Monday, 9 July 2012

The cost of Carlile

The "Annual Report and Accounts" for The Trust of St Benedict's Abbey, Ealing to the end of August 2011 have recently been published on the Charity Commission website. You can see the accounts for 2011 and the four previous years here.

They do make very interesting reading. The point that I most wanted to see was how much Lord Carlile's fees had been for his report issued in November last year.

The accounts don't have a separate heading for "Lord Carlile", but it is pretty clear under what heading his fees have been placed under. Page 35 of the report contains section 7 "Governance costs". This section contains just one item "Professional fees and charges". In 2010 these totalled £20,392, in 2011 they were a whopping £256,372, an increase of just under £236,000. The vast majority of this increase will have gone on Lord Carlile, with perhaps a modest additional fee for the school solicitors through whom he was engaged.

Of course, the total cost may be considerably higher. Lord Carlile didn't issue his final report until November 2011, so I'm sure his final bill will appear in the accounts for the current financial year, so we won't see those on the Charity Commission website for another 12 months or so.

But let's just consider the £230,000 that appears on last year's accounts. As the school has about 1000 pupils, that's the equivalent of about £230 on the fees, probably somewhat more since a proportion of the pupils are on scholarships and bursaries. Or it can be thought of as 70% of the parish collections and donations for the year, which were £341,322.

Back in September 2010, I estimated that the school wouldn't see much change out of a quarter of a million pounds.

They are spending a sum probably of the order of a quarter of a million pounds on an exercise in reassurance. As the headmasters comments at the safeguarding meeting amply showed, there is no evidence of any interest in actually improving safeguarding, but they want to give the impression that Something Is Being Done. Lord Carlile's name will of course appear on the cover page of the report in letters rather larger than the title. And of course a glossily printed copy will be sent to each parent. The aim is to provide a reassurance to parents that All Is Well Really, if with some minor tweaks to procedures.
I'm gratified that my estimate of the cost was so close to the mark. Let's have a look as to my estimate of the aims of the exercise back then, that it wasn't to improve safeguarding, but rather that it was an exercise in reassurance. 

A glossily printed copy of the report was of course printed and sent to all parents, and Lord Carlile's name wasn't merely larger than the title, it was the title, or most of it.

Recall that Lord Carlile made no new recommendations concerning safeguarding in the course of his report, he merely repeated recommendations which others had already made. His only new recommendation concerned governance, the proposal to split the governance of the school from that of the abbey and parish. The annual report includes just one paragraph from Carlile's report, as follows.
I believe that St Benedict’s School, Ealing, is an excellent place for boys and girls to be educated in safety today and for the future. No school is perfect, and ‘never’ is a dangerous word and a hostage to fortune. However, if those responsible for the School adopt the advice offered in this Report, and advice from the agencies referred to above, I consider that St Benedict students will be as well safeguarded as anywhere else in the country, without in any way losing the Benedictine connection and ethos.
The annual report also lists "Objectives for the year". The first of these is as follows.
Over the next year the School will be responding to the two main recommendations of the Lord Carlile Report (see above). Firstly, ensuring that its Safeguarding Policy is not only a model of excellence but that implementation of the Policy is given top priority by all those working in the School. Secondly, it will be working towards setting up a new educational charity, separate from the main Trust, for the School’s operations. This will ensure that the governance of the School is separate from that of the Trust of St Benedict’s Abbey, Ealing.
As far as the first of these points is concerned, "ensuring that its Safeguarding Policy is not only a model of excellence but that implementation of the Policy is given top priority by all those working in the School", the wording is so vague that no tangible and measurable objective can be obtained from it. There is no sign of any progress with regard to safeguarding. I have raised continuing concerns with the school concerning its safeguarding policy, and its latest version still contains language that is far too full of holes to give confidence that safeguarding really is a priority.

Looking to make the safeguarding policy "a model of excellence" is meaningless unless there is some external yardstick against which excellence is measured. None has been provided, so there is no means of telling whether this objective will have been met by the end of the year.

Looking see that "implementation of the Policy is given top priority" is also meaningless. Priority doesn't matter at all, what matters is tangible achievements, and none are stated.

