Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 11

Going on now to the signs of sexual abuse the policy tells you to look out for
Possible signs of sexual abuse:
  • Depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harming
  • Anorexic or bulimic
  • Acting in a sexually inappropriate manner towards adults/peers
  • Unexplained pregnancies
  • Truanting/running away from home
  • Seeking guidance for a “friend with a problem of abuse”
  • Sexually abusing a younger child/sibling
  • Sudden changes in School or work habits
  • Fear of people
  • Abnormal precociousness or aggression
  • Chronic medical problems (stomach pains/headaches)
  • Withdrawn, isolated, excessively isolated
  • Genital/abdominal or anal injury or pain
Many of these are too vaguely stated and can have a wide variety of causes. The most obvious one "unexplained pregnancies" is evidence that a child has been having sex, but not of itself evidence of sexual abuse.

Again, there is a perfecly good set of indicators in the London Child Protection Procedures,so let's take a look at these, starting with paragraphs 4.3.19 and 4.3.20.

4.3.19 Sexual abuse can be very difficult to recognise and reporting sexual abuse can be an extremely traumatic experience for a child. Therefore both identification and disclosure rates are deceptively low.

4.3.20 Boys and girls of all ages may be sexually abused and are frequently scared to say anything due to guilt and / or fear. According to a recent study three-quarters (72%) of sexually abused children did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time. Twenty-seven percent of the children told someone later, and around a third (31%) still had not told anyone about their experience/s by early adulthood.

So what we have here is the desciption of a situation where, due to guilt or fear, only a quarter of cases will get reported by a child at the time, and a third don't get reported even by early adulthood. What this means is that reporting sexual abuse is difficult for a child. Therefore, everything possible needs to be done by the school in order to encourage an atmosphere of trust so that reporting is made easier. The London Child Protection procedure draws the obvious conclusion in terms of addressing this issue in its next paragraph.

4.3.21 If a child makes an allegation of sexual abuse, it is very important that they are taken seriously. Allegations can often initially be indirect as the child tests the professional’s response. There may be no physical signs and indications are likely to be emotional / behavioural.

From my dealings with the Abbot, from his refusal to meet me and the execrable state of the procedures for reporting abuse described earlier in the school's child protection policy, there is every reason to think that the school finds every possible excuse not to take allegations seriously.

4.3.22 Behavioural indicators which may help professionals identify child sexual abuse include:
Inappropriate sexualised conduct;
  • Sexually explicit behaviour, play or conversation, inappropriate to the child’s age;
  • Contact or non-contact sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Continual and inappropriate or excessive masturbation;
  • Self-harm (including eating disorder), self mutilation and suicide attempts;
  • Involvement in sexual exploitation or indiscriminate choice of sexual partners;
  • An anxious unwillingness to remove clothes for e.g. sports events (but this may be related to cultural norms or physical difficulties).
So, the school's policy has some of these, but the problem is that the adequate context is lacking. Remember that the quote from the school's policy at the start of this article is the repainer of paragraph 13, which started out by making a definition of sexual abuse which mde no mention of any kind of sexual act. Interestingly, the school doesn't include "making an allegation of abuse" amongst its list of possible indicators, though it does include a category of indirect approach 'Seeking guidance for a “friend with a problem of abuse”' as an indicator.

In this context, there's no real reason why the school's policy can't lift the wording directly from the London Child Protection Procedures. For the school to deviate from this wording requires a positive decision to move away from the expert formulation.

The London Child Protection Procedures go on to describe physical indicators of abuse.

4.3.23 Physical indicators associated with child sexual abuse include:
  • Pain or itching of genital area;
  • Blood on underclothes;
  • Pregnancy in a child;
  • Physical symptoms such as injuries to the genital or anal area, bruising to buttocks, abdomen and thighs, sexually transmitted disease, presence of semen on vagina, anus, external genitalia or clothing.
Again, the school's policy has some of this, but not all. The London Child Protection Procedures end this section with a crucial piece of context.

