Thursday, 20 October 2011


From today's Times
The Department For Education was asked by the Independent Schools Council (ISC), the current owners of ISI, for the extra powers to be transferred to the private school inspectors.

The change would allow ISC boarding schools to have a single inspection of their education and welfare instead of two separate visits by inspectors from the ISI and Ofsted.
This change would hand over the job of doing welfare inspections on ISC boarding schools from OFSTED to the ISI. The article says:
Ofsted, which monitors the work of the ISI in day schools, said ISI inspectors needed more training on reporting of safeguarding.

The watchdog said more evidence was required in ISI reports to “explain convincingly why aspects of a school’s work have been judged ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ despite the presence of regulatory failures which have the potential for significant impact on pupils’ welfare”.

The conclusion, in a recent report on the work of the ISI, has raised fears about the inspectorate’s capacity to take over the inspection of welfare in independent boarding schools from Ofsted, a transfer planned for January.
This proposal to extend the powers of the ISI is a section of the Education Bill currently going through Parliament. This is the ISI that inspected St Benedict's School in November 2009 and said the following about safeguarding at the school.
The trustees and advisers are fully aware of, and diligent in discharging, their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures.
And in saying this, ISI managed not to notice that since their previous inspection there had been
  • Three criminal convictions of John Maestri, all for indecent assaults against pupils at the school, dating from the time he was a teacher there.
  • The conviction of Father David Pearce for a series of indecent and sexual assaults on pupils of the school over a 36 year period.
  • A civil court judgement against the Abbey and Pearce in favour of an abused pupil, to the tune of £43,000.
  • Two Statutory Inquiries by the Charity Commission.
And that at the time of the inspection, there was:
  • A central register of appointments (where the CRB and other background checks on all staff are supposed to be recorded) which was incomplete.
  • A safeguarding policy that was one long excuse for avoiding reporting incidents or allegations of abuse to the authorities.
This is a failure on a  truly epic scale. And we know that abuse, known to the Abbot of the time has been going on for a great many years and has gone unreported all this time. If it weren't for the failure of the ISI and its predecessors over decades, the abuses at St Benedict's would in all probability have come to light a great many years ago, and many boys would have been saved much suffering.

I'm particularly troubled by the fact that one of the inspectors on that November 2009 visit to St. Benedict's was Mr.Gino Carminati, the headmaster of Worth School. Yes, that's Worth School attached to Worth Abbey, also run by the Benedictines!

There was no mention in the report of the connection between Mr. Carminati and the school he was inspecting. I'm not suggesting any wrongdoing by Mr. Carminati. I don't suggest that he in any way deliberately contributed towards the school getting a better report than it deserved. It is just that if the reports are to be regarded as independent, then the inspectors must also be independent of the setting they are inspecting. In this case that was patently not so, and Mr. Carminati should quite frankly have been nowhere near St. Benedict's School for the purpose of inspecting it.

If you have children at private boarding school, may I suggest that you get in touch with your MP immediately, and lobby him or her to vote for the proposed amendment to the Education Bill that will remove the provision for ISI to take over welfare inspections of private boarding schools.

I have severe doubts about the competence of the ISI to do adequate welfare inspections even on day schools. To give them additional responsibility for welfare inspection of boarding schools is the sheerest folly. Perhaps if you have a child at an independent day school, you should also lobby your MP on this subject, with a view to ensuring that an effective welfare inspection scheme is put in place for all independent schools, both day and boarding.


  1. This interesting post prompted me to see if an ISI inspection framework was available on the web and sure enough I found a document entited ‘Independent Schools Inspectorate Handbook for the inspection of schools – THE INSPECTION FRAMEWORK’

    On page 1 of this document under the heading “inspection principles” is a bullet point stating:

    “ISI inspections provide independent and objective reports to inform parents, schools, and ISC Associations.”

    How therefore can the presence of Gino Carminati on the inspection team by justified by the ISI? I do wonder because a brief search indicates that he is the Head of another Benedictine setting which is one of only four such settings left in the country.

    Inspectors are meant to be unconnected with the school they are inspecting. Mr Carminati being part of the same small educational franchise is clearly “connected” with St Benedict’s.

    Why did the ISI permit this to happen? It can hardly be claimed it was for faith reasons because St Benedict’s along with Worth and others schools in the franchise are visited by the Diocese of Westminster’s inspector who reports the catholic life of the school and the teaching of religious education, community cohesion and other matters. It’s clearly not for educational reasons because any ISI Additional Inspector can do that, so why did the ISI include the “connected” Mr Carminati on this inspection?

    I am of the opinion that Carminati’s participation in the failed 2009 inspection broke ‘connectivity’ rules and this should be brought to the attention of Ofsted which quality assures inspections of the ISI. Should this site decide to take this course of action then a copy of the letter should also be sent to the independent schools team at the DfE.

  2. An Epic Fail by the people trusted to make sure our children are safe.
    Hardly independent are they?

  3. And hardly competent in safeguarding inspection.

  4. I am afraid this is all too common in independent schools. I think some think they are above the law