Thursday, 7 April 2011

The safeguarding meeting at St Augustine's

I've now had a some accounts of the meeting, and can describe it to you. Apparently about 50 parents attended.

The chairman of the Governors, Professor Anne Hemingway, opened the meeting with a 10 minute talk with details of and how they were instituting their new safeguarding policy which is on their website. She apologised for the failings in safeguarding and assured the room that the school would do better. To this end the safeguarding policy had been redrafted and had been checked against the Ealing yellow book, which parents could view online. She said that this policy had been passed by the school's safeguarding committee and copies had gone to all members of staff who had signed to say they had read it. Mrs Gumley Mason spoke about CRBs and the central register of appointments, but a blank proforma showing what details were recorded was not provided to parents, and there was no initial explanation of what the central register of appointments is, why it exists and what it does.

Parents were then given the opportunity to ask questions.

A parent asked about the article in the Gazette and expressed concern about Father Gregory. Mrs Gumley Mason said that his term of office as chair of governors had come to an end and that he had decided to retire because he was 80 and not in good health. She denied that the school had any concerns about his suitability to work with children. She was asked if there was a requirement to report him and she said something to the effect that he was not an employee of the school, but of the diocese and so no.

Another parent asked about CRB checks and was assured by Professor Hemingway that these had all now been completed. Mrs Gumley Mason said that the problem had been that the school had applied Ofsted  requirements but that ISI requirements were more stringent.

There were questions on the subject of the ISI report and concerns about the safeguarding issues and why the school and Mrs Gumley-Mason had not been open with parents about the problems. Several paraents were irritated that it appeared that there appeared to be an attempt to hush up the report, and that the school had taken the ISI to court to prevent publication. Mrs Gumley Mason explained that the school had used the ISI complaints procedure because there had been 'factual inaccuracies' in the report, and they had then decided to take out an injunction so that they would not be forced to publish an inaccurate report. They were not trying to hush up the report but wanted to deal with areas they were not happy with before it was issued. She did not explain what these inaccuracies were.

Another parent commented, to the general agreement of the floor, that they would have liked to have been informed what was going on, and went on to say that they felt that communication was a big concern. Things happened and they were not told. A more general discussion about poor communication ensued and another parent said that she found the letters the head wrote to parents confusing and hard to understand and felt that, in particular the covering letter sent out with the report was lacking in clarity and did not apologise for the failings but in some ways trivialised them. Mrs Gumley Mason listened and nodded, but made no justification

Some parents wanted Teacher A and Teacher B identified – Mrs Gumley Mason said she would enquire with the ISI as to whether she was allowed to do this and come back with a response.

About costs, Mrs Gumley Mason said that the school had legal insurance. it. She did not, however, state how much the total cost had been or whether the legal insurance had covered the full cost.

Another parent then said it was good to hear from a governor and asked if there were any parent governors. Mrs Gumley Mason said there were two: Professor Hemingway and Mrs Grewal, although Mrs Grewal would soon cease to be a parent governor as her daughters would soon leave the school, although she would continue to be a governor. So, Mrs Gumley Mason was looking round for another governor, maybe someone with expertise in law. A parent then said she was concerned about this approach to recruiting a governor and said she felt it should be a more open process, maybe with an election. Another parent added that she agreed with this and had children in three different schools and that she felt elected parent governors were the right way forward. Professor Hemingway wrote this down and Mrs Gumley Mason nodded and added that 'this would be a matter for the governors'.

A parent suggested that regular parent forums would be a good way forward as they had welcomed the chance to ask questions. Professor Hemingway said it was a good suggestion and wrote it down.

A parent then asked about this blog, which most of those in attendance were aware of. She asked if it would do permanent damage to the school. A member of staff said he thought not. Mrs Gumley Mason agreed.

Throughout the meeting Professor Hemingway seems to have been firmly in control and Mrs Gumley Mason appeared flustered and not always coherent. There were other questions about ICT which are not relevant to this blog. There were no other governors present (at least not who identified themselves) and there were no Trustees present.

The above account is a synthesis of various accounts that have been provided to me. I wasn't there, and so I have no means of knowing for certain how accurate all this is. But the various accounts did agree substantially on points of fact, so I'm fairly confident about this.

Assuming that the accounts are accurate, I have concerns I have with some of the answers given, which seem not to be correct.

ISI requirements for CRB checks are more stringent than OFSTED's.
If this is really what Mrs Gumley Mason said, then it is complete balderdash. Both organisations operate according to the same legal framework, and apply the letter of the law in this respect, as supplemented by guidance produced by the DfE. It is entirely possible that OFSTED, in its 2006 inspection, neglected to make a proper review of the Central Register of Appointments, but to suggest that OFSTED and the ISI apply different requirements is completely false.

It isn't known whether the school can disclose the names of Teacher A and Teacher B
Of course they can., They already have. Their names are in the Statement of Grounds and so are now out in the public domain. Any parent who wishes to find out the names need only email me, and I will send you a scanned copy of the Statement of Grounds, complete with the names. I assure you that the fact that you have asked me will remain confidential. Alternatively, you can write to the High Court and ask them to post or fax it to you. They might charge you a modest fee of a few pounds.

