Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Letter to the Chairman of Trustees

I have sent a letter to Mr. David Murphy, Chairman of Trustees of St. Augustine's Priory School Limited. It was sent by recorded delivery on Thursday 7th April. The Royal Mail Tracking Service indicates that he signed for receipt of it on Saturday 9th April. The text of the letter is given below, with minor deletions indicated using square brackets. Although I gave both my telephone number and my email address in the letter, I have not yet received any reply.

Dear Mr. Murphy,

Safeguarding at St. Augustine’s Priory School

On 5th April, I received a visit from the police, concerning a complaint of harassment that had been made against me by Mrs Gumley Mason, specifically concerning name-calling in some of the postings by contributors to the blog.

There was no need for such a complaint. If either the school or Mrs Gumley Mason is concerned about such comments on the blog, my contact details are freely available, you need only telephone me or email me. You may be assured that no further name-calling comments will be published. If at any point you are concerned about any new comments published, then I request that you firstly contact me to discuss them. I will be entirely amenable to requests to delete any new comment which is genuinely abusive. I do not expect the situation to arise, but if a comment is published in error or where you feel that I have made an incorrect decision in a marginal case, then I request that you contact me about it without delay.

The police made a clear distinction between name-calling and the overall subject matter of the blog, i.e. concerns about safeguarding at St. Benedict’s and St. Augustine’s Schools. They are not in any way concerned about the safeguarding content, and have made no suggestion that the body of the articles is in any way objectionable. There is of course a strong public interest justification in continuing a public discussion of this, and I intend to do so.

It has come to my attention that Mrs Gumley Mason may not have been quite as upset about the comments on the blog as she suggested to the police. The following anonymous comment was made to the blog at 21.56 the same evening, stating the following.

“I find these comments extremely disturbing, i feel the police should be informed about this anonymous at 4 april 2011 21.02 poster”

The coincidence of there being a comment about calling the police the day the police had been called is a bit too much to accept, especially as there have been no previous comments to that effect. The obvious inference is that the comment was placed by Mrs Gumley Mason herself.

There have been two additional comments, clearly by the same poster,

“i don't understand why my last comment which was CALL THE POLICE! wasn't posted? There are mad men on this blog, I understand Mr West that the police called at your abode today. Please would you cofirm.” (6 April 2011 23:39)

“please could you report tnis to the police this looks like the a mad man” (7 April 2011 00:03)

In addition, there were three comments posted close together on the evening of 5th April. From their timing all three appear to have been made by the same poster, and it is possible that they were deliberately planted in order to provoke me into publishing some or all of them and so justify a further complaint. The comments are as follows.

[Comment deleted]” (5 April 2011 18:42)

[Comment deleted]” (5 April 2011 18:44)

[Comment deleted]” (5 April 2011 18:52)

Of course, none of these comments have been published. If they are not plants, then you might consider the possibility that they reflect genuinely held feelings by people about Mrs Gumley Mason and the school.

In the light of all this, if I receive a further visit from the police, I shall raise with them the possibility that the school and/or Mrs Gumley Mason should be investigated for wasting police time, and for harassment of me. I shall provide this letter indicating my willingness to receive concerns about comments on the blog, and I shall provide independent datestamped copies of all relevant comments, both published and unpublished. Mrs Gumley Mason can hardly claim harassment from a blog to which she is herself contributing. I guess that the police would take an extremely dim view of being used to further somebody’s private agenda in this way.

As I am sure you are aware, it is the trustees in their role as directors of the Charitable Company who are the proprietors of the school and therefore responsible for ensuring that the school meets all its legal obligations. While tasks can be delegated to the headmistress or governors, the legal responsibility remains with you, and so you are obliged to ensure that the delegated tasks have been properly completed. I was therefore particularly concerned that Mr Fitzgerald’s reply of 24th March to my letter of 22nd March stated “I consider that, even if I were able to do so, it would be inappropriate for me to attend the parent’s meeting”. That suggests to me that the Trustees may have become dangerously detached from the running of the school and may have been unaware of legal shortcomings in the manner in which its business has been conducted. If this is the case, then I would urge you to remedy the situation without delay.

St. Augustine’s School only came to my attention through its connection with St. Benedict’s and Ealing Abbey via Father Gregory Chillman. I know that the ISI is in possession of details of misconduct at St. Augustine’s by Father Gregory which is far more serious than the “inappropriate remark” mentioned in the Statement of Grounds. I am also aware that the allegations against [Teacher A] and [Teacher B] are far more substantial than were disclosed in the Statement of Grounds, and that these more substantial allegations formed part of the evidence on which the ISI based its judgements. The fact that only a partial and misleading story has been disclosed by the school is of great concern.

