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.This change would hand over the job of doing welfare inspections on ISC boarding schools from OFSTED to the ISI. The article says:
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.
Ofsted, which monitors the work of the ISI in day schools, said ISI inspectors needed more training on reporting of safeguarding.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 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.
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.
- 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.
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.