Father Gregory doesn't need to be reported to the ISA because he wasn't an employee of the school
Complete rubbish. He was chairman of governors. The rules apply to governors just as much as they do to staff. Moreover, the rules on referrals to the Independent Safeguarding Authority when somebody leaves the establishment are equally applicable to all those working with children in any capacity. If at the time of his resignation either as chaplain or as chair of governors, there were issues concerning his suitability to work with children, then by law the school is obliged to make a referral to the ISA.

I'm still seriously concerned about the state of the school, but in fairness I must report one positive aspect. The parents were provided with a copy of the new version of the safeguarding policy, and three appendices, each in the form of a flowchart which summarises the procedures. They have been forwarded to me. Appendix 5 addresses the procedure to be followed in the event of an allegation of abuse against somebody at the school. I'm pleased to say that it clearly states that the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection) is always contacted in such cases. That's the good news, and I'm very pleased about it. It is most definitely a step in the right direction. But the main text of the policy does not align with the flow chart, and there is no indication as to whether the text or the flowchart is authoritative in the event of a discrepancy between them. This is not so good. But let us celebrate such positive steps as have been taken. With regard to this aspect of the policy, all that is now needed is for the text to align with the flow chart, without the weasel words currently present.


  1. I agree that this is a pretty accurate report of the meeting.
    Professor Hemingway was a very reassuring presence. She, at least, apologised and showed real humanity and sincerity. Her answers were clear and she listened with real attention.

  2. Yesterday I was in an office where CRB's were being processed. They are what they are - you request one and you receive a reply to the request. Guidance describes the process, it is all very clear.

    So the reported answer given by Mrs Gumley Mason at the meeting seems most odd. Perhaps she would like to explain what she meant – the requirements on each of the schools inspectorates, Ofsted, Bridge, ISI and SIS are the same in this regard. It sounds like more twaddle from Gumley Mason.

    Just how sloppy was the school with this very important CRB process? It is only with this knowledge that we can see how laissez faire the school's attitude has been and on the face of it currently remains to safeguarding.

  3. Professor Anne Hemingway aka Anne Evans, was chosen by FGM to be a governor. All the governors are chosen by her. In cases of complaint Hemingway will chair any meetings and always appears to side with the complainant, but ultimately supports FGM, so you feel that you've been listened to but really, nothing is ever done!! If you dare to question why the children of staff at the school tend to be Prefects and Head/Deputy Head girls, you are dismissed as being jealous! FGM claims that the Head girl & deputies are always chosen by the 6th form but already rumour has it that FGM, has selected C.O/ O.F./R.B/L.P, so much for the election process! Lizzie Evans was Head girl what a surprise !!! Maybe Katherine Evans will make deputy in 2012/3

  4. I agree totally with the above Dr Evans is a reaaly nice person but she's not to be trusted another of Mrs GM's puppet on a string.
    I think the only way forward is to get rid of all the governor's, and start again. The governors should be elected by the parents.

  5. "Mrs Gumley Mason said that the problem had been the school had applied Ofsted requirements but that ISI requirements were more stringent."

    To demonstrate the nonsense uttered by Mrs Gumley Mason I revisited the ISI report into the matter of CRB's.

    At paragraph 2(b) of the ISI report - Action Points

    (i) Compliance with regulatory requirements

    2.4 At the time of the initial visit, the school did not meet all the requirements of the Independent School Standards 2003, as subsequently amended, and therefore it was required to :

    - ensure that enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks are always obtained and recorded for proprietors as necessary [Regulation 4C.(7), under Suitability of staff, supply staff and proprietors];

    What does Section 4 of the Act request in full ?

    Suitability of proprietors and staff

    The suitability of the proprietor and staff at the school meets the standard if—
    (a)the proprietor is subject to a check with the Criminal Records Bureau made by the Secretary of State to confirm his suitability to work with children, that check to be at an enhanced level if his duties involve regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of persons aged under 18;

    (b)prior to confirmation of their appointment, members of staff at the school are subject to a check with the Criminal Records Bureau which confirms suitability to work with children, that check to be at an enhanced level if the member of staff’s duties involve regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of persons aged under 18;

    (c)prior to confirmation of their appointment, appropriate checks are carried out on staff to confirm their identity, medical fitness, previous employment history, character references, and where appropriate, qualifications and professional references, and that information is taken into account in determining whether an appointment is confirmed;

    (d)where staff will care for, train, supervise or be in charge of children for whom accommodation is provided, they also comply with Standard 38 of the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools or where applicable Standard 27 of the National Minimum Standards for Residential Special Schools; and

    (e)neither the proprietor nor any member of staff carries out work, or intends to carry out work, in contravention of a direction under section 142(1) of the 2002 Act.

