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.