Saturday, 22 October 2011

Chillman and St Augustine's

This email has been sent to all parents of St Augustine's
Dear Parents,

Yesterday an article appeared in the Times (p.27) about Fr Gregory who was our chaplain for many years until he formally retired on October 3rd 2010. He had retired as Chair of Governors in June 2009. Fr Gregory was made aware in April 2010 of an historical accusation against him made by a past pupil of St Benedict’s School. He immediately informed this School and from that time on ceased to undertake any teaching activity at the School or to celebrate the regular weekly Mass. From that date on I had contact with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), Ealing Social Services, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Charity Commission regarding both this allegation and an historical allegation from St Augustine’s concerning inappropriate comments made by regarding Fr Gregory in 2004. Although we were advised by the authorities that he could have supervised contact and access to the School

I, together with the Board of Governors, decided for the sake of clarity to bar Fr Gregory from the premises while school was in session. He did participate in the School Carol Service and the Feast Day Mass both public events held at Ealing Abbey. The School has co-operated fully with all relevant authorities regarding these events and will continue to do so as required.

Please note the Central Register of Appointments (CRA), which includes all pre-employment checks and CRBs is regularly updated, is audited every term and was recently comprehensively and positively reviewed by the ISI at their follow up inspection.

Yours sincerely

Mrs F J Gumley-Mason MA (Cantab) Headmistress
This communication is more remarkable for what it doesn't say than for what it does. It was in March 2010 that Chillman resigned as a trustee of St Benedict's and was placed on restricted ministry because of allegations.

I would be very interested to see the minutes of the meeting of the Governors from that time at which it was decided that Chillman should be permitted to continue formally to act as chaplain and governor, and what for what reason they decided against a clean break by simply asking for his immediate resignation, as appears to have occurred with his role as a Trustee of St Benedict's. That hasn't been stated. I'm also curious about how it can be an assistance to clarity that the reasons for the measures taken weren't communicated to the parents at the time.

I also think parents have a right to know more about this incident in St Augustine's in 2004. Did Mrs Gumley Mason know about it at the time? If so, what was done about it at the time? When was a report made to the LADO? What was the advice of the LADO? The relevant correspondence should at a minimum be provided immediately to the governors so that they can discuss it and decide what course of action should be followed.

As for the contact with the Charity Commission and everybody else mentioned, I can and will check that out. The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing. The Charity Commission and Ealing Social Services are both government bodies covered by the Act, and although the ISI is a private organisation, all its papers on St Augustine's have been passed to the DfE since the DfE was added to the court case where the school sought Judicial Review of the ISI's report. The DfE most undoubtedly is covered by the FOI Act. So if it turns out that there has been a little bit of terminal inexactitude in that aspect of Mrs Gumley Mason's email, we will find out in due course.

This bit of Mrs Gumley Mason's email is fascinating: "From that date on I had contact with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), Ealing Social Services, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO), the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Charity Commission ...". Note that she "had contact with" them. She's not saying that she "made contact with" them. It leaves entirely unstated who initiated the contact. Did Mrs Gumley Mason contact the authorities to report the issue and ask for advice, or did they contact her to ask what on earth was going on? If Mrs Gumley Mason had initiated the contact, I'm sure she would have wanted to say so very clearly.

Again, it seems to me that the relevant correspondence should be provided immediately to the Governors, so that the truth of the matter can be established.

I already have reason to think that Mrs. Gumley Mason's account may be mistaken on certain points. Here is the relevant part of a letter sent by the ISI to Mrs Gumley Mason on 6th December last year, part of the letter describing the outcome of the school's complaint against the ISI.
We would point out that, during the period between the end of the inspection visit and the issuing of the report on 29th September, concerns relating to the role of this individual and the school and the correct reporting of these were raised with ISI by more than one individual. It was necessary for ISI to consider these alongside the issues which arose during the inspection, as agreed with DfE. ISI liaised with Ealing Social Care on these matters, and attended a strategy meeting.

We agree that during the period of time in question, it was not necessary to refer Father GC to the Independent Safeguarding Authority. As Father GC has now resigned rather than resume his posts as Chaplain and Governor, the school should consider whether a referral is now required in line with its own safeguarding policy and the ISA's published guidance.
That indicates that, according to the ISI, it wasn't the school who raised the issue of Chillman with the ISI, but instead it was "more than one individual". I was one of those individuals. It also indicates that the school did not make any reference to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) at the time.

