Monday, 14 February 2011

Holding breath at St. Augustine's

The ISI report for St. Augustine's Priory School still hasn't been published. I was discussing this extraordinary state of affairs with friends, and about the only thing we can think of that would cause such a delay is if the school has taken legal action against the ISI to prevent or at least delay publication. There's no reason to think that the DfE has lost confidence in the ISI, since they are intending adding to ISI's responsibilities, by transferring the responsibility for inspections for welfare of boarding school pupils at ISC member schools from OFSTED to ISI.

So I phoned Durell Barnes at the ISI to ask him about the current situation. The conversation was brief, but in its own way most illuminating. This isn't a verbatim transcript, but it went something like this.

JW: I notice that the St Augustine's report has not yet been published?
DB: No it hasn't.
JW: Do you know when it will be?
DB: No.
JW: Do you know why it hasn't been published yet?
DB: All I can say is that it will be published as soon as possible.
JW: It has been suggested to me that the reason for the delay is that the school took legal action against the ISI to prevent or delay publication. Can you tell me whether that is true?
DB: I can't add to what I have already said.
JW: I'll take that as a "yes" then.
DB: (silence)

Quite clearly, the publication date is not under the control of the ISI. If there were no court action, I'm sure that Durell Barnes would have had no difficulty in saying that there was no action. For one reason or another, it seems that Durell Barnes is unable to confirm the action, but to deny it would put him and the ISI in an impossible situation. His only option therefore was to remain silent.

The only situation that I can think of that fits the facts available at the moment is that the report is so devastatingly bad that the school (despite the headteacher suggesting in July that she was urgently looking forward to publication) has decided to take the ISI to court to suppress the report. If this is the case, then the judgement will be published in due course and a copy will undoubtedly be made publicly available.

If this has happened, then the school must already be in possession of an advance copy of the report, otherwise they wouldn't have known that they would want to take action.

If the school thinks that the ISI report is unfair, then they could and should have told the parents what they thought. After all, it is charitable funds, ultimately coming from school fees, that would be paying for this legal action.

Let's have a think about the timing. The inspection took place in April. Under normal circumstances the report is made available about 3 months after the inspection, so that would be sometime in July. Two weeks notice of publication. That would be sufficient to get a quick temporary injunction against publication, with a date set for a hearing as to whether the report was so unfair that publication should have been prevented. Maybe three months provided for both sides to prepare their cases, which would mean a High Court hearing in October, perhaps November. It usually takes three months or so for the judgement to be published - this wouldn't be an unduly complex case. So we may be expecting publication any day now. I shall be keeping a close eye on the publication of judgements from the relevant division of the High Court.

But all this is theorising. I don't have any certain knowledge of any legal action. But any parent could reasonably phone the school and ask what is the cause of the delay, whether the school has received an advance copy of the ISI report yet, and whether the school has taken any action that will have contributed to the delay in publication. If you ask, I would be fascinated to learn what the answer is. So I suspect would the other parents.


  1. The comments on last week's thread seem to indicate that the publication is imminent. As parents we should be given information. Lack of transparency tends to raise suspicions.

  2. Well following the leveraged information from the ISI, it appears their Director of Communications through his silence has had to confirm the school has taken High Court action against the ISI. He cannot say when the report will be published, because that is dependent on the (High Court) judgment.

    Absolute confirmation of this is needed in order to be certain, but this is only a matter of time. The timeline suggested above looks pretty reasonable so it won't be long.

    This is clearly very serious for both the school and the ISI.

  3. It's amazing how the diocese here sends in the PR heavies over CVMS and making it on to Radio 4 a couple of times, in addition to the press. It's amazing the difference between the 'hands on' approach regarding the boards of essentially tax-payer funded schools, while washing their hands of any control regarding top whack schools under the control of the congregations.

    Your patience will be rewarded and you might get some comfort from some recent SNAP releases regarding Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Tim Dolan.

    You can get the Grand Jury details on the internet. Two cardinals are named and criticized, and several priests and a high ranking official have been prosecuted. A recent conviction of a New York priest was made in another state of the USA. The priest could not be tried in NY, but was eventually convicted in another state along time after the offence. Search for: Mercure. Something quite big is brewing in Kentucky involving, from memory, 5 states, 3 congregations, umpteen bishops and a shuffle that makes some of the European card tricks look like Happy Family.

    Keep going!

  4. Based on a conversation today I would expect the St Augustine's report to come out to parents in paper form some time next week, during half-term. That would be a good ploy on the part of the school to try to minimise the inevitable awkward questions from parents.

  5. Ask your child: Do you feel like I listen to you?

    Then ask yourself: Do I/we really love my/our child if I leave them in the hands of men who WILL harm them in the end. Don't go running to your kids for forgiveness and don't blame them when they are the family exile. It's not worth the risk neglecting your child's safety, for the sake of some inconvienience. Allowing the abbey to get you to pull the wool over your own eyes is no excuse for what could happen to your child.

    Until St Benedicts is cleaned up and has delivered some firm rules regarding safety, there is no safety and the onus is on you as a parent to keep them safe.

