he or she has ‘served their time’.

    We are back to yet another strand of that ‘conflict and complexity’, already mentioned on this thread.

    Finally, an even more troublesome thought: maybe, just maybe, there’s something awry with the way we currently warn children away from any form of touching or sexual play, instilling into them the notion that there are certain bodily parts that are as untouchable as any Indian *achuta*. Maybe it’s time for us, as a society, to take a closer look at our thoughts and feelings regarding, what anthropologists call, ‘purity and danger’. So, maybe, if not all then at least some of the shame and anger we read about on this blog is socially conditioned. This conditioning is transmitted to children not, of course, by paedophiles but by parents and educators. The guilt and shame left in the wake of such conditioning is, in my view at least, harmful and unnecessary. Surely, one strand of any potential answer is that children should be told that, of course, we all touch one another but if they don’t like someone touching them, or the way in which they are being touched they have the right to say so and to whomever they like, for no one is likely to be petrified or outraged by their confidence.

    So, whose problem is it? This problem of paedophilia? Is it the individual paedophile’s, the court’s or, perhaps, everyone’s?

  29. In the past, I have had cause to delete comments which argue in favour of paedophilia. I've let the comment of 16:00 through, though there are parts of it which appear to come close to that. Any comments that argue in that direction will be deleted. You are free to speak as you will, but I am not obliged to provide a platform for you.

    Peadophilia is unlike other forms of sexual touching or other sexual activity in that there is an imbalance of power between the parties. Where there is such an imbalance, there can be no such thing as freely granted consent. This especially true where (as has occurred at St Benedict's) the adult is in a position of authority over the child, as a teacher and/or as a priest.

    And the law recognises this in as far as sexual activity between a teacher and a pupil is illegal even where the child is otherwise above the age of consent.

    This imbalance of power can result in untold damage to those on the wrong end of that balance. For that reason, it is in my view entirely right that those who exploit such imbalances of power should suffer legal consequences, up to and including imprisonment.

  30. I see what you mean, Mr West, but don't feel the contributor @16.00 is in any way suggesting that paedophilia is a good thing or, as you put it, is 'arguing in its favour'.

    It is, however, surely necessary to draw a distinction between paedophilia and exploitation, even if not to do so can sometimes prove quite convenient. No sane parent would want their child to be taken advantage of in the way you describe. Exploitation is obviously always wrong.

    But, I agree with the above poster, part of the problem has to lie with our woeful failure to educate children in matters of sex.
    It would be helpful, for a start, if more people, not least contributors to this blog, knew rather more about the nature of children’s sexuality. There is no excuse for ignorance; not only is it a vitally important subject but an excellent spectrum of books are readily available to help us. E.g.:

    o ‘Girls, Boys and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children’s' Gender and Sexual Relations in the Primary School’ by Emma Renold;
    o ‘Children and Sexuality: Perspectives in Health Care’ by Tony Harrison;
    o Invisible Boundaries: Addressing Sexualities Equality in Children's Worlds by Renee DePalma and Elizabeth Atkinson;
    o ‘The Sexual Life of Children’ by Floyd M. Martinson.

    Martinson, by the way, reminds us that children are ‘active and sensual, even before they are born’.

  31. I don't think that there is much of a distnction to make between paedophilia and exploitation, since any adult-child sexual relationship is unbalanced and exploitative more or less by definition.

    But I agree to a degree on the necessity to educate children about sex (provided of course it is done in an age-appropriate way). It may be that if parents had better known what to do in this respect, and been more open with their children on the subject, that abusers at St. Benedict's School would have been reported much sooner and more forcefully than actally happened. Much misery would have been avoided as a result.

    As it happens, one of my recommendations to Lord Carlile was on the topic of what parents should be encouraged to do to educate their children about sex and sexual contact, so that it is not a taboo subject at home and so the child feels able to discuss a frightening or troubling experience at school.

  32. Not a bad response Mr West. But, the distinction you claim is unimportant is, on the contrary, very important. One cannot dismiss any human being by reducing them to a label. Secondly, a person with paedophile tendencies is no more responsible for this state of affairs than you are for being male and called West. Frankly, I do not know what might to be done to help these unfortunate people but I do recognise what is useless and/or inappropriate.

  33. The teacher you mentioned was suspended and social services were called in. He had apparently made some inappropriate remarks to a female pupil and ther was some inappropriate contact on facebook. He has been a long serving member of St Benedict's and frankly it is rather surprising that an experienced teacher should behave in such a way but he did and was suspended. His job was advertised recently and obviously he has a replacement. It really is hardly surprising that Mr Cleugh would mention this in his newsletter as he has regularly given a sanitised version of events previously.