The first thing the headmistress did was to provide lots of nice little quotes about how wonderful the girls are. That is bound to create a nice warm impression with the parents - everybody likes to hear compliments directed towards their children.
Then she nicely conflated the Diocesan report with ISI report. The Diocesan report was published back in September. The only reason it was provided with the ISI report now was because the headmistress knew perfectly well how gruesome the ISI report would be, and needed a good report to balance it out.
I have to say that you can put no weight on the Diocesan report at all. Deacon Anthony Clark, the diocesan inspector, also recently inspected St. Benedict's School, and his reports on both the Senior School and the Junior School were just as gushing as his St. Augustine's report, even though they were carried out in July and December 2010, after the the problems of St. Benedict's had hit the national press, and even though Peter Turner, the diocesan safeguarding adviser, had known about the safeguarding shortcomings at St. Benedict's for several years prior to the inspection visit.
Now, I accept that the diocesan report is not supposed to be about safeguarding. It addresses the teaching of religious education and the extent to which the ethos of the school reflects that of the sponsoring religion.But it occurs to me that the ethos of a religion is communicated in part at least through the effectiveness by which its adherents live and act according to their religious principles. And a school which has shown to be as cavalier as St. Benedict's over the safety and welfare of its pupils surely merits some mention of the fact in the diocesan report? But there is none. So as far as I'm concerned, Deacon Anthony Clark's report deserves to be filed in the bin. Distributing it to parents was a waste of some perfectly good trees.
But the real masterpiece of the letter was how the headmistress minimised the criticisms in the ISI report. Here is the relevant paragraph.
Naturally no organisation is perfect. We continue to battle to keep up with our ever expanding use of ICT. Our Central Register of Appointments has been revamped and is now a thing of bureaucratic beauty. Our Child Protection (Safeguarding) Policy, revised at the time of the ISI inspection, has been completely re-written and is now, I hope, more user-friendly. In addition our Child Protection Committee has added three single page procedural flowcharts, providing readers with an instant over-view of steps to be taken. These will be reviewed each year to keep up with changing legislation. These policies and procedures can be viewed on our website or copies can be requested from the school office."Naturally no organisation is perfect". A very nice way of gliding over the fact that the school has been found to have been persistently breaking the law.
The first point she made, and the only real admission of any shortcoming, was to do with the struggle to use ICT effectively.
After that, she's congratulating herself at every opportunity. "Our Central Register of Appointments has been revamped and is now a thing of bureaucratic beauty" carefully avoids making any mention of the reason it had to be revamped. If you read the report, you learn that the reason is that it was in such a mess that it wasn't performing its primary function - to keep a record of the staff, their qualifications, references, identities, right to work in the UK and their CRB checks, as required by law.
Then we have "Our Child Protection (Safeguarding) Policy, revised at the time of the ISI inspection, has been completely re-written and is now, I hope, more user-friendly", which again skirts very carefully round the truth, which is that the policy was grossly inadequate, was hurriedly rewritten just in time for the ISI visit, was failed by the ISI and had to be rewritten all over again, and has only just been republished nearly a year later. She hopes that it is "more user friendly", as if that were its primary purpose., It isn't, the primary purpose is to ensure that procedures exist and are followed which serve to protect the children, as required by law.
Then we are told "These will be reviewed each year to keep up with changing legislation", as if that weren't a legal requirement anyway, and one which had been ignored up to now, and finally we are told "These policies and procedures can be viewed on our website or copies can be requested from the school office." which has been a legal requirement for some years, and is nothing to be all that proud of.
All this is designed to give the impression that everything is so wonderful at the school that you as parents really have no need to bother your little heads with the ISI report itself. Just file it unread and let the school carry on as before.
But in actual fact, I recommend you do read the report, very carefully, and take the trouble to understand what it is saying. I have described my understanding of it, but you should no more rely on my interpretation than that of Mrs Gumley Mason. Read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.