    When I joined the army I was taught that there is civil law and there is military/naval law. Nobody told me that there is church law, a law designed solely to protect the church from state persecution. This law however is being used to protect known paedophiles from not just prosecution but also any blame. They are actors born to lie, they love doing it and they like the buzz of getting away with it too. Canon Law must be outlawed globally, immediately.

    The Vatican does advise bishops worldwide to report crimes to police – in a legally nonbinding guide on its website. This recourse is omitted from the official legal advice provided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and updated last summer. That powerful policymaking body continues to stress the secrecy of canon law.


  6. Still no ISI report on At Augustine's.

    What are they hiding?

  7. Why is Mrs Gumley Mason, the Headmistress, keeping so UNUSUALLY silent on this issue of the report, nothing has been heard from her since the "where is it" letter. What are you hiding?. It had been mentioned before on this blog that the school motto is Veritas - now lets see some truth from the Headmistress. She is certainly hiding something, it will be very interesting to see what she tells us parents!!!! Spin Spin Spin - after all she was supposed to be a journalist not a teacher.

  8. The truth will hopefully be in the report.

    Interestingly the word report also means a resoundingly loud noise, like a gun going off.

    After all the waiting any spin will have us parents reeling!

  9. Seneca once remarked 'veritas odit moras'. May be simpler to change the motto to something more befitting the current circumstances. 'Perfutututum' perhaps?

  10. As a parent of a pupil at St. Augustine's, I phone Mr Barnes at ISI yesterday and he advised me that the final report was sent to the school yesterday, 28th February 2010. He told me that the school were obliged to send the report to parents within 2 weeks. When I asked about the long delay, I was advised that it was due to legal problems.
    So maybe now at last we can find out what is in this report and what the school has been hiding for so long!

  11. Hopefully the reasons for any delay will be made clear when the report is sent out, as well a a detailed description of how any failings are to be addressed. Mr West, are you in a position to shed any light on the current state of play?

  12. 10:40 and 13:10
    I'm looking forward to publication just as much as you are. As soon as it is published I will look it over and then put up an article here describing what it says about safeguarding.

  13. Don't expect to read the report any time soon unless Mrs Gumley Mason's lawyers have managed to have all of the embarrassing sections removed.

    On past form, at the very least she will delay publication for the full two weeks permitted. It has not appeared on the ISI's website yet and so far there is no mention of it on St Augustine's website.

  14. 15.40 - you say Mrs Gumley Mason's lawyers, should it not be the school's lawyers. Everybody knows Mrs Gumley Mason thinks she owns the school and can do whatever she likes. But just lets remind ourselves that she is an employee of the school albeit, she is the headmistress. And as headmistress she is also accountable for any failings that the report may highlight. Much discussion had been made on this blog and elsewhere that the problems could be safeguarding issues, if this turns out to be the case then as the safeguarding officer for the school, she must be held to account.

  15. Mr West-
    I think that I can understand your interest in St Benedict's,as you mentioned that your son attended the school.I am less clear as to your interest in following the I.S.I report for St. Augustine's.Is it because the 2 schools have family connections,e.g.brothers and sisters attend the schools? The schools are very different.

  16. 20:45
    Yes, my daughter attended for a time, and also there is the connection between the two schools in that Father Gregory Chillman was until recently Chairman of Governors at St. Augustine's. As a result, I started taking a look at safeguarding at St. Augustine's early last year, and found that the safeguarding policy was at that time such a procedure-free collection of pious statements as to make the execrable policy of St. Benedict's look a model of clarity and thoroughness in comparison.

    I notice that an entirely new safeguarding policy, dated February this year and obviously rewritten from scratch, has just been published on the St. Augustine's school website. If that is unconnected with the ISI report I'll eat my hat.

  17. The safeguarding policy in place at present, whilst an improvement is still not up to standard on the matter of referrals. The claim that "The procedures to be followed are shown in Appendices 3& 4 adapted from Ealing Child Protection Policy & Procedures 2007" is incorrect.
    The procedures “adapted” by the school on page 12(d) bear no resemblance to the ESCB guidance. The claim is nonsense.

    ESCB Guidance says:
    15.2.1 The employer must inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) immediately an allegation is made.

    St Augustines school says : When deciding whether to make a referral, following an allegation or suspicion of abuse, the Designated teacher will not make her own decision over what appear to be borderline cases, but rather the doubts and concerns should be discussed with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). This may be done tentatively and without giving names in the first instance. What appears trivial at first may later be revealed to be much more serious and an allegation of child abuse or neglect may lead to a criminal investigation. Thus the School should not do.........

    What is the definition of a borderline case? What is not a borderline case? What is not trivial? Of course we are left uninformed which provides huge wriggle room. The school can just 'make it up on the day' to suit the circumstances.

    The clause is a swamp in which justifiability can be found for not referring to the LADO. How can St Benedict's claim this to be an "adaption" of the ESCB policy document?

    What is wrong with the clear uncomplicated statement provided at 15.2.1 in the ESCB guidance that permits no wriggle room and which ensures that an experienced independent (of the school) individual makes an assessment of the “incident” for the good of all?

    Why does this "guideline" scare the school?

  18. My apologies for the slip - "How can St Augustine's claim this to be an adaption?"

    There are so many saints in Ealing I get two biggest confused.

  19. Saints and sinners too! Sometimes they are even synonymous.