Sunday, 13 November 2011

Automatic reporting

Automatic reporting of abuse can't be regarded as automatic if the school safeguarding policy mentions things that must be done before deciding whether to report.

It has to be understood that in matters of child protection, all independent schools (not just the Catholic ones) have a conflict of interest. The safety of their pupils requires that they immediately report all allegations or incidents of abuse to the authorities so that they can be independently evaluated and if necessary investigated.

But on the other hand, the school's business interests point in quite the opposite direction. A reported abuse case can get the parents very concerned, especially prospective parents deciding what school to send their children to. It is all terribly bad for business, and so there is a strong temptation not to report abuse and instead to handle it quietly within the school so that as few people as possible know about it. This conflict of interest doesn't exist in the state sector, because they aren't businesses competing for trade in the way that the independent schools are.

If this conflict is to be resolved always in favour of the safety of the children, the school's child protection policy has to offer absolutely no wriggle room for finding ways not to report. In addition, there has to be a determination at the school shared by all the staff that everything will always be reported. Notwithstanding Lord Carlile's positive opinion about the latest policy, this is not the case.

In the St. Benedict's policy, the Designated Teacher is the person responsible for reporting allegations to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer for child protection), and section 30 of the policy describes "Action by the Designated Teacher". The clause starts "The action to be taken will:" and then provides a list of items. Item (c) of this section is as follows.
c) satisfy the wishes of the complainant's parents, provided they have no interest which is in conflict with the pupil's best interests and that they are properly informed. Again, it may be necessary, after all appropriate consultation, to override parental wishes in some circumstances. If the Designated Teacher is concerned that disclosing information to parents would put a child at risk, he or she will take further advice from the relevant professionals before making a decision to disclose.
This is a hole so big that you can drive a cart and horses through it.

Just imagine a scenario for a minute. You have a school (not necessary St Benedict's, any independent school) whose current management are much concerned for their school's reputation, and it has a policy including the wording above. A mother and father come to the headteacher with a complaint that their boy has been abused by a teacher. Automatic reporting, if it were truly automatic, would require that the LADO is informed immediately. But with the wording above, it is open to the headteacher to persuade the parents that since the boy has had a bad experience, the last thing anybody wants is for it to be made worse by lots of strangers asking him questions about it.

This is not a hypothetical situation, I know of places where exactly this has happened.

If they are persuaded by the headmaster, then the parents wishes are that no report is made. The child and family don't get the professional assistance they may need and are entitled to, and the abuse (and the abuser) goes unreported and uninvestigated. And this is all strictly in accordance with the safeguarding policy, because it says that the school must "satisfy the wishes of the complainant's parents".

This specific point was raised in Lord Carlile's press conference, and Mr Cleugh and Mr Oliver (the Designated Teacher) were asked if the policy would be changed. All we received in reply was a rather vague statement to the effect that it was their policy always to report.


  1. St B's is obviously determined to hang onto a discretion that allows it to cover up abuse, while it tells the world that it will abide by and agrees with the Carlisle Report that it commissioned. It is a carefully orchestrated piece of public relations that allows a shell behind which St B's and the abbey, encouraged by Carlisle to liaise even as they have separate governance arrangements, can continue to operate.
    I want to say one more thing further about the debate Jim Miller's comments and wishes to close the school down stirred, and why, as a former pupil, I am sympathetic to his vision.
    There is a lot of talk about the victims being isolated cases, one in so many, and fewer more recently, and so on. There are more victims than those who came forward, in fact, but to enumerate them is to miss the point. St B's was run by a regime designed to facilitate sexual abuse by frustrated monks who had no other outlet but the boys in their charge, and they took full advantage of this under the guise of discipline and order - every boy in the school was exposed to these values, and this regime, whether they understood it or not. The impact of the ring, providing similar opportunities to lay teachers, was enormous and unquantifiable. As there are loopholes in the child protection policy at St B's now, there is clearly a lack of will to get things right. The case for closing down the school and the abbey is not just about revenge but is also about child protection.

  2. It is not a loophole, it is called using your discretion and assessing what it is that you have been told. The most common allegations of abusive behaviour reported by pupils, mostly pertains to parent/s and can be anything ranging from neglectful behaviour to actual physical abuse. Obviously any physical abusive behaviour would always be automatically reported whoever the perpetrator. There have also been cases where a child is upset with a parent, makes an allegation which is later withdrawn the same day. All allegations are therefore reported to the Head the Head will always contact the necessary bodies.
    Statutory safeguarding arrangements are precisely that, they are statutory and must be heeded by all schools state and independent.

  3. As an alternative to complete closure of the school, what about some kind of "pupils welfare oversight committee", as a provisional or temporary measure? The committee could be comprised of members of staff, elected parents and even elected delegates from among the older pupils. Any concerns or unpleasant incidents could be discussed and reviewed on a fortnightly basis, needless to say in a balanced, objective manner.

