11. [Teacher A] was employed at the School from 1st September 2007, was suspended from 7th February 2008 (at which time she was already on sick leave) and her employment ended on 31st May 2008. The suspension was imposed on the ground that [Teacher A]'s CRB disclosure contained information relating to her husband and son which she said was inaccurate and was pending an amended disclosure. The Headmistress decided that under the statutory and guidance provisions then applicable referral was not required or appropriate. After speaking to Mrs. Culligan, the Headmistress made inquiries of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and was informed that [Teacher A] was "definitely not referral material". The Headmistress subsequently informed Mrs. Culligan of this.This is about as uninformative as the statement about Teacher B. But it isn't what the ISI criticised Mrs Gumley Mason about. During the inspection visit, the reporting inspector asked if there had been any instances of staff who had left for reasons other than retirement, promotion, relocation etc.
In response, Mrs Gumley Mason mentioned Teacher A. She said that Teacher A had originally received a good reference from her previous school, but that the retiring head of the school had subsequently phoned her to tell her that Teacher A had done a voiceover for some sexually explicit material. Mrs Gumley Mason said that Teacher A had been dismissed immediately.
The reporting inspector asked what what action Mrs Gumley Mason had taken in notifying the appropriate authorities about the circumstances under which Teacher A had left. The response was that no action had been taken.
Again, the ISI obtained a letter subsequently sent by Mrs Gumley Mason to Ealing Children's Services, and again it did not contain the complete story as reported to the inspector, specifically omitting any reference to the telephone call from the teacher's previous employer. ISI checked with the Department for Education to see whether a referral had been made to ISA. Some months after the inspection, DfE wrote back to ISI confirming that no referral had been made, either at the time or subsequently.
One the available evidence, the ISI concluded that the LADO's advice should have been sought at the time, and that a referral should have been made.
The most remarkable thing about the case of Teacher A is that if Mrs Gumley Mason had simply kept quiet about Teacher A, the chances are quite good that the ISI would never have learned anything of the case. In essence, Mrs Gumley Mason has been betrayed by her own mouth.
It would seem that Mrs Gumley Mason was genuinely ignorant of the law on safeguarding and referrals. If she knew that she should have made a referral but didn't, then she would have kept very quiet about the case of Teacher A.But what appears to have happened is that she freely told the inspector about the case, apparently under the impression that she had done nothing wrong.
Such ignorance on the part of a headteacher and designated teacher for child protection is terrifying. The safety of 500 girls is at least in part dependent on the headteacher knowing what should be done in such cases.
It isn't even as if Mrs Gumley Mason is new to the job and still learning her responsibilities. She became Headmistress of the school in 1995. If I am correct in believing her actions are down to ignorance, then this ignorance has in all probability been going on for years and years. And the resulting shortcomings in child protection have gone undetected by probably three successive OFSTED inspections.
In a way, Mrs Gumley Mason has been very unlucky. The school has recently joined an Independent Schools Council member organisation and so the ISI become responsible for inspecting the school instead of OFSTED. Also, Father Gregory Chillman had recently come to the attention of the ISI in connection with the safeguarding failures at St. Benedict's. Had OFSTED been inspecting, or had Father Gregory Chillman not been chaplain and chairman of governors, then there is every chance that little or no effort would have been made to check the quality of safeguarding at the school, and you as parents would still have had no idea what was going on.
But then again, had the safeguarding been done properly and according to the law, there would have been no need to rely on luck.