4.3.24 Sex offenders have no common profile, and it is important for professionals to avoid attaching any significance to stereotypes around their background or behaviour. While media interest often focuses on ‘stranger danger’, research indicates that as much as 80 per cent of sexual offending occurs in the context of a known relationship, either family, acquaintance or colleague.

This "no common profile" point is of absolutely critical importance. It means that if an allegation of abuse is made against a teacher or a priest, it cannot be dismissed on the basis that the adult is not of the abusing type. There is no type. This is why it is critical that the policy must be that every allegation of child sexual abuse by an adult must be passed to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection (LADO) for review, and that it is then the decision of the LADO, who is not burdened by the assumption that Mr X or Father Y is an excellent chap and wouldn't do such a thing.

So, the situation so far, with regard to the school's policy on child sexual abuse is as follows.
  • The definition of sexual abuse is a vague as not to mention any kinds of sexual acts that might constitute abuse.
  • The indicators of sexual abuse are incomplete and lack context
  • The importance of taking allegations (direct or indirect) from children seriously is not stressed.
  • The approach to reporting allegations or concerns to the LADO is so hedged about by qualifications and caveats as to be useless.
So, we don't have a proper definition of abuse, we have inadequate procedures for recognising it, and it may not get reported to the civil authorities even when it is recognised. Tragic.

In all this, it looks as if the aim of the school is to suppress the reporting rate as far as possible, in order to give the impression that all is well with the school, because there hasn't been anything reported recently.

But this is grossly irresponsible. The mere fact that it is not being reported doesn't mean it isn't happening. If it isn't reported, it can't be stopped. And if it isn't stopped, then an abuser can go on to abuse a great many children. And in the long run, that exposes the schools to more lawsuits from the larger number of victims who have been created.

No matter what has gone on in the past, there is no excuse whatsoever not to leave the school's procedures in such a dire state, because all this does is vastly increase the chance of more victims in the future.

It's not even as if getting the procedures right is all that difficult. There are good procedures around whose wording can easily be adapted. Ealing Safeguarding Children Board runs training courses in this which are appropriate to teachers. The expertise is readily available. But it's not getting used.

Parents of pupils at the school have a right to ask why. In fact, for the safety of your children, you have a duty to ask why.

I have spoken to quite a few victims of abuse by teachers and monks at the school. I assure you that if your child is abused, the psychological problems he or she will suffer may disadvantage your child in later life to an extent which far outweighs any advantage gained from the expensive education you are paying for. As parents you have nothing at all to gain by going along with a school that has inadequate child protection. Better to go to the local comprehensive, become a pushy parent there to ensure that your child is treated well, and save up the money to help your child through university. Within the state system, the school can't choose to kick your child out because you are making too much of a nuisance of yourself.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 10

If you thought the school's various ways of finding excuses for doing nothing in its procedures were bad, then I'm afraid there is worse to come. The next bit is where the school's policy really plumbs the depths.

We come now to the school's definition of sexual abuse. Now, you would think that the Abbot and Trustees, having had two former teachers convicted and imprisoned for serious sexual abuse of pupils at the school, would really want to make sure this was right. Well, take a look at this:
13. Sexual Abuse

Is the involvement of dependent (legally under 18), developmentally immature children and adolescents in sexual activities they do not truly comprehend, to which they are unable to give informed consent.

The key elements in any definition of sexual abuse are:
  • The betrayal of trust and responsibility.
  • Abuse of power for the purpose of the sexual gratification of the abuser.
  • The inability of the child to consent.
This is so bad, it's hard to know where to start. But we have to start somewhere.

First what's this business of "developmentally immature children and adolescents "? Developmentally immature relative to what? The average of their age? The bottom 10% of maturity of their age group? The phrase is meaningless and can be redefined at will.

Then what is meant by "sexual activities they do not truly comprehend"? Who decides whether this comprehension is "true" or not, and what criteria do they use to make the decision?

Then we have "unable to give informed consent". Again, this is useless unless put into a properly defined context. But the definition is lacking.

