Many court documents can be obtained by members of the public. And I have done so in the case of the complaint by St. Augustine's School against the ISI. There are all sorts of other ways of obtaining information as well, for instance through the Freedom of Information Act. It isn't hard once you know how.
So that nobody can accuse me of selective quotation from it, I'm publishing in full the Statement of Grounds, essentially the facts behind the complaint as claimed by the school. This is a public domain document, I have every right to publish it.
In what has been provided below, I have made just a single change from the wording of the document as provide to the court. The Statement of Grounds names two teachers who have left the school. These are the two teachers who, according to the ISI, should have been reported to the ISA on their departure. I've removed their names and called them "[Teacher A]" and "[Teacher B]" instead.
I have the original document and am happy to provide a copy to any
parent on request, so that you can see for yourself that the wording is
accurate except for these two changes.
In future articles, I will provide a commentary on what this all means. But read this all first.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF ST. AUGUSTINE'S PRIORY SCHOOL LIMITED Claimant
INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS INSPECTORATE Defendant
STATEMENT OF GROUNDS
1. St. Augustine's Priory School Limited is a registered charity which operates an independent Catholic day school for girls under the name St. Augustine's Priory (''the School").
2. The Independent Schools Inspectorate ("ISI") is a body approved by the Secretary of State for Education under section 163 of the Education Act 2002 (as originally enacted) for the purpose of conducting inspections of independent schools and making reports on such schools.
3. ISI conducted an inspection of the School on 23rd and 24th March and 4th to 6th May 2010 and concluded inter alia, in a report ("the Proposed Report") intended to be published on 2nd November 2010 pursuant to the provisions of the applicable inspection framework, that the quality of governance, leadership and managements, whilst good in some aspects, is unsatisfactory overall because it has not ensured that safeguarding procedures and practice meet the required standards.
4. The School objects to that judgment on the grounds that it is based on errors of fact and law, is unfairly inconsistent with other reports and is a judgment which no reasonable inspecting body could have reached.
5. The School accordingly seeks orders directing ISI to reconsider the terms of the Proposed Report. On 1st November 2010 the School obtained an interim Order from Mr. Justice Butterfield restraining publication until trial of this claim or further order.
6. In the course of the initial inspection on 23rd and 24th March 2010, the inspectors, led by Mrs. Culligan, the reporting inspector, assessed whether the School complied with the requirements set out in the Education (Independent Schools Standards) (England) regulations 2003, S.I. 2003 No. 1910, as amended ("the regulatory requirements").
7. The Proposed Report states that the inspectors concluded that at the time of the initial inspection the School failed to comply fully with the regulatory requirements because, inter alia:
(1) the School failed to ensure that any persons whose services were no longer used because they were considered unsuitable to work with children were always reported fully to the Independent Safeguarding Authority within one month of leaving the School;
(2) the School failed to ensure that appropriate checks and central register entries were made, an alleged failure which was said to include failing to ensure that enhanced Criminal Records Bureau ("CRB") checks were always obtained and recorded for a governor as necessary.
8. The Proposed Report further states, having regard to those conclusions, that:
(1) the School's arrangements for welfare, health and safety are inadequate;
(2) the child protection policy is unsatisfactory overall and at the initial inspection significant failures in referral practice were identified;
(3) governance of the school is unsatisfactory overall because it does not monitor closely enough the School's arrangements for safeguarding;
(4) leadership and management of the educational aspects of the School are mostly good but weaknesses in safeguarding practice make them unsatisfactory overall.
9. The Proposed Report therefore sets out in one of the three paragraphs recording the inspector's main findings that the quality of governance, leadership and management, whilst good in some aspects, notably in supporting high attainment and excellent personal development, is unsatisfactory overall because it has not ensured that safeguarding procedures and practice meet the required standard.
10. The concerns expressed to the headmistress of the School, Mrs. Frances Gumley-Mason ("the Headmistress") by Mrs. Culligan at the time of the initial inspection as to failure always to make full referrals to the Independent Safeguarding Authority within one month related to (a) [Teacher A] (b) [Teacher B] (c) Father Gregory Chillman.
11. [Teacher A] was employed at the School from 1st September 2007, was suspended from 7th February 2008 (at which time she was already on sick leave) and her employment ended on 31st May 2008. The suspension was imposed on the ground that [Teacher A]'s CRB disclosure contained information relating to her husband and son which she said was inaccurate and was pending an amended disclosure. The Headmistress decided that under the statutory and guidance provisions then applicable referral was not required or appropriate. After speaking to Mrs. Culligan, the Headmistress made inquiries of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and was informed that [Teacher A] was "definitely not referral material". The Headmistress subsequently informed Mrs. Culligan of this.
12. [Teacher B] was employed at the School from 1st September 2007 and was suspended on 3rd December 2008 following written complaints from two groups of sixth form pupils on 1st and 3rd December 2008. He responded to the complaints by e-mail received on 5th December 2008 and subsequently, having sought advice from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, resigned on 18th December 2008. The Headmistress decided that under the statutory and guidance provisions then applicable referral was not required or appropriate.
After speaking to Mrs. Culligan, the Headmistress made inquiries of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and was informed that it was "up to her" whether or not she made a referral in respect of [Teacher B]. The Headmistress decided in all the circumstances to do so. The Headmistress subsequently informed Mrs. Culligan of these matters.