I'll probably find out anyway via the FOI requests I intend to make.
And when I do, I'll publish it here.


  1. It is, in any situation in life, always difficult to define clearly the boundaries between inexactitude and mendacity. The oath requires 'the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.' It will be interesting to see whether Times jounalists have more to say on the subject of Mrs Gumley Mason; it seems like they will.

  2. Who will be paying for her lawyers? Not the parents again!!!!!

  3. More bad publicity for the schools in The Times today !

  4. You can now see where your fees go. It isn't on duty of care for the pupils that is for certain! The Lawyers fees, and those for Carlile and his forth coming appearance with the parents of St Ben's, let alone the defense of Fr David Pearce and Fr Stan Hobbs (yes, one convicted, the other acquitted but admitted previous abuse), and endless public defense against abuse allegations all cost serious £.
    You can bet your bottom dollar there will be a big drive in the Church and to wealthy parents to shore up their funds pretty soon.

  5. Front page news today in The TImes and a full 2 page spread inside.
    Well done Jonathon for exposing the faults in these 2 schools, I hope the visitation will go somwhere to making these schools toe the line and follow the law.
    No wonder Mrs Gumley Mason is making such a rapid and unexpected departure, she must have known what was about to come out.

  6. Very interesting to read mention of a 'bullying culture' in the Times alongside the sexual abuse. The abuse is, of course, extremely serious, but pupils like myself, who weren't physically abused (beyond being caned) still had to endure an enormous amount of psychological abuse and manipulation. This was led by Pearce, Chillman and Soper, and their behaviour was aped by loyal lieutenants like Messrs Strachan, Baker, Maestri and Byrne. Pearce used to pick on me for having an assisted place at the school yet not conforming to their idea of what a St Benedict's Boy should be like and often - and I mean often - threatened me with taking the place away, saying it would break my parents heart. There was never anything specific in his criticisms of me - it was always nebulous concepts like my 'attitude', despite the fact I was an academic high-flyer. What on earth was the point of it all? I entered the school a devout Catholic and left an atheist. I have no doubt my schooling led me to lose my faith.

  7. Why do the school have Governors? So far they have not acted appropriately.

  8. Some facts and some questions:

    1. The facts:

    Chillman was still on the calendar as a governor in the summer term 2010. So he might have resigned as chairman, but not as a governor. Fact, but unmentioned by Gumley Mason.

    As stated on this blog he was also present at a Christmas service in December 2010 and another event in February 2011 - the ISI, nevertheless, had recommended he should not live at the Abbey. Fact, but unmentioned by Gumley Mason.

    The extract of the letter published above makes it clear that the ISI report was published on 29th September. Fact, but never explained to parents by Gumley Mason.

    After the allegations made by pupils in the school Chillman became Chairman of Governors. Yes, you did read that right AFTER! Fact, well you couldn't make this one up, could you?

    2. Questions to ponder:

    Why did Pat Murphy O'Connor resign as Chairman of Governors in 2004?

    Why did David Craig resign as Chairman of Trustees at about the same time?

    What was Mr Mason's role as Estate Factor in the school at that time? Did he limit himself to this role?

    Could there be any link between two high-level resignations and Mr Mason?

    Did Chillman owe any debt of gratitude to Gumley Mason?

    Was Chillman a personal friend of Gumley Mason?

    Was Chillman a personal friend of Professor Hemingway?

    Was Chillman a personal friend of David Murphy?

    Might this whole mess have been avoided by Mrs Gumley Mason simply doing the job she has been paid to do?

    Should not the welfare of children be paramount? (It says so in the safeguarding policy, but practice is sometimes at variance with policy, it seems)

    Might it be that self interest can, for years, be a substitute for professionalism?

    Might it be that personality traits, on occasion, allow some people to confuse success with 'getting away with it'? ( After all you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time)

    Might it be that bullies sometimes become so grandiose in their own self-importance that they make the fatal mistake of picking on the big boys and thereby come a massive cropper?

    Now, sorry to go all caps-lock, but this question is at the heart of all this:

    If anyone out there has answers, do please publish.