So the objectives for safeguarding are so woolly that they can be declared as having been met more or less at any time and with no actual changes having been made. It is noticeable that the school's other objectives for the next year are far more tangible. They include:

  • setting up the new educational charity separate from the main trust
  • continuing the improvement in exam results
  • continuing to recruit girls and boys as pupils to the school
  • investment in facilities, including specific named building projects
  • increases in the number of bursaries available, including some 100% scholarships.
All of these are sufficiently well-defined that it is possible to look at what has happened over the year and see whether the aims have been met. Not so with safeguarding.

Anybody who wishes to see what a really good safeguarding policy ought to look like can take a look at the policy for Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College. Just compare the language between that and what St Benedict's has.

A good written policy is the foundation of effective procedures on the ground. Without a good written policy, nobody knows what ought to be done in the event of an incident, and so you have no chance of effective implementation. But a good written policy has to be backed by a determination to ensure it is effectively implemented. I have noticed the conspicuous lack of attention given to safeguarding improvements in recent Headmaster's Newsletters. For instance, when the new policy was brought out in February 2012 (just after my article in The Tablet about safeguarding in the school), there was no mention in the headmaster's newsletter as to why the new policy had been brought out and what changes had been made. All the signs are that they want the safeguarding issue to be quietly forgotten.

Well, it might have been addressed long ago - without the Abbey spending £230,000 on the subject. They could have taken some notice of my concerns about the school's child protection policy when I raised them in the autumn of 2009.

Remember that the same Abbot and the same headmaster are still in place now as then.


  1. And Bursar ? -

    Do we know if she will continue to act on behalf of The Trust of Ealing Abbey and the School.
    Didn't Carlile recommend that the school and the Abbey must keep their dealings separate and transparent to keep their credibility.

  2. what they spend their money on is none of your business!

  3. Just when the Trust (if only they realised it), the DfE, the ISI and the present and former parents/pupils needed someone competent in child protection to review the abysmal behaviour of the Trustees and management, it hired a child protection non-starter and paid a big price for a self-serving report.

    You did a s**t job for pupils Carlile, but the Trust got what it paid for. 'Independent' report - my arse!

  4. Well no one controverts your statement 10.28. Commissioning Lord Carlile was like asking a pastry chef to provide an engineering report on the Menai Suspension Bridge.

    The outcome - predictably useless.

  5. no one "controverts" the post because all comments are censored so that only those "on message" are posted...

  6. 18.32

    The floor is all yours big boy!

  7. Such a boring posting from 18.32 - the problem is that the defenders of St Benedict's, a school operated by a crew of amoral bankrupts and thugs, have only one very boring response to the facts spread across the media and here is an example in all its uncensored glory - here it is in all its uncensored glory.

    Please observe - no argued points on law, procedure, protocols, safeguarding legislation, wrongdoing, court processes, Carlile, changes to inspection frameworks, LADO's, LSCB's or the similarities between abuses at St Benedict's and the events at Hillside First School where a revealing Serious Case Review was commissioned.

    Instead we get playground nonsense from the supporters of the school and abbey. Nothing changes in this or the standard of the child protection policy that operates at the school.

  8. I don't think Carlile will ever be invited or wish to stray into child protection / abuse again. He was demonstrably at sea with the subject and his credibility has suffered irreparable damage.

    Useless and eye wateringly expensive - quite as combination.

  9. 17:17 - The reason why you see no such posts as you describe above from "Defenders of St. Benedict's" as you so entitle them is that they are censored by West. Anything which challenges his opinion is refuted as "intimidating victims of abuse".

  10. 17:17

    You clearly have a limited reading ability - try the link in my posting. Please also provide a link to an example of West asserting 'intimidation' of abusees which is misplaced. If you fail to evidence your claims you are patently posting bilge.

    Oh - lordy there is none so blind as them that don't wish to see. I am of the opinion that St Benedict's, the Abbey, and the congregation which so slavishly follow this cult of the man in the ice cream van, would best relocate to Waco Tx., with which it shares so much.

  11. Yours prayerfully, as insincere thugs sometimes sign their letters.

    Oh vomit.

  12. strange, yet another comment "censored for not being on message".

  13. As the Abbeyvistas' have no reasoned 'on topic' contributions to make, the fraudulent claim of censorship is a much needed crutch.

  14. As it happens, I have deleted no comments on this article. You have the entire debate here. I would be very interested if somebody were to provide a justification for spending all this money on Lord Carlile's report, but so far nobody has attempted it.