This is complete rubbish. There are three seriously badly-defined or undefined concepts and we've only looked at the first sentence!

The second part is not much better. It manages to complete the definition without actually making any reference to any kinds of sexual acts that might constitute abuse. It talks about betrayal of trust and so on, which is good as far as it goes (which isn't very far) but this is useless unless there is some kind of definition of what actions fall under the definition of sexual abuse (as opposed to other kinds of abuse.)

It's not hard to find a proper expert definition. Again, we can look at the London Child Protection Procedures, paragraphs 4.2.6 to 4.2.8.

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts.

Sexual abuse includes abuse of children through sexual exploitation. Penetrative sex where one of the partners is under the age of 16 is illegal, although prosecution of similar age, consenting partners is not usual. However, where a child is under the age of 13 it is classified as rape under s5 Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Sexual abuse includes non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of pornographic materials, watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

So here we have descriptions of the actions involved in sexual abuse. There's none of this rubbish about "developmentally immature", and it make it perfectly clear that it is still abuse even if the child understands what is going on.

It should be made entirely clear in the school's procedures that any kind of sexual behaviour between staff and pupils is always regarded as sexual abuse, because of the power imbalance involved. The teacher or other staff member is in a position of authority over the pupil, and therefore the pupil cannot give free and informed consent to any kind of sexual act or relationship, even if the pupil is over the legal age of consent (16). Therefore it involves "forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities". The school's procedures entirely fail to make this clear.

So, we have an unclear definition of sexual abuse that allows the school to classify sexual activities as non-abusive depending on their interpretation of the maturity of the child and on their interpretation of the extent to which the child comprehends the activities, and the school manages not actually to describe any kinds of sexual activities in its description of sexual abuse!

If it weren't so serious, this would be comical, it is so bad. It is not lack of knowledge or incompetence that keeps this definition so bad. This is deliberate.

I've raised this issue in writing both with the Abbot and the Headmaster. They know perfectly well that this definition of sexual abuse is a travesty. But no changes to this definition were made in the May 2010 update to the child protection policy, it remains word-for-word identical to the September 2009 version. And according to the the information supposedly provided by the school to the ISI in its November 2009 inspection, the September 2009 version has had the benefit of the experts' recommendations in an independent review. Before it was withdrawn, the ISI report stated:
A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimise risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented.
And this version is supposed to have been the outcome of that expert advice! I would dearly love to know who the experts had been.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 9

On to emotional abuse.
12. Emotional Abuse

This category deals with the persistent or severe emotional ill treatment of a child, which has a severe adverse effect upon the behaviour and emotional development of that child. Its diagnosis will require medical, psychological, psychiatric, social and educational assessment.

It is accepted that all abuse involves emotional abuse but this category supersedes only when it is the main or the sole form of abuse.
The definition doesn't actually say anything specific about what emotional abuse is. This really isn't good enough. Again, let's compare the wording with the equivalent wording from the London Child Protection Procedures. There, the definition of emotional abuse (para 4.2.3) is as follows

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent effects on the child’s emotional development, and may involve:
  • Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person;
  • Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction;
  • Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;
  • Serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children;
  • Exploiting and corrupting children.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

This as you can see is much clearer. it gives examples of the sorts of things that emotional abuse consists of, and so offers the staff much more in the way of guidance as to things to look out for. It is a matter for serious concern that the school's definition of Emotional Abuse is so thin, since the grooming of children for sexual abuse is most definitely a form of emotional abuse, clearly falling into more than one of the categories above, for instance "Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations", and "Exploiting and corrupting children".

When I attended the sentencing hearing for Father David Pearce, and the details of his crimes were recited in court, it was perfectly clear that emotional abuse had been involved. And still the school has an inadequate and woolly definition, with statements concerning diagnosis all mixed in with the actual definition.

Why, even after all this time, is the school's definition so bad? There's a perfectly good definition, agreed by the experts of London SCB and available for insertion into the policy using a bit of copy & paste. It's not hard to do this right.