    So how sloppy was St Benedict's? Slightly sloppy, medium sloppy, big sloppy, or supa mega all over the walls sloppy?

    And let's not forget, this failure is the equivalent of removing security from flight check-in.

    And how on earth is an Act interpreted differently by Ofsted to the ISI. In not more than 100 words would you please be so kind as to explain Mrs Gumley Mason - we have our reading glasses ready.

    Her claim at the meeting could be amusing if it did not so adversely risk the welfare of students.

    So just how many CRB's were late, and how late were they?

  6. Schools legal expense insurance primarily covers employment issues and a school can only be covered if they consult the insurance company prior to taking action and have a 51% or more chance of success. You also must use the company's named solicitors. It is almost impossible that St Augustine's would have been covered for the costs incurred in taking out an injunction against the ISI. In any event the Solicitors were Elliot Bond and Banbury the School's Solicitors. I suspect another lie from the Headmistress. Perhaps the Governors and Trustees should pay more attention to the Management Accounts!

  7. Oh what a suprise more lies, is she incapable of telling the truth? If the headmistress had been open and honest from the beginning I doubt this blog would still be running, what concerns me is what else has she lied about.
    I think also it speaks volumes that only 50 parents turned up for the meeeting most stayed away not because they don't care but out of fear of asking the wrong question and thier children suffering as a result.

  8. On reflection, further to my earlier comment, if the Governors let alone the Trustees who are legally liable after all, are not complicit in the headmistress's lies , perhaps they should get confirmation from either Marsh or Aon or whosoever are the school insurers, that they have covered the legal action against the ISI? Or perhaps they know the answer!

  9. Again for your eyes alone, Mr West…

    This blog is an island of purity, sanity and saintly morality surrounded by a hideous sea of lies and horrors of every kind. Thank goodness Mr West and his fellow islanders are not like the rest of us or where would we turn for guidance and inspiration? But we do turn to this blessed isle in the hope that we might, one day, be worthy of coming ashore ourselves. And who knows if, inspired by Mr West, we can do this in sufficient numbers the island may finally enjoy its just reward and sink without trace! But no, what a terrible thought! I'm becoming just like those 'little islanders' - keep bad company and what happens? Well, Jonathan, you know the answer to that if anyone does.

  10. 10.07, if you want something to be for my eyes only, you can email me.

  11. What are the lies you are referring to 10:07?
    If some lies have been told on this blog then I am sure everyone would be very interested to know which ones were actually true and which ones were not. I think you need to specify what you are talking about and how you know this. A lot of what has been said is in the public domain so I am interested on how you will defend those comments.

  12. 11:26 remedial lessons in reading are offered, I believe, by most local councils. Give it a go!

  13. 15:00 there is also a course entitled "How NOT to lie your tits off and still preserve your ego", may like try for a place on the course a.s.a.p.

  14. 15:oo Why so defensive have you something to be scared of? like the truth coming out.

  15. 17.24 makes an interesting point.

    It seems the damning ISI safeguarding report is the inspectorate's fault because it has a different and more stringent interpretation of the statutory legislation.


    Mrs Gumley Mason claimed the reason for the legal action was 'factual errors.' Once again she is suggesting it's the fault of the inspectorate.

    Now, parents just think about this for a moment, it only takes a second to appreciate the untruthfulness of this fatuous comment.

    A school subject to inspection is always provided with a draft copy of the report for correction and comment. Any issues of "fact" i.e. the number of pupils, the address, its history, its structure and so forth, are resolved at this point. Explanations for opinions expressed in the report can also be sought. The legal action motivated by the administration of St Augustine’s was nothing to do with "fact," it was motivated purely by ISI opinions expressed in the report which did not suit the administration of St Augustine’s. The Grounds for the legal action make this all very clear.

    So in true bullying style the administration of the school chose the extreme option hoping the ISI would retreat. Due credit to the ISI, it stood firm. How many do in the face of the St Augustine’s default.

    So yet again in answer to this important question Mrs Gumley Mason’s answer was:


    Dear parents, this is a questionable environment in which to educate children.

  16. Indeed - BUNK IT ALL IS from the management of St Augustine's.


  17. This school is managed by an individual I would wish to have dealings with ever again. How easy it is to be misled and lied to, how difficult it is for some to recognise and understand the importance of truth.

    This is all about face and arse saving by one individual and has nothing whatever to do with the safeguarding of pupils.

    It is amoral.

  18. Why is she still Headmistress?
    Also who is she to dictate what the female staff are allowed to wear they have too wear a skirt or dress no trousers allowed, I am sure this is not allowed.

  19. 13:13 (7 April) We were told LAST year that A/F O/F R/B C/O A/D L/P were in the team. Does that count as forward planning?

  20. Its called manipulation. It is nauseating to watch some of the girls suck up to her cause they know SHE choses the Head girl team UGH!!!!

  21. 13:13 (7th) 13:15 (21st) Full marks - you were both right, although C.O. was easy as she is a teachers daughter - are we Surprised?!