My sole interest in St. Augustine’s School is to ensure that its safeguarding is brought up to standard, both in its written policies and in actual practice. As soon as I am satisfied that documentation and implementation are adequate, then I will willingly say so in public and my interest in the school will end. If you wish to bring forward that event, then I would be happy to meet with you to discuss my concerns in more detail and discuss the remedial actions that may be appropriate. You may wish to note that in my latest article I have made a positive reference to the flowchart in Appendix 5 of the safeguarding policy.

I accept that it is of course impossible for any school to guarantee non occurrence of abuse. However, once a sound policy has been effectively implemented, then it is almost certain that any future incident of abuse will be detected quickly and brought to an immediate end. In such circumstances this is a very positive message to parents, it is an indication that the staff are well trained and alert and that the school’s safeguarding procedures work. The current evasiveness by management about the handling of recent incidents is sending precisely the opposite message to parents.

Yours sincerely
Jonathan West


  1. Mr Murphy is probably waiting for GM to draft his response that's why Mr West has not had a reply yet.

  2. Every week we learn something that hasn't been disclosed before, why haven't we been furnished with the whole truth?

  3. It is totally unbelievable, I cannot believe what I have just read.

  4. So once again the question arises - how bad were the lack of CRB checks at this school?

    Unfortunately the opaqueness of the ISI reports does not inform us - this is a point at which I completely disagree with so called 'inspections.'

    One minute they are partially revelatory, the next almost siding with a schools to conceal the truth because let’s not forget, in the case of the ISI it is not independent of the school it is inspecting.

    So just how bad was the CRB checking at St Augustine’s? This is a vitally important function that ensures all staff are checked at the door. The school’s diligence for this statutory requirement provides a key indicator to parents of importance the school places on its duty of care towards your children.

  5. How many CRB's were found unchecked by the ISI?

    Over what time period?

    What was the oldest unchecked CRB?

    Answers Mrs Gumley Mason please - it is suggested you post on this site so your positive input would be appreciated by its many readers.

  6. .
    Or would telling the truth cause too much pain?

  7. And what of this second Chillman matter? What is this all about - is this the 'kitchen' incident?

    Please note,there is nothing of the 'kitchen' incident in the ISI report but there is a likely reason for this which parents ought to know but don't, because parents are unfamiliar with the ISI inspection framework.

  8. This is yet another batshit crazy situation created needlessly.
    On Thursday it was 'hide behind the old-folks' when staff were told by Mrs Murphy the police had been informed and the law was quoted about harassment.
    On Friday Mrs Gumley Mason told staff that she thought it was wrong to name girls on the blog. But she DIDN'T care what anybody said about her.
    So if this is right why did she call in the police and waste their time in the first place.
    Plus why is it ok to quote the law at the staff but female staff are not allowed their human right to wear trousers if they want to.

  9. Thinking maybe a good idea to change the subject.
    It's holiday time.
    Anybody into music?

    Maybe there are readers who enjoy a bit of post punk noise rock?

    I've been listening to this wicked album.

    It's the 8th album by the band


    It's called


    There's 13 tracks. These are them.

    1. "Rise Up (Make Yourself Well)"
    2. "Die Like a Motherfucker"
    3. "Perish the Thought"
    4. "Here Be Monsters"
    5. "So-Called Life"
    6. "Panic"
    7. "Polar Bear"
    8. "Rock You Monkeys"
    9. "Dead"
    10. "Long Distance"
    11. "This Ship Is Sinking"
    12. "Save the Sermon"
    13. "Last One to Heaven's a Loser"

    My personal play list goes
    6, 4, 11, 3, 12.

    Highly recommended!

  10. 11.12 - Given La Gumley Mason's view of men, I would have thought wearing trousers was de rigueur in all senses.

  11. Then (i) she is wasting police time, and (ii) she believes she can do as she wishes. We have seen this with the way safeguarding has been run in the place.

    It is all delusional stuff of course, but the numbers included in this category are significant. We seen the more high profile ones on the news each evening, and have done since the beginning of television. They conformed to nothing including the law. Yet above all they crave/(d) respect and respectability.

  12. 11:12 - Why do the staff put up with all that crap?
    You have rights and it is no longer acceptable these days to be treated like this.
    I can understand that the staff are highly professional and care about the school and the pupils but maybe it's time to contact your unions and take action to obliterate the problem.
    Perhaps this seems a bad thing to suggest to you but it would bring your concerns out into the open and show the Trustees and Governors that you actually mean business. I am sure parents and pupils will put up with some disruption when a good result can be achieved in the end.

  13. Hmm, so, speaking entirely hypothetically of course, could I not anonymously post comments about myself which are abusive and/or defamatory, and then follow that up by a resort to the police?
    What a brilliant idea!