Let's go on the school's list of possible signs of emotional abuse.
Possible signs of Emotional Abuse:
  • The child is developmentally delayed
  • Inappropriateness of social responses
  • Self mutilation
  • Extreme passivity or aggression
  • Truanting from School or running away from home
  • Drug or Solvent abuse (either in the child or in its principal carer/s)
  • Excessive fear of situations or people
  • Social Isolation
  • Depression
  • Pressure (possibly when carers are unstable emotionally or behaviourally)
It would appear that since all abuse involves emotional abuse, then the possible signs of emotional abuse should be the same as paragraph 10. But they aren't.

The parenthetical notes all have the effect of tilting the perception of the reader towards a diagnosis of possible abuse in the home. No such diagnosis should be made or attempted.

Again, let's compare with the London Child Protection Procedures (para 4.3.16 to 4.3.18)

Emotional abuse may be difficult to recognise, as the signs are usually behavioural rather than physical.

The indicators of emotional abuse are often also associated with other forms of abuse. Professionals should therefore be aware that emotional abuse might also indicate the presence of other kinds of abuse.

The following may be indicators of emotional abuse:
  • Developmental delay;
  • Abnormal attachment between a child and parent (e.g. anxious, indiscriminate or no attachment);
  • Indiscriminate attachment or failure to attach;
  • Aggressive behaviour towards others;
  • Appeasing behaviour towards others;
  • Scapegoated within the family;
  • Frozen watchfulness, particularly in pre-school children;
  • Low self esteem and lack of confidence;
  • Withdrawn or seen as a ‘loner’ – difficulty relating to others.
The school has some of the signs right, but has some which are not appropriate (e.g. self-mutilation, truanting and depression), some which are entirely subjective (e.g. Inappropriateness of social responses) and has missed important ones, such as "loner" behaviour.

Again, the expert sources of information are easily available, but have not been used. And some of the signs have been defined in such a way as to enable emotional abuse to be diagnosed in almost anybody, by suggesting that he or she has engaged in "inappropriate social responses". That's a very nice accusation to be able to point at parents who complain that there has been abuse going on at school. We know that Father David Pearce did precisely that, though his allegation was of physical abuse, to cover up the fact that he was sexually abusing a child.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Julian Clary

There's an article in today's Guardian about St. Benedict's old boy Julian Clary. This paragraph sprang out at me.
Mum and Dad didn't know I'd been badly treated by the teachers at school. I got a scholarship and they were very pleased, and I didn't like to bother them. It's not something you want to talk about as an adolescent.
He attended St. Benedict's when both Father David Pearce and John Maestri were teaching, so it's not hard to imagine the ways in which he was "badly treated". Of course, he was a scholarship boy. Lots of pressure not to complain.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 8

Next in the policy is "Physical Abuse"
11. Physical Abuse

This can include, for example, non-accidental cuts, bruises, wounds, burns, fractures, bites, deliberate poisoning, attempted drowning, attempted smothering and fabricated or induced illness.

Possible signs of Physical Abuse
  • Unexplained injury or refusal to explain or discuss them
  • Cigarette burns
  • Long bruises (possibly made by a belt)
  • Teeth marks
  • Fingertip/nail/slap marks or bruises
  • History of bruises/injuries with inconsistent explanations
  • Bilateral black eyes
  • Self destructive comments, possibly repeated, or tendencies
  • Aggression towards others
  • Untreated injuries
  • Fear of medical treatment
  • Unexplained or unaccounted for patterns of absence (to avoid exposure of injury)
Let's start with the definition. It isn't in fact all that bad. It misses a couple of categories, but it does catch the main ones. This is the equivalent definition from the London Child Protection Procedures.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

Physical harm may also be caused when a parent fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child; see section 5.12. Fabricated or induced illness.
They missed shaking and throwing, but the gist is there. Physical abuse is fairly easy to define, so I would expect this to be pretty good.

Let's now go on to the signs of physical abuse. The first thing that springs out at me is this “possibly made by a belt”.