  4. The action of the designated teacher will...

    c) satisfy the wishes of the complainant's parents, provided they have no interest which is in conflict with the pupil's best interests and that they are properly informed. Again, it may be necessary, after all appropriate consultation, to override parental wishes in some circumstances. If the Designated Teacher is concerned that disclosing information to parents would put a child at risk, he or she will take further advice from the relevant professionals before making a decision to disclose.

    Mr West is, as ever, right to highlight the above section of the child protection policy as being inadequate. (Incidently, the last sentence is presumably designed to give the Designated Teacher discretion as to whether or not to report the allegation to the LADO, not "to parents" as stated. Is this a misprint?)

    Of course one can understand why a school might want some discretion in some instances as to whether or not to report allegations of abuse. However, given what has come to light at the school and the Abbey and the terrible consequences of allowing abuse to go unchecked and unreported(which hardly needs repeating) and given the wider shame and scandal of the Catholic Church in either perpetrating or covering up sexual abuse (not to say torture) of children on an international scale, allowing St Benedicts School (indeed, any school)any discretion on whether or not to report allegations of abuse would simply put at risk unnecessarily the welfare of children.

    I would have thought in the circumstances, that the school will want to demonstrate unequivocally that it has learnt from its past mistakes and that it now has written child protection procedures in place that are beyond reproach. This means that there must be no discretion allowed on the part of the school (or parents) on whether or not to report allegations of abuse to the LADO. Anything less, it seems to me, ignores history and just won't do.

  5. 11.32 says: Statutory safeguarding arrangements are precisely that, they are statutory and must be heeded by all schools state and independent.

    Now we interpret from the sure-footedness of the remarks, that this poster knows something oof the subject of safeguarding.

    Sadly s/he is wrong - in fact so wrong that if s/he is working in a school, whether independent or maintained, then s/he is a danger.


    Well I do not intend repeating what has been been posted on this site all too often (please read the posts - some are worth reading) so please follow this link to a posting which is in three parts.

    Indeed the posting which follows the Part3 link demonstrates the problem that actually also exists in Eire.

    The current St Benedict's policy is a colander. In has improved from the 2009 disgrace, but not by much.

  6. 11:32
    You cannot make a commitment to automatic reporting and at the same time retain discretion as to what you automatically report. It's a contradiction in terms.

    At Lord Carlile's press conference, Mr Cleaugh said that all allegations would be reported. And yet the policy contains the words I have quoted above, which you acknowledge give the school, discretion.

    It seems that there are only two possible interpretations that can be put on this.

    Either Mr Cleugh hasn't realised the meaning and effect of that clause, or he has realised the meaning of it and was being a little less than entirely open during the press conference.

    It is for Mr Cleugh to say which is the true position, and perhaps a parent might like to ask a question on this point at the Parental Forum this week.

  7. My comment related to statutory safeguarding legislation in general and not to any particular school. Each borough will have their own local safeguarding board and guidance may be phrased slightly differently.

    The fact that something is statutory or in fact stated categorically will not in itself prevent an abuse of that statement or fact. We all know that seat belts are compulsory yet people can ignore that or any other law. I am not suggesting that therefore we should ignore the safeguarding statement. Of course it should be as robust as possible.

    The cases mentioned above, were they reported to the Head when they occurred or to parents who in turn reported to the Head straight away? What is the time frame between the abusing being reported and that abuse being in turn reported to the relevant authorities?

    c) satisfy the wishes of the complainant's parents, provided they have no interest which is in conflict with the pupil's best interests and that they are properly informed.

    The above reads to me that for example in the case of a parent abusing a child. The school will have to report even if it is in conflict with parents' wishes.

  8. Is it true that all the governors of St. Augustines's Priory including the chair have resigned?
    The rumour was doing the rounds at mass this morning.
    The plot thickens at this school as well.

  9. 17.06 My comment related to statutory safeguarding legislation in general and not to any particular school

    You are demonstrating what you do not understand about the subject, in common with so many in education across both sectors.

    I will make no comment on your second para – other than to say it is nonsensical.

    The third paragraph appears to ask a simple question, but such is your knowledge you have unknowingly mixed two points to ask one question? Any reply would have to be another question:

    Refer to where and for what purpose?

    You are not alone in your confusion. Lord Carlile has also magimixed 'guidance' with primary legislation to produce a number of indecipherable and meaningless paragraphs in the report. He is likely to receive a letter about these points.

    Is the confusion surprising? Frankly no because the subject is complex, often contradictory, and unfit for purpose. The DfE likes it like this.

    The final paragaph of your posting has two meanings. Any contract (for that is what safeguarding policies are in all schools),that has two meanings is hopelessly compromised. Any parent placing their child at the school is by default accepting the current hopelessly conflicted document as a 'term and condition' of sending their child to the school.

