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.