    'Veritas'??? - You gotta be havin' a laugh!

  9. Mrs Gumley Mason's resignation is one, who is the other high level person who has resigned?
    Mr Gumley Mason I have been told was responsible for writing many of the policy's including the Infamous Child Protection Policy, so no he didn't do what his job description describes, have you ever seen a gardner turn up for work in a suit and a briefcase.
    The man was given free reign by his wife, and no one out of fear would question his role, by the way were has he suddenly disappeared too?
    The Governors, the Trustees and the head are all very close friends, so when complaining you complaint would fall on deaf ears, you would get lip service but very little else.
    Mrs Gumley Mason has set the most appalling example to the girls she should be ashamed of herself, and the way she has conducted herself.
    She has done nothing but damage the school with her i can do anything attitude shame on you Gumley Mason.

  10. The Governors should act NOW, she cannot possibly be allowed to stay till the end of term.
    Governors you are not there for the Headmistress, you are there for the good of the school.

  11. She should go now what is she waiting for, why have the Governors not insisted she step down with immediate effect, she is doing nothing but embarrassing the school, lets hope the damage that has been done is reversible.

  12. I think as parents we now need to be enlightened with answers to the facts and questions raised by 09.09.
    Also who employed Mr Gumley Mason and in what capacity? If true that he was in fact responsible for writing the failed Child Protection Policy along with other policy's, who gave him the authority to do this?
    Were the Governor's and Trustee's aware that the Estate Factor was in fact writing policy's that are supposed to be there to safeguard our children?
    Who allowed this to happen I cannot comprehend how anyone gave the gardner the authority to write such important policy's.
    The whole situation would be laughable if not so serious, you could not make this up!

  13. It seems to be suggested here that Mr Mason is, in some way, the instrument of his own wife's downfall.

  14. GM appointed her husband. The place is run by an incompetent in-crowd who support each other. Only a reputation for effective teaching and good exam results attract parents. What a nice little earner for hanger-ons. Why not get together, parents and write a play script to get some of your fees back. Ealing Farces. Could revive the fortunes of Ealing Studios down the road.

  15. Mr West,
    Is the Charity Commission aware of safeguarding issues around Mrs Gumley Mason and St Augustines?

  16. 18:13. Yes. I have brought the matter to their attention.

  17. 19.40 - you've got active parent governors now - maybe its time to ask them, but in writing!

  18. 20:37
    I don't know about them being active - I've never seen them do anything! Come on governors, you know why you were elected - start doing something positive, like keeping the parents up dated on recent activities - we shouldn't be hearing the latest via the grapevine and the so called surprises in store with resignations etc.,It is your job to tell parents - Do your job and keep us up to date for goodness sake!

  19. We have received a letter from the governors but no details of anything we didn't already know. They are in danger of looking rather silly if this situation persists.
    We seem to have gone from years of practically no communication at all, save occasional half-witted miscommunications laden with plodding attempts at humour from Mrs Gumley Mason, to self-important and ultimately equally vague and long-winded letters from the governing body which say little and seemingly commit to even less.
    First off there was a letter from Mrs Gumley Mason to the girls telling them Mrs Wilson was to be acting head, then a letter from the governors saying they were reviewing the arrangements, then a letter saying they were pleased to announce Mrs Wilson would be acting head. So it took half a term for them to communicate something which Mrs Gumley Mason had already announced six weeks earlier.
    Considering that there are three medics on the governors you'd expect arses might be distinguished from elbows with relative ease, but it's not looking great at the moment.
    Please could we have one clear letter telling us what is actually going to happen and when? Parents do pay out quite a bit of money for this currently rather unsatisfactory service.

  20. Thank you for clarification with regard to the Charity Commission. They have considerable power. One assumes they will be visiting to start an investigation soon.

  21. 11.13

    I couldn't agree more, but don't hold your breath 2/3 of the Board of Governors were elected by the Head, and each one of them is a personal of friend of you no who. Governor's should be elected by the parents as they are supposed to be there to act on our behalf! As far as i'm concerned they should all stand down and a democratic vote should elect new Governor's, who have no connection with Gumley.
    I also suspect the Trustees are personal friends of The Gumleys hence their nepotism in all that has occurred.

  22. 18:03
    You don't know just how right you are!