    The current policy provides an abused child with NO expectation that the abuse they have experienced will be referred to the LADO / Police or Social Services.

    So what chance allegatons?

    I will not post further on this strand.

  10. And you are demonstrating your arrogance and misinformed assumptions but never mind.

    Why don't you do everyone a favour and publish your magnum opus of a safeguarding policy? I'm sure we'll be astounded by your tenacious and perceptive understanding of this very complex subject.

  11. In terms of all allegations of abuse a school will always contact the LADO whether minor or major. LADO decide whether parents should be contacted by the school. In cases of serious allegations generally of a sexual or violent nature, the duty social worker will make a final decision about next steps. There are varying levels of response. Should a child make a disclosure against a parent/carer or another adult including members of staff which is of a serious nature then LADO take control of the situation and involve the police if necessary. It works in reverse if the police are first informed, they will make contact with Childen's Services. It is complex, what St Benedict's policy states is that it will override if a child makes a serious disclosure against a parent and will not contact the parent in case it puts the child in further danger. If a disclosure/allegation is made against a member of staff or other adult the school will make contact with LADO and inform of the allegation. A school will also carry out its own investigation alongside that of Children's services. Do remenber that most cases of abuse is carried out by those closest to children and often by parents and I hope that JW will not just focus on the abuse by teachers/clergy but will take on board the daily abuse thousands of children suffer at the hands of parents with at least one death resulting every week.

  12. 18.06 I heard the governors of st augustine's have been sacked not resigned. What is going on? Was it GM that sacked them and why were they sacked? Was it because they wouldn't do what she wanted?

  13. 23:59
    I have no doubt that the school will make a report in the event of an allegation against a parent, and will ignore the parent's wishes in that case - they were doing that before.

    The point I'm making is the applicability of 30(c) to allegations against a member of staff, and how it provides for an opportunity not to report abuse from that quarter.

  14. I heard that 'the chair' had resigned at the end of August!

  15. The Chair of what 08.02?

  16. 09:40
    The Chair of Governors at St Augustine's.

  17. I don't think the chair has resigned, even though I think it only right that she does, she must have been aware of Gumley Masons deceit. She to has been less than forthcoming with the truth and has supported Gumley Masons every move, never questioning her motives.
    Professor Hemmingway obviously thought her position was to be lap dog to that woman, actually she was elected for the good of the school, another deluded fool.
    Also when are we going to be told the truth about Gumley Masons so called resignation, why has she really gone, what was her husbands role, who wrote the failed policy, who approved proceedings against the ISI, these are just a few of the questions that need answering.

  18. I understand that she no longer has any connections at the school.

  19. She does, and yes she's still Head if the Board of Governor's.
    I sincerely hope Gumley is not going to get away with her atrocious unprofessional behaviour, lets not forget St. Augustine's or should that be Gumley, also failed children with his/her Child Protection Policy.

  20. How come St. Augustine's how not been investigated?

  21. Why on earth is she STILL D.S.O?!

  22. Think it scandalous if hypocrite Hemingway has not resigned!

  23. She is definitely still there, they are all far to conceited to think they've done anything wrong!
    St. Augutine's have their own rules and don't follow any other guidelines, what Gumley says goes.

  24. Hence the name - Frances Bully-Mason! They ALL SHOULD resign if the school is to move forward!

  25. Especially the Admin lot. Sycophants who have turned a blind eye to her atrocious behaviour!

  26. 17.20
    I couldn't agree more the biggest Bully I have ever had the misfortune of meeting, I hope I never ever have to clap eyes on her again once she has left her school.
    All the Governors have been hand picked by her, a majority close friends, they to should stand down, what about the trusty Trustees surely they should be replaced.

  27. Just received parent mail regarding the Governors, we are going to get questions and answers about their position! Can't wait.

  28. The sycophants supported her atrocious behaviour, they thought it perfectly acceptable her bullying students, staff and parents.

  29. Who is the safeguarding governor at St Augustine's Priory now that 6 out of the 9 governors have been removed from post?

  30. I know St Benedict's is a bigger story at the moment with National Press coverage etc but the manoeuvring by Mrs GM and her allies St Augustine's seems to be spiralling out of control.

    This blog gives a fantastic opportunity to air opinions but it is difficult to find the entries relating to St A's. Would it be possible to have a new thread in the November sections with an obvious title like “St Augustine's Governor Issues” or similar?

    It is frankly unbelievable what is going on. I am amazed that Mrs GM was not removed over the undeniable fact that she lied to parents and teachers about the release of the ISI report.
    The fact that she remains in power trying to control what happens and make appointments of governors, management etc beyond when she will have left is very worrying indeed.

    I fear there will be no pupils left if this continues for much longer.