13. For many years Father Gregory Chillman was the School's chaplain and a governor. The appointment to the office of chaplain was made not by the School but by the Abbot of St. Benedict's Abbey, a monastic foundation connected with St. Benedict's School, a nearby Catholic school originally for boys which has recently become co-educational. At the time of the initial visit the School was aware of one allegation only relating to Father Gregory's conduct at the School, involving a conversation in January 2004 with two sixth form students in the sixth form common room in the presence of other students. No complaint was made by the students involved in the conversation themselves. On investigation by the Headmistress it appeared that Father Gregory had made an ill-judged remark and it was agreed that he should receive further training on child protection issues. The Headmistress decided that under the statutory and guidance provisions then applicable referral was not required or appropriate.
14. At about the same time the School became aware of an allegation of historic abuse, taking place in the 1970s, newly made by a former male pupil of St. Benedict's against Father Gregory. The School had no knowledge of this matter, save that the allegation had been made. The School was advised by the relevant local authority, the London Borough of Ealing, on 10th April 2010 that there was no reason to be concerned for the safety of students at the School.
15. The Headmistress informed Mrs. Culligan of these matters. Further, the Headmistress has been advised by both the Independent Safeguarding Authority and by the London Borough of Ealing that since Father Gregory has never been employed by the School it is not for the School to make any referral.
16. In those circumstances, the School contends that:
(1) there has been no failure on its part to ensure that any persons whose services are no longer used because they are considered unsuitable to work with children are always reported fully to the Independent Safeguarding Authority within one month of leaving the School;
(2) there have been no cases in which the School has been obliged to make a referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
CRB and other checks
17. The regulatory requirements were amended with effect from 1st May 2007 to require schools to keep a central register recording checks made on staff and proprietors and amending the requirements as to who should be checked and in what manner.
18. Mrs. Culligan required the School to obtain an enhanced CRB disclosure in respect of a governor, Brigadier Cantley, although he was appointed a governor before 1st May 2007 and thus before such a requirement applied to governors who were not the chair of the governing body.
19. Mrs. Culligan criticised the checking procedures undertaken in relation to [Teacher A] although:
(1) the regulatory requirements did not oblige the School to obtain a CRB disclosure in respect of a person (such as [Teacher A]) who had worked in a school in England in a position bringing her regularly into contact with children or young persons during a period ending not more than three months before the date of appointment;
(2) the School had obtained references in respect of [Teacher A] from her previous school stating that there was no reason why she should not work with children and that CRB checks had been undertaken prior to her previous appointment;
(3) the School itself (consistently with the applicable regulatory requirements if a CRB disclosure was required) appointed her for a probationary period subject to CRB checks which were applied for on 18th May 2007. The regulatory requirement was to obtain a disclosure before or as soon as practicable after appointment;
(4) although no disclosure document was produced for [Teacher A] until December 2007, that delay was outside the School's control.
20. In those circumstances, the School contends that standards which are erroneous in law have been applied in determining whether or not the School complied with the regulatory requirements relating to CRB and other checks.
21. It is demonstrable from other reports on the Defendant's web site that on an initial inspection visit schools are frequently found to have failed in complying with the regulatory requirements in some respects. Typically, where such errors are comparatively minor and improved procedures for the avoidance of such errors in future have been instituted, the failures and the improved procedures are both noted and there is no main finding which adversely reflects on the governance, leadership and management of the school.
22. The report on the School departs from this pattern, despite the inspectors' finding that the governors had identified a number of specific and appropriate procedures to be put into action with immediate effect and the further fact that Mrs. Culligan informed the School that its amended child protection policy was "watertight". The School is thus at a loss to know what more is still required.
23. The tenor of the report is to treat regulatory failures as continuing (as shown by the terms of paragraph 8 above) instead of as having been remedied (as illustrated by the matters set out in paragraph 22 above).
24. St. Benedict's itself was inspected by the Defendant in November 2009 and received a favourable report in respect of its child protection policies. It was reinspected in April and May 2010 because a member of the public had drawn the Defendant's attention to public records of six prosecutions or civil actions brought in connection with the Abbey and St. Benedict's School. On reinspection the Defendant recorded a number of failings in St. Benedict's approach to safeguarding and expressed the judgment that the governors' commitment to St. Benedict's rule of love and forgiveness "appears on occasion to have overshadowed responsibility for children's welfare". Notwithstanding that criticism, there was no revision of the overall assessment of governance as good and leadership as excellent.
25. This is of particular relevance because on publication of the Proposed Report the School will come under an obligation to send copies to parents and guardians, many of whom also have children at St. Benedict's. The favourable assessment of St. Benedict's is liable to be compared with the unfavourable assessment of the School.
Legal basis of challenge
26. The School respectfully submits that the Defendant is amenable to judicial review because in inspecting schools it is carrying out a statutory function in the public interest on behalf of the Department for Education under the terms of an agreement with that Department. Its reports are published on its web site and supplied to the Department and are available to be read by any member of the public. A principal purpose of the reports is to determine whether an independent school is satisfying the statutorily prescribed standards for independent schools in England.
27. It is the School's case that:
(1) the Defendant's conclusions as to the School's compliance at the initial visit with the regulatory requirements relating to safeguarding are based on errors of fact and law in relation to referral and checking obligations and cannot be supported;
(2) the Defendant's conclusions as to the School's continuing failures to comply with the regulatory requirements (it as the Proposed Report appears to imply, it is alleged that there are continuing failures) are based on no material and are contrary to statements made to the School by the Defendant;
(3) the Defendant's conclusions as to the governance, leadership and management of the School are unfairly inconsistent with the conclusions reached in other cases and as such are in breach of the Defendant's own guidelines for preparing reports;
(4) having regard to all the matters set out above, the conclusions reached as to the governance, leadership and management of the School are conclusions which no reasonable body of inspectors could have reached.
28. In the premises, the Defendant should be directed to reconsider the terms of the Proposed Report in the light of the matters set out above.