Thursday, 24 March 2011

Things to ask at the parents' meeting

These are some of the key questions that I hope somebody will ask at the parents' meeting on Friday. They are all questions which the Mrs Gumley Mason, the headmistress, or Mr David Murphy, the chairman of Trustees, should know the answers to.

I already know the answers to some of these questions. But I'm not going to give the answers right now, because I think it is for the school's representatives to give the answers.
  • When was the first draft of the ISI report provided to the school?
  • Did the school make a complaint against the ISI concerning the report?
  • What was the reason for the complaint?
  • What was the purpose of the legal action against the ISI?
  • How much has been spent on this legal action, in costs, court fees and fees to the school's own solicitors?
  • Did the school pay the ISI's costs?
  • Who made the decision to proceed with legal action?
  • When was the decision made?
  • Was the decision formally approved at a meeting of the Governors? If so, when? 
  • Can the minutes of the relevant governors' meeting be made available to parents?
  • Was the decision formally approved at a meeting of the Trustees? If so, when?
  • Can the minutes of the relevant trustees' meeting be made available to parents?
  • Is there anything in the published version ISI report which the school thinks is incorrect or unfair?
  • Is there anything in the ISI's overall conduct which the school thinks was unfair to the school?
  • Who is the new "independent governor" mentioned in the ISI report who has been appointed?
  • Was he or she known to the headmistress, any other members of staff or any governors or trustees prior to the search to appoint a new governor being started? If so, what is their connection, and how long have they known each other?
  • What information was provided to the ISI that meant that the ISI felt able to describe the new governor as "independent"?
  • If there was a previous connection between the new governor and somebody at the school, was this connection disclosed to the ISI?
  • How many staff did the ISI find had been permitted to supervise children before their CRB, List 99 and/or other checks were completed?
  • What is the longest period that the ISI found that a member of staff had been permitted to supervise children before the CRB and other checks were completed?
  • How many CRB and other checks were still outstanding at the time of the ISI's 2nd visit on 4-6 May?
  • Concerning the two members of staff whom the ISI stated should have been referred to the ISA on their departure, are the descriptions of events concerning them substantially complete as given in the Statement of Grounds? Or are there further points the ISI took into account?
  • Have those two former members of staff now been reported to the ISA, including complete descriptions of the circumstances of their departure? If so, when, and if not, why not?
  • Since the previous OFSTED inspection in 2006, has any other member of staff been sacked or resigned because they were considered unsuitable to work with children?
  • In each case, did you make a report to the ISA (or prior to 2009 to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the DfE) within a month of their departure?
  • Are any referrals to the ISA currently being prepared or expected to be sent in the near future?
  • Since the OFSTED inspection in 2006, have there been any incidents or allegations of abuse involving any current members of staff, governors or trustees? If so, how many allegations/incidents, involving how many different people?
  • Were all those cases reported to the LADO at the time?
  • If not, will you now retrospectively make the necessary reports to the LADO, so that the LADO can decide whether they merit investigation?
  • At the school, have there been any incidents or allegations of abuse involving Father Gregory Chillman, beyond the "inappropriate remark" mentioned in the Statement of Grounds? If so, what are they, and what was done in response?
  • Did the ISI indicate that it was already aware of any  incidents or allegations of abuse at the school involving Father Gregory Chillman, beyond the "inappropriate remark" mentioned in the Statement of Grounds?
  • When did Father Gregory Chillman resign as chaplain and Chairman of Governors?
  • Was Father Gregory Chillman's resignation in any way connected with allegations concerning his suitability to supervise children?
  • Were all allegations concerning Father Gregory Chillman reported to the LADO at the time? If not, have they been reported since?
  • Has a referral to the ISA been made with respect to Father Gregory Chillman?
  • Who was the main author of the current (February 2011) version of the Child Protection Policy?
  • Who was the main author of the previous (2010) version of the Child Protection Policy?
  • When will the wording of the Child Protection Policy be altered to make it clear that immediate reporting of all incidents and allegations of abuse to the LADO must occur? (without weasel words concerning marginal cases)
  • When will the wording of the Child Protection Policy be altered to replace the grossly misleading definition of "sexual abuse", and the means by which it can be recognised?
  • Will the Child Protection Policy be reviewed by an external expert, and his or her advice be taken regarding improvements to the policy and procedures?
If there have been allegations concerning the conduct of individual teachers, past or present, then it is likely that your daughters will have heard about them on the grapevine. Take the trouble to find out about them from your daughters, make notes, and use them to ask questions at the meeting. Time to clear the air.

If you want to contact me privately to ask about any of these or any other questions, my email address is I will be checking it regularly tonight and tomorrow.


  1. Goodness - it's going to be an awfully long meeting!

  2. I fear that this evening will be an example of several things.

    - Few parents.

    - Few questions.

    - Opaque answers

    - More supporters than critics.