    1. Wait till the split in September

  15. does it matter, is it your business or anyone else's on this blog and as for the crass, childlike "abbeyvista" name. words fail me, it is like the playground i remember from St. B's all those years ago. as the current sayings go, " get a life and get over it." that's me done, this so called discussion has run its course for the sane and sentient. bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. It's comic that 19:51 considers he is responsive to or conscious of sense impressions. Nothing could be further from reality because yet again an Abbeyvista resorts to bitching at the messenger but contributes nothing to the debate that has raged on this site.

    Plus ca change

  17. And lets not forget it is was the pressure exerted mostly by this site that prompted 'Slippery' to reactively and mindlessly commission 'Flash' to 'report,' when so many better qualified and less costly people were within easy reach.

    Few, as the competent can see, could have missed the child protection target more spectacularly.

  18. Obviously whitewashing is going to become a major growth industry in the near future as the failings of religious institutions become more and more apparent to us all. I plan to get in early by setting up the first officially accredited Whitewashing Diploma course: topics offered will include Preliminary Obfuscation, Establishing a Reputation for Complaisance, Spending as Little Time as Possible on Site and Convincing the Gullible of One's Value Via Extortionate Charges. Other suggestions are welcome.

  19. they just can't win with you can they?

  20. Well 03.45, that only demonstrates your limited ability to understand and read. And do you need to look far to see how "they" (I guess you mean the school) can win. Start reading from just underneath the title "The Cost of Carlile" and work down to the end of West's post.

    "How they can win" is all there. And here is a hint for the school that does not want to understand child protection - Welbeck!

  21. It's just too uncomfortable to consider. Referring all allegations to the LADO to decide - forget it. That's suicide if you teach here!

  22. @15:50 they have done everything that was initially called for and that was no longer enough. The goal posts, if indeed any exist, are constantly being moved in what appears to be a secondary agenda on the part of Mr West.

  23. Having attended the press call for the launch of the report as well as sitting in on a one-on-one television interview of His Lordship just afterwards, I would say Carlile has experience of child abuse cases from a lawyer's vantage point. While he is certainly sympathetic on a personal level to targets of this sort of abuse, he had a job to do for the Trust and he did it. He followed the brief, as discussed in the emails leaked from his office. Quite how anyone can maintain a straight face whilst pronouncing the words "independent report" in relation to this case eludes me. Later that day, I was interviewed by the BBC outside the school and the abbey, on public property, the BBC team directed by a contemporary of mine at the school in the 1970s, and we were subjected to threatening behaviour by a staff member, accompanied by some sort of skinhead. It was rather like being back at the school again, facing an angry pederast who couldn't have his way with me, and one of his violent catemites. I think a couple of other writers, including Clary, have described such scenarios quite well.

  24. Personally I think you're using this to give meaning to your life so the last thing you want is for it to be seen as being delt with. Consequently it's become in your interest to constantly turn the screw and it's gotten to the point that I don't think even closing the school would be enough for you. And before you get on your high horse and start pontificating at me I will tell you I am a former pupil and I was abused. I fail to see what the current crusade acheives.

  25. Clearly not in denial then 15.17.

  26. no, 16:43, I am not in denial. I know what happened to me, when it was done and by whom so what exactly was the point of you making a snide comment like that?

  27. ........and it didn't do you any harm, eh 15:17! The place wouldn't be the same without a few protected pederasts.

  28. 15:17

    Different people react in different ways to being sexually abused as children. It depends on the severity and duration of the abuse, how much in the way of psychological manipulation went on, and the degree to which the child was vulnerable at the time, and on othjer factors that in individual cases we may never be able to isolate.

    The effect varies widely, from a mild "yuk" feeling that the person easily shakes off, to such emotional damage that the child attempts suicide, either in the immediate aftermath or some years later. I'm very pleased for you that you feel you have come though the experience relatively unscathed. Others have not been so fortunate.

    I have spoken to people who have survived suicide attempts associated with abuses suffered at St Benedict's, though in order to protect their privacy I am not going to name names.

    As for closing the school, several abuse survivors have told me that they would dearly love to see that, but I would be satisfied with knowing that safeguarding had been sufficiently embedded into the culture of the school that I needn't concern myself with it any more.

  29. 23:40 - to make such a comment suggests you have little grasp of denial in abuse.

  30. @14:23 your very good at trying to put words into others mouths. I made no indication as to what harm it may or maynot have caused me and, frankly, you're arrogance of implying any level is staggering. It's as well we're having this exchange over the net and not face to face as I think your presence would make me physically sick.