To the Governors and Trustees of St. Augustine’s Priory School
ISI Inspection of St. Augustine’s Priory School
I am writing to you as a concerned member of the public with a former connection to the school. My daughter for a short time attended the Junior School at St. Augustine’s some years ago.
The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) made an inspection of the school on 23rd and 24th March 2010, with a follow-up visit from 4-6 May 2010. A follow-up visit of this nature is highly unusual, as you can see from viewing reports of other schools on the ISI website www.isi.net.
The ISI was extremely critical of the safeguarding and child protection measures at the school, both in terms of written policy and actual practice, and found that the school was in breach of a variety of regulatory requirements. Specific criticisms included the following:
- The school failed to send a notification to the Independent
Safeguarding Authority on occasions where a member of staff left the school in
circumstances where they were considered unsuitable to work with children. At
least two such occasions were identified.
- CRB and List 99 checks on staff have not been carried out
with sufficient rigour, and new members of staff have been permitted
unsupervised contact with children before their CRB checks had been completed.
In a small number of cases the delay in obtaining the appropriate CRB check was
- CRB checks with enhanced disclosure have not been obtained
for all the governors and proprietors (i.e. the Trustees)
- The Central Register of Appointments has not been properly
- The school’s Child Protection Policy does not meet
regulatory requirements, placing an inappropriate emphasis on investigation of
allegations by the school rather than immediate referral of all incidents and
allegations of abuse to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection
- The Governors and Trustees were not kept adequately informed by the highest level of management within the school (i.e. the headmistress) and were insufficiently proactive in obtaining the information necessary to fulfil their statutory duties.
Both the complaint and the legal action have either failed or been abandoned. The injunction has been lifted, and the ISI provided the final version of the report to the school on 28th February 2011, and published the report on its own website 2 weeks later. The report still contains all the criticisms the school claimed were unjustified when it brought the action in High Court. Goodness only knows how much money this action has cost the school, since I suspect that with the failure of the action, the school has been required to pay the costs of all parties. The money has presumably come out of charitable funds.
As required by law, the report was sent to parents, with a covering letter written by the Headmistress. The covering letter made no reference at all to any regulatory failings, and consequently also made no apology for the failures nor any mention of any action the school would be taking to rectify them.
For some years I have run a blog http://scepticalthoughts.blogspot.com/ which has become a campaigning website concerning child protection issues, particularly in the context of the measures needed to make St. Benedict’s School safe for children.
On my blog, I have published an analysis of the ISI Report on St. Augustine’s, putting it into plain language for parents. I have also published the entire text of the Statement of Grounds of the school’s complaint against the ISI, a document which can be obtained from the court and is in the public domain. I have also reviewed portions of the latest version of the school’s child protection policy, and found that even after the ISI’s criticisms, the sections defining “sexual abuse”, describing signs by which sexual abuse could be recognised, and procedures for reporting incidents and allegations to the LADO all remain woefully inadequate.
These documents have generated considerable interest. The blog has averaged more than 1000 page views per day over the last fortnight, and there have been a considerable number of comments from parents, staff and others. Some of these comments have been highly critical particularly of the Headmistress. Almost all have been made anonymously, some clearly stating that they remain anonymous out of fear that retaliation by the headmistress will be directed toward their daughters at the school. You are welcome to view the articles and the comments on the blog.
Apparently as a result of pressure from parents, the Headmistress has announced that there will be a parents’ meeting on Friday 25th March in order to discuss the report. I urge you to attend the meeting in order to hear the parents’ concerns at first hand and to answer their questions.
I also urge you to ensure that the school’s Child Protection Policy is further revised and made a model of best practice. In particular I request that the policy is made fully compliant with clause 15.2.1 of the Ealing Safeguarding Children Board guidance, which states the following with regard to allegations of abuse by staff. “The employer must inform the local authority designated officer (LADO) immediately an allegation is made.”
I also request that you arrange for regular external checks to ensure that the revised policy is being diligently and effectively implemented, and that you ensure that any other outstanding regulatory failures are corrected as soon as possible.
Prof Geoffrey Bennett
Dr Marcella Dowling Brannagan
Mrs Harkreet Grewal
Prof Anne Hemingway
Mrs Audrey Kendall
Mr. Colin Bennett
Rt Rev Kieran Conry
Mr Alexis Fitzgerald
Miss Claire McIntyre
Mr David Murphy
Mrs Claire Murphy
Miss Denise Neilson