    - No Trustees despite their 'statutory responsibility' for child protection.

    I hope I am mistaken on all fronts.

    The tragedy is, as parents know, any question/s that require the Head’s input for an answer are interpreted by her as criticism(of her). In these circumstances it becomes impossible to discuss anything because she reacts adversely. It's why the numbers will probably be small at this evening's meeting.

    She has something of Muammar Gaddafi about her.

    Daring to ask questions can have an effect on the happiness one’s child.

    Parents are welcome at the school provided we pay up, shut up, don't challenge anything, and accept lies. The governors seem not to realise that the school is succeeding not because of GM but in spite of her.

  3. My daughter goes to the School and is in the sixth form. She has been at the school for some time. I do not know Ms Gumley-Mason well. I have perhaps over the last 6 years have had occasion to spoken to her three times. What I do know however is that Gumley-Mason (if I may call her that), has contributed very positively to the school and is responsible for producing well rounded individuals, academically as well as socially. St Augustine does not just produce a product but produces a well rounded individual. I am not saying that I agree with everything that Ms Gumley-Mason has done but on balance she has been and is a great asset for the school. She may at times come across as over assertive and over bearing but that is because she wears her heart on her sleeve. Clearly mistakes have been made but lets put things in to perspective. You Blog does seem one sided and does not provide a balanced view. Parts of your blog are clearly meant to be offensive and written on the principal of throw enough mud and some of it will stick.

  4. Very well-balanced posting, Aren. I would agree entirely. There is room for improvement at the school, particularly with communication. But as you said, Augustinian girls are well-rounded individuals and of course Mrs Gumley-Mason has something to do with that.

    Enough with the mud-slinging.

  5. I would consder "wearing your heart on your sleeve" not to be highest amongst the qualifications necessary for running a school.

    I would put knowledge of your statutory responsibilities rather higher, and along with it I would put a willingness to ensure that they are fulfilled.

    Taking that into account, I would then have to wonder why the school's initial response to the ISI's criticism was not to make the necessary changes, but rather to attempt to suppress the report with a High Court injunction.

    The school must have thought that the ISI's criticisms were very serious and damaging. So in saying that the report is very serious and damaging, I am only echoing the school's own opinion, as evidenced by the action they took in trying to get the report suppressed.

  6. I find your selective comment moderation appalling.

    Mrs Gumley-Mason is an excellent head mistress and a wonderful role model.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time at St Augustine's and it wouldn't have been nearly as amazing without Mrs Gumley-Mason.

    I really think people should take this into account.

  7. Oh please, you must be one of the chosen few, what on earth are you going on about, you are talking about her like she was your best friend. You are totally deluded.

  8. What! wonderful role model, if you want to be a bullying tyrant like her maybe, take off your rose tinted spectacles.

  9. Lets be honest no one is going to stand up at the meeting and criticise GM we are all to scared of her.

  10. Why should people take your opinion into account before commenting.

  11. Do you undestand why there is moderation on this site 19.56?

  12. 19.56 obviously doesn't why there is moderation.

  13. I understand why there is moderation, if it is to ensure that highly offensive comments, or comments that refer to people in general. I don't think it should apply to comments praising Mrs Gumley-Mason; but seeing as many of my previous positive comments have been moderated, clearly Jonathan disagrees.
    Why can't someone speak up and support Mrs Gumley-Mason? Other people have given their personal experiences and opinions, am I not entitled to the same?
    I meant that people should take into account that many students respect Mrs Gumley-Mason, and that many of us don't feel she is the 'bullying tyrant' she is made out to be.
    One of the commenters even compared her to Gadaffi. Hardly a fair comparison.
    On one of the articles, a student commented explaining her personal experience of the school, and she was applauded for giving an insight into how a pupil experienced St Augustine's. This is clearly simply because it was a negative opinion.
    I am perfectly entitled to do the same, as a St Augustine's pupil, and I don't see why I should be treated any differently.

  14. Look, I am not in the slightest bit concerned whether or not there are students who highly praise Mrs Gumley Mason. I am concerned for the safety of the pupils there, and that safety is assured in large part by a determined and effective child protection policy, involving amongst other things:

    - safe recruitment practices, where teachers are not permitted to supervise children until CRB and other checks have been properly carried out

    - proper reporting procedures, where all allegations or incidents of abuse, no matter how trivial, are always immediately reported to the LADO.

    - proper referral procedures, where a teacher resigns or is sacked because they are thought unsuitable to work with children, a report is sent to the ISA within a month of the teacher's departure. The ISA can then investigate and decide whether to place the teacher on "List 99". List 99 checks are done on new teachers as part of their CRB check with enhanced disclosure. This system is intended to prevent abusive teachers being handed round from school to school.

    The ISI report clearly states that all three of these key fundamental principles weren't being operated at the school. You can't say there was no abuse, because if there was and it wasn't being reported, we would be none the wiser.

