47. The comments in the previous paragraph must be set alongside the school’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. This has been through several changes, and four recent drafts. The result is the version, which is now applicable and is reproduced in Annex 1 to this Report. I am informed that this is a version now acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate [ISI].The fact that it is "acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate" means nothing more than that it meets the statutory minimum standards. Since these do not even require automatic reporting of all allegations of abuse, the bar is set pretty low. The reporting of all allegations is a mere recommendation included in the DfE's Statutory Guidance. "Statutory Guidance" of course is an oxymoron. If it's just guidance, it's not statutory, and schools can and do ignore it.
48. There has been repeated contact with the Department for Education, the Charity Commission, and the ISI. The ISI and OFSTED have been taking a close interest in Benedictine schools, and in particular have looked at governance and reporting issues at St Benedict’s sister school Downside. I have held meetings with the ISI and the Department for Education concerning this Report. The ISI inspected St Benedict’s in November 2009, with follow-up visits in April and May 2010, and further reports. Separate reports were prepared for the senior school and the junior school respectively. The November 2009 inspection was by a team of 10 inspectors with 2 reporting inspectors. They judged the School to be fully compliant with statutory requirements.This is why you can't rely on the ISI or DfE for anything. The problems at St. Benedict's have been going on for years and years. Even if we set aside the question of whether Mr. Cleugh misled the inspectors by withholding key information from them, the inspectors still had the school's child protection policy available to them, and they completely failed to notice that there was anything wrong with it. So any statement from either the DfE or the ISI to the effect that the school's child protection policy meets requirements is not in the least bit impressive in terms of assuring that the school actually has a good policy. Carlile should know this, but it would seem that he doesn't.
49. The context of the follow-up visits was as follows. As a result of information provided by a member of the public, further work was conducted after the inspection of the school in November 2009 and after the publication of the senior and junior school reports. The information referred the inspectorate to public records of a total of six prosecutions or civil actions raised in connection with the Abbey and the school. At the time of the inspection, a number of these cases had not been brought to the attention of the inspectorate either by safeguarding agencies or by the school (at this the time of 2009 Inspection school had failed to make one referral, concerning Father Pearce in 2004). The follow-up report was prepared to update the findings in relation to those and related matters. At the time of the follow-up inspection, there were no allegations against current staff or governors at the school.There are a number of things wrong with this statement. Factually wrong.
"at this the time of 2009 Inspection school had failed to make one referral, concerning Father Pearce in 2004"
Actually, at the time of the 2009 inspection, the following events had occurred at the school which should have been notified:
- Maestri's 2003 conviction. It is highly unlikely the school was unaware of it, if if they were aware, it should have been reported.
- Maestri's 2005 conviction. The same applies.
- Hobbs' arrest in 2005 and his resignation as a Trustee. This is a straightforward notifiable incident, he resigned as a trustee in circumstances where his suitability to work with children was in question. There should have been a notification to the Teacher Misconduct Section of the DfE. There wasn't. The school broke the law. This is not mentioned by Carlile.
- The loss of the civil action in 2006, and the subsequent decision to place Pearce on restrictions.
- The first Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
- The 2007 trial and acquittal of Hobbs and the subsequent subsequent decision to place Hobbs on restrictions.
- The arrest of Pearce in 2008.
- Maestri's 2008 conviction.
- The second Charity Commission Statutory Inquiry.
- The 2009 conviction of Pearce on a whole range of charges in addition to the one for which he was arrested.
At the time of the follow-up inspection, there were no allegations against current staff or governors at the school.
The truth of this depends on how you read it. During the inspection period (i.e. since the previous routine ISI inspection in 2003) there certainly were allegations against current staff of trustees. Both Hobbs and Chillman were current trustees at the time the allegations against them came to light. The fact that by the time the ISI visited in April 2010, they were no longer trustees is a bit of sophistry on the part of the ISI, and I'm surprised at Carlile for having been prepared to go along with it.
50. The first follow-up inspection was unannounced, and occurred at the end of April 2010. At that time the School was informed that its Child Protection Policy was deficient, though the issue was a narrow one about wording rather than substance. By the time of the follow-up reports in 2010 no extant allegations against current trustees or teachers existed. The known cases related to past events, concerning six previous teachers or trustees. Two involved monks were still living in the monastery under restrictions established by the Diocese of Westminster.This is complete and utter twaddle. "the School was informed that its Child Protection Policy was deficient, though the issue was a narrow one about wording rather than substance"?
There's nothing so much wrong with that statement than that Carlile should have fallen for the school's line over it. In From inside the meeting, I described how Cleugh spun that line to the parents in the Parental Forum in September 2009 (the one where he put bouncers on the gates to keep me out so I couldn't ask awkward questions), and how the claim that it was a narrow issue of wording was utterly unfounded.
I also described in that article how in a key point the May 2010 policy was actually worse than the September 2009 version in respect of ensuring automatic reporting of all allegations.
That the ISI accepted the May 2010 version of the school's child protection policy is further evidence of the ISI's utter incompetence with regard to safeguarding. I suspect that they simply took the school's word for it that they had made the necessary changes. I checked with the DfE, pointing out the severe shortcomings in the school's child protection policy, including the fact that the May 2010 version was worse from a reporting point of view. In a telephone conversation in June, the DfE assured me that this was not the final compliant version. My correspondence with the DfE was passed to Lord Carlile, he had all this information and appears not to have taken it into account. And in their meetings with Carlile, the DfE would appear to have forgotten it all.
The two involved monks were Hobbs and Chillman. Remember these names, they become important later on.
51. In May 2010 the Chief Inspector of the ISI informed the School that the Child Protection Policy was fully compliant. The follow-up report was published on the ISI website on the 30 July 2010. Despite the approval by the ISI in 2010 of the School’s safeguarding procedures, they have been updated since in order to achieve a model of excellence.This is also twaddle. As I showed in Automatic reporting, the current policy doesn't even implement the automatic reporting of all allegations which is in the DfE's statutory guidance! If it's not even implementing the statutory guidance, it can't even remotely be called a model of excellence. If the ISI informed the school that the May 2010 version of the policy was compliant, then the ISI ought to be relieved of its duties.
Lord Carlile seems to have assumed that if the child protection policy is "acceptable to the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate" then it can be regarded as "a model of excellence". Nothing could be further from the truth.