  23. there are over 500 girls at the school and yet one year we had about 10 photos in the school calender of Helena gumley mason and even one of her brother!!!
    GM tells the govs and trustees what to do, that's the only reason she has got away with so much for so long!! I heard that there are resignations already in the offing but will not be revealed until she has gone! Good riddance to them too as they have done nothing for the children, the parents or the school!

  24. 19.38

    Well why isn't someone doing something about it it's disgraceful, and also someone needs to establish the truth behind her husbands employment.
    Were there other candidates for the job?
    Where was the position advertised?
    Who was responsible for interviewing him?
    What was the job description?
    And lastly how much of our school fees have been paid out to this 'questionable' position.

  25. 19.55

    The school should have been called Gumley Mason Priory I'M surprised she didn't suggest it, she's so egotistical.
    There should be a vote of 'no confidence' in the Board of Governors and Trustees as they have not done whats best for St. Augustine's they have done what's best for The Gumley Masons for the last 17 years, they are spineless people who have been controlled and manipulated by the Headmistress and the Gardner.
    Which other teachers are resigning?


  26. Gumley-Mason may well be leaving but she is laughing all the way to the bank!!

  27. Why on earth is she being paid to leave, she should be repaying her legal expenses, and reimbursing the school for payments made to the Gardner, how much was he actually paid for his fictitious job?
    Mrs Gumley Mason you shoudl be ashamed taking more of our hard earned cash to line you pockets, haven't you, your, husband and your son had enough of our money.
    What is this payment for? and who authorised it?

  28. She Failed the children. she Failed the parents, she Failed the school.
    She lied to the children, she lied to the parents, she lied to the staff.
    The last thing i could think of is financially rewarding her, why hasn't someone started questioning her actions, she has done nothing but bring the school into disrepute.

  29. 9.10 and 12.00. Do you have evidence there has been a compromise agreement reached with the school?

  30. So thrilled that the gumley-masons are leaving at last!

  31. Good riddance to both of them!

  32. 09.14

    I posted at 12.00, and am responding to the post at 09.10, as i think it only fair that we be informed if she is receiving a pay out.
    As I can't understand WHY.

  33. 11:42
    Good idea to speak to the governors. They should provide answers to all our questions, shouldn't they?

  34. Don't hold your breath, they are all hand picked, so as not to answer questions.
    The Governor's need to be replaced ASAP, until then the truth wont come out, they are there guarding Gumley.

  35. What happened to the answers we were supposed to get from the parents' forum about the cost of the legal action she promised to find out?
    Why doesn't the school ever follow up and answer any questions?
    Gumley Mason has looks like she's lied again in this parent email. Why have there been so many cover-ups? How many more are there to come out?

  36. She will never answer any questions that could compromise her.
    She is a coward and a compulsive liar, i doubt we will ever be told the full truth, the newly elected Governors seem pretty useless as well.
    The school needs to start answering questions honestly if they want to survive, it is local knowledge that the truth is very hard to come by at St. Augustine's, what sort of Catholic school is it? The truth should always prevail, regardless off the consequences.

  37. Go on Gumley tell the truth it might make you feel better.By telling the truth I mean answer questions honestly, just in case you've forgotten as you have spent such much of your time lying!

  38. By staying on for another term, she has full access to solicitors, so the funding continues to come out of our pockets!!

  39. 06:56
    Why doesn't the school ever follow up and answer any questions?
    Because Frances Bully-Mason is STILL at the helm!

  40. I really do hope that no more of our school fees are funding that woman's disastrous decision making.
    Who authorises her spending our money, and who signs the cheques?
    Did her husband have a contract of employment?
    Has her husband left, if so why? I hope he hasn't received any severance pay.

  41. If he has indeed left why haven't we the parents been informed?
    Also I believe other teachers have left this half term, why? and yet again why have we not been informed of teachers departures halfway through the academic term, this is very disruptive and unusual.
    These are the sort of things us the parents should be informed of, yet again we have been left in the dark.

  42. You won't get any answers out of her. If you do they will probably be more lies. What's the point?

  43. Gumley -Mason threw all the lovely nuns out of the convent when she took over, they had been there for years , it was their HOME and they had nowhere to go!!!! No one did anything about the wicked witch so at last it seems what goes around comes around.