This is attempting a diagnosis of the cause of a physical injury which no teacher (including the designated teacher) is competent to make. The wording of the items on this list should not explicitly or implicitly encourage the making of such diagnoses. In the event of an indication of physical abuse, the responsibility should be to pass the concern on, not attempt to diagnose it directly.

Again, the London Child Protection Procedures has a rather more detailed set of indicators, under various subheadings (indicators for concern, bruising, bite marks, burns and scalds, fractures, scars). Not all of them are relevant to school-age children, some of the indicators refer to pre-crawling babies. But it would be better to simply to take the London Child Protection Procedures wording whole both for the definition (section 4.2.1) and the indicators (sections 4.3.6 to 4.3.15) deleting any indicators that are only applicable to children younger than those who attend the school. There is really no need to go in for wheel re-invention here. Use the wording that has been assembled by the experts. It can be copied and pasted from the individual chapters which are available as Word documents on the London SCB website.

Of course, the wording of the policy ought to be supplemented by the Ealing SCB Level C training undertaken by the designated teacher and his/her deputies, so that they are able accurately to recognise signs for concern which should be passed on.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 7

On to paragraph 10, which is the first of several under the heading "Child Abuse: Categories and Definitions"
10. Possible signs of abuse include (but are not limited to):
  • the pupil says s/he has been abused or asks a question which gives rise to that inference;
  • there is no reasonable or consistent explanation for a pupil's injury; the injury is unusual in kind or location; there have been a number of injuries; there is a pattern to the injuries;
  • the pupil's behaviour stands out from the group as either being extreme model behaviour or extremely challenging behaviour; or there is a sudden change in the pupil's behaviour;
  • the pupil asks to drop subjects with a particular teacher and seems reluctant to discuss the reasons;
  • the pupil's development is delayed;
  • the pupil loses or gains weight;
  • the pupil appears neglected, e.g. dirty, hungry, inadequately clothed;
  • the pupil is reluctant to go home, or has been openly rejected by his / her parents or carers.
It's a bit odd that they start by giving examples of signs of harm, before they have defined what sorts of harm they are on the lookout for. Moreover, each of the individual categories of abuse which is subsequently defined (in paragraphs 11 to 14) each has its own list of possible signs of abuse.

The whole thing is such a confused mishmash that it is hard to know where to start. I think the simplest and fairest thing to say is that as it stands, this paragraph should not exist. The signs of abuse should either be listed separately under each category of abuse, or should all be listed together after the kinds of abuse which these are signs of have been defined. At the moment this paragraph is before the definitions of abuse, and is additional to (and potentially in conflict with) the signs of abuse listed later under individual categories.

The London Child Protection Procedures issued by the London Children Safeguarding Board have it much better organised. Section 4.1 deals with the concept of Significant Harm (important in the context of the 1989 Children's Act). Then Section 4.2 defines and describes the various categories of child abuse and neglect - physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, and Section 4.3 goes on to describe how signs of possible abuse and/or neglect can be recognised.

It's a pity that St. Benedict's hasn't used the relevant parts of the London Child Protection Procedures as a template for it's own child protection policy. After all, they are even available by chapter as Word documents, from which the school can copy and paste the relevant paragraphs.

Perhaps the Trustees haven't had sufficient training to know that it exists. After all, it hasn't been around very long, it is only in its third edition, and the third edition has been available for a mere three years.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Why was the ISI report withdrawn?

Grimersta in a comment to a previous blog article asked:
Did anyone explain or does anyone know why the ISI has removed from its website the most recent inspection report for St Benedict's? All that is presently available is an 'out of date' report. This is unusual.

