Monday, 17 January 2011

Downside Abbey

It seems that Ealing Abbey isn't the only Benedictine monastery and school with child protection problems. There is an investigation going on at Downside Abbey as well.

Four monks investigated over abuse claims at Somerset school


  1. An interesting 'coincidence' exists between Downside and St Benedict's.

    Both have appallingly poor safeguarding policies.

    Both share the same legal advisers.

    Neither safeguarding policy commits to reporting allgations abuse to the LADO.

    The legal firm in question - Veale Wasborough.

    The policies are very different - but both provide the same outcome.

  2. Question - How many boys from Benedict's were 'lucky enough' to get a scholarship to board at Downside when their parents complained?
    Question - Were any boys abused in both schools?

  3. BBC Report here:

    13 January 2011 Last updated at 16:54

    "Avon and Somerset Police said in a statement: "We can confirm that four people have been investigated.

    "One of them has been arrested in connection with an historic allegation of indecent assault. He remains on bail pending further inquiries.

    "In respect of the other three there is no evidence of criminal offences."

    The church and education officials are still looking into the allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

    One of those who has been investigated is Dom Anthony Sutch, who used to be headmaster of the school.

    He was a confidante of the late Princess Diana and a one-time contributor on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day.

    He is not facing any criminal action."

  4. sorry, where exactly is your proof re Downside's 'appallingly poor safeuarding policies'? I don't know about St Benedicts, and unlike you I don't discuss things I know nothing about - but I do know about Downside, and it's only because of its compassionate nature that people like you can take it as an easy target

  5. 14:16

    You can read the Downside Child Protection Policy online.

    I haven't examined it in as much detail as the St. Benedict's one, but on reading it through briefly, it contains many of the same weaknesses as the older versions of the St. Benedict's policy, for instance in its definition of "sexual abuse" depending on a subjective assessment as to whether a person is "emotionally immature".

    Any kind of sexual contact between a staff member and a pupil is sexual abuse, no matter how emotionally mature the pupil is, no matter whether the pupil believes he or she has given consent, and no matter whether the pupil is above the age of consent. This is because the staff member is in a position of power and authority over the pupil, and therefore consent by definition cannot freely be given.

    The Downside definition of sexual abuse glosses over this.

    So, yes, it does look to be a pretty awful document.

  6. Downside Safeguarding Policy.

    There is no written undertaking in their safeguarding policy to refer all incidents of alleged abuse (allegations) to either the LADO, in the case of adult on child abuse, or Children's Services in the case of child on child abuse.

    The nearest the policy gets to an amalgum of words that suggest a referral will be made is contained in:


    "The referral of concerns will be made to Somerset Safeguarding Children or Social Care within 24 hours.

    It sounds very good but what is the 'definition' of a concern? We are left uninformed and it provides a chasm through which to walk. This is not a committment to report because the incident may not be a 'concern.'

    If we take the London Safeguarding Childrens Board protocol it states very clearly at 15.2.1:

    The employer must inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) immediately an allegation is made.

    Please note, we are not talking 24 hours here - you report, and you report now.

    A school adopting this procedure is positive for all parties not least the school because :

    1. A school should under no circumstances 'investigate' the allegation/incident themselves. This is not their role as the ISI report of St Benedict's makes absolutely clear.

    2. A referral is made to an experienced and trained individual to manage.

    3. This expert is independent of the setting and therefore is acting in the interests of the child.

    Committing to a clear written undertaking in the safeguarding policy to report all allegations of abuse to the LADO is a significant indicator that the school is on the ball and safeguarding oriented.

    This committment sends a very powerful message to those who have an unhealthy interest in the young and who may be looking at the school's website for a job - 'Keep out.'

    In England there is no mandatory requirement to report allegations of abuse, and indeed no mandatory requirement to report actual child abuse, which is why it is so important for this undertaking to be clearly stated in the safeguarding policy of all schools.

    If it is not there, and it is not at Downside, then one has to ask questions of the institution.

    I hope this answers your question.

  7. Downside Abbey Child protection

    14.16 says “ and unlike you I don't discuss things I know nothing about - but I do know about Downside, and it's only because of its compassionate nature that people like you can take it as an easy target.”

    But you do discuss things you know nothing about – you are defending Downside without knowing anything about the safeguarding shortcomings. Yours is the kind of unwise post that helps no one least of all the pupils at the setting.

    The ISI, the keystone cop safeguarding inspectorate, which failed to notice the blindingly obvious safeguarding shortcomings at St Benedict’s commented as follows on Downside in its report dated 23/24th November 2010:

    The quality of pupils personal development

    2.18. Systems for the safeguarding of pupils however are insufficiently robust to meet the required standard.

    The effectiveness of governance, leadership and management

    2.21 Overall, governance is inadequate because it has not been rigorous enough in is oversight of policies and practice in relation to staff recruitment and the safeguarding of pupils.

    It continues

    Although the policy correctly states that contact is made with the local authority whenever safeguarding concerns arise, there are also statements which indicate that under certain circumstances such contact would not be made. pure gobbledygook from the inspector!

    2.22 Child protection matters and the relevant policies are overseen and reported on by two separate members of the governing body, but there has not been secure and
    centralised oversight of key issues relating to safeguarding and the implementation
    of policies. For example, there are no written recruitment procedures and
    recruitment occurs in several areas of the school, resulting in inconsistent practices.
    This leads to references not being secure, some being via email with unsecured
    addresses. There is a lack of verification of some qualifications, and insufficient
    information in the central register, where the dates of individual records are not
    always entered. Not all Criminal Records Bureau checks are in place before
    appointment or as soon after as possible.

    2.23 The school does not have a plan as required under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA).

    Now if the ISI noticed this the the mind boggles at what it has failed to observe and report against. We know for certain that it has failed to observe that the safeguarding policy is completely unsatisfactory and fails to commit to report allegations of abuse to the LADO or children’s services.

    All this brotherly love clearly breeds forgetfulness at these settings. I wonder why?

  8. I am a downside alumni, and the actual child protection at the school is appalling.