    The school has been running in a fundamentally unsafe condition, probably for many years, and if in all that time there has been no abuse that went unreported, I will consider it a fairly major miracle.

  15. I've just stumbled across this, and I have to ask: who are you?

    I mean seriously, you have nothing to do with St Augustine's at the moment, as far as I can gather, and clearly you're just looking for something to kill time.

    It's ridiculous.

    Having read through the reports, as well as knowing people at the school, I think it's clear that there was no abuse. You can't just make assumptions that there was unreported abuse; that's such an idiotic statement.

    I think we should treat the school and teachers in question as innocent until proven guilty. There is no doubt in my mind that there was no abuse, having had personal experience of the school: unlike you.

  16. .
    I mean seriously, you have nothing to do with St Augustine's at the moment, as far as I can gather, and clearly you're just looking for something to kill time.

    It's ridiculous.

    Safeguarding is everyone's business. This is a quote from successive governments.

    You provide no argument, and the content of your very brief post demonstrates you are subject illiterate. Complacency rules it, and St Augustine's is an stellar example of complacency which you support.

    The school is still not conforming to Ealing Safeguarding Children's Board guidance.

    As an enthusiastic believer in the school would you explain why not?

  17. What actually happened at the meeting last night?
    Was safeguarding addressed via any of the specimen questions suggested by JW?

  18. ATT : Aren Gurdikyan @ 17.53

    This is not to discourage you from posting whatever you want, but I suggest you to refrain from attaching your name to a posting particularly one that is so supportive of a setting that has and continues to fail students and parents on child protection. It can easily risk your daughter’s welfare and I urge you not to do it.

    It is unwise for a parent to cheerlead for a school in any way. Every mother should remain distant from the administration of the school their child attends. All you need to be is businesslike. There is a very practical reason for this suggestion, please do accept it in the well intentioned way it is offered.

    There is a posting from a long-time ago about cheerleader mothers which this link takes you to.

    .........cheerleader mummies are targeted by perpetrators. "Oh I am such a supporter of the school, all my brothers were pupils," you know the type. The ones who are desperate to be on the PTA or the board of "friends" because they are convinced being so will promote the interests of their child. As a result of the behaviour of this sharp elbowed troupe their children stand a good chance of being targeted by perpetrators, along with those bright children who won a scholarship and those pupils whose parents work for the school thus qualifying for big fee discounts. Targeting is not limited to just these candidates; it is just that such children are the lowest fruits for those with an unhealthy interest in the young."

    You might like to understand why being an outspoken and visibly supportive parent is unwise, but more probably you will immediately think what I am saying does not apply to you because such things only happen to ‘others.’ Well if you wish to get an understanding of this complex, illogical subject, and how the grooming of parents is as important as grooming the child please watch the BAFTA award winning documentary Chosen which is available online by following this link.

    After the broadcast a person left this message of the moderated comments page of the films website:

    I know it probably doesn't mean much because you're focused on so many bigger things, but I just watched the film online and I had to tell you how thankful I am for the strength and courage it took to put this together. My story is in a very different setting, I live in the US for one thing, I'm a girl, and I've never attended a boarding school, but it felt like it was my life being described by these three men. The way they talked about the grooming, the normalcy of it all, the way even the idea of telling anyone was terrifying and impossible, everything.

    It just gave me hope that now, because this was presented in such an eloquent manner, people might actually have some idea about how hard it is for us to break free from our abusers. And although I wish the men hadn't had to live through what they did, hearing them speak made me feel a less alone. So for all the good that is going to come out of this documentary, and for all that you've done, Thank You.

    As is clear from your posting you are understandably applying adult logic which shines through your argument. You do so because you have no knowledge of the subject – how fortunate you are, I wish I could say the same.

    The first rule is disengage adult logic, it has no part to play in this complex matter as those who understand it will confirm.

  19. I know a number of girls that attended St. Augustines, they have since finished in the last 3 years. I can honestly say that each one of them loved St. Augustines, and misses it. However, they do not have a single positive word to say for Gumley-Mason, with most saying that the school would be an even better place without her.

    They would never consider her a 'role model' and thought very little of her. From what I know and have heard of her, she is highly unapproachable, very dismissive of anything she doesn't want to her, and will ensure you have a difficult time if she hears your not staying at the school for Sixth Form and instead going to somewhere such as St. Benedict's. For example she will not send any of a girls records to St. Benedict's in the hope that this will stop them from accepting you. However, St. Benedict's are fully aware of this and will accept the girls on interview alone - pretty petty by Gumley-Mason I think anyone would agree?

    She really is not suitable to be a headmistress, when I was at school, my headmaster was extremely supportive (even if you were upset with the school for some sort of problem you had had), incredibly approachable and considerate of all pupils regardless of how academic they were, he always wanted the best for that individual - something G-M doesn't it would seem.