For those who seem unable to recognise a question, I am keen to know if someone here understands the cause of this very unusual action by the ISI.
As it happens, I do have an answer to this. I have been in communication with Jeanette Pugh, Director, Safeguarding Group at the DCSF (now the DfE). She addressed this specific point in an email she sent to me on 9 April this year.
ISI tells us that, since the publication of its inspection report on St Benedict's School, information has been received from a number of interested parties. ISI has removed the report from its website whilst enquiries are made to ensure that the report is accurate in relation to the various safeguarding reviews that have taken place and the school's subsequent actions. Departmental officials are actively considering with ISI the best approach to take in ensuring that full and accurate information is provided in its published inspection report.
Clearly, if the ISI feels the need to "ensure that the report is accurate in relation to the various safeguarding reviews", it must have serious concerns that the originally published version of the report of its November 2009 visit is not accurate in some serious and significant way. The withdrawal of a report in this way is an extremely unusual event.

This is what the original report had to say on safeguarding. The identical paragraph appeared in the reports both of the Junior and Senior schools.
The trustees and advisors are aware of and are diligent in discharging their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures. A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimise risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented.
The inaccuracies in this paragraph are obvious to anybody with a passing knowledge of the situation, but I'll summarise them again anyway, for the benefit of those who don't feel that they are expert in the matter.
  1. Father David's 36-year (at least) paedophile career at the Abbey involving multiple sexual and indecent assaults against pupils of the school (and this is just the crimes he has actually been convicted of) have been compressed into a single "serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community".

  2. The convictions of John Maestri which have occurred since the previous inspection in January 2004 have not been mentioned at all.

  3. At the time of the inspection, the then-current version of the school's child protection policy was dated 1st September 2009. I met the Abbot on 11th September of that year, and suggested that an independent enquiry ought to be set up. At the meeting he did not promise an independent enquiry, stating that the possible need for one had not until then occurred to him, but that he would think about it. Therefore, any review subsequently decided on cannot possibly have been implemented into a policy document that had been approved ten days before my meeting with the Abbot.

  4. Abbot Martin Shipperlee did promise an "independent review" in his various public statements on 2nd October 2009. A summary of that review was published on 18th March 2010. The summary did not include the school within its Terms of Reference, and made no recommendations regarding child protection procedures at the school.

  5. "Proper steps" to review and evaluate the child protection policies and the Trustees' diligence in discharging their duties have not been sufficient to prevent the long paedophile careers of both Father David Pearce and John Maestri, and were not even sufficient to prevent continued abuse by Father David Pearce even after he had ceased to be a teacher at the school and had been placed under restricted ministry because he was known to be a danger to children. If they were diligent and failed so spectacularly, then they must instead have been incredibly incompetent.

  6. The fact that the Charity Commission had conducted two Statutory Enquiries was not mentioned, nor was the fact that at the time of the visit, the Charity Commission was about to issue a spectacularly critical report concerning the safeguarding procedures of the Trust. (I subsequently learned that the neither the ISI nor the DfE was aware of the Charity Commission Enquiries at the time of the ISI's visit in November 2009).
Note that I was advised by Jeannette Pugh on 9th April that the report had been withdrawn because of concerns about its accuracy. But the Abbot wrote a letter to parents on 22nd April. In it, he stated:
No doubt you will be aware of the recent inspection report on St Benedict’s which judged Child Protection to be good and overall pastoral care to be outstanding.
It is inconceivable that the school hadn't been advised of the withdrawal by that time, so the Abbot must have known full well that the original report was no longer valid and was in the process of revision. And of course, the Abbot also made no mention of the Charity Commission's criticisms. This isn't an outright and direct lie - the inspection report did originally say roughly what he claims, but it is nonetheless a deliberate deception, the telling of a partial and unrepresentative subset of the truth.

In a later email to me, dated 8 May 2010, Jeannette Pugh expanded on her previous statement.
ISI removed its recent report from its website in order to check some of the information that underpinned the report, and has carried out further work, including a visit to the school on 30 April, in relation to material that has been drawn to its attention since the inspection in November. We understand that ISI intends to update its report, or provide a supplement, which will include material from this further work, as soon as possible.
This clarifies things in an interesting way. The ISI are going to "check some of the information that underpinned the report". The only source of information concerning the report is the school itself, since it is a report of the school. This is therefore clearly stating that the ISI has doubts about the