There ought to be a legal obligation to report every allegation of abuse to child protection officials in the local authority. The statutory guidance does not at present insist that abuse allegations be brought to the attention of the local authority-designated officer for safeguarding; merely that this “should” be done.The Thunderer goes on not only to criticise shortcomings in the law, but also the failings of the inspectors who visited St. Benedict's School.
There is simply too much temptation for private schools, which have reputations and fee levels to protect, to attempt to deal with damaging allegations in-house and on the quiet, as St Benedict’s did. This allows perpetrators to operate with impunity or to be discreetly moved on, potentially to offend elsewhere.
Nor does Lord Carlile convincingly tackle the failings of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), which praised the “high quality” of welfare at St Benedict’s in November 2009. Just a few months later, after revelations in The Times about the conviction of a monk who had lived at the school, the inspectors were forced to return. Only then did they discover that a “commitment to trust within the community and to St Benedict’s rule of love and forgiveness appears on occasion to have overshadowed responsibility for children’s welfare”. After years of widespread abuse, this is a dramatic understatement.The column wraps up by pointing out that the law is about to change to allow the ISI to perform welfare inspections of independent boarding schools, and suggests that far from doing this, the DfE ought to be looking to see if ISI is going its present job properly.
I think the Times has a good point. The pupils of boarding schools are even more vulnerable to their setting than the pupils of independent day schools. Of all schoolchildren, the pupils of boarding schools need an effective safeguarding regime, properly inspected. On the evidence of St. Benedict's, there is no reason to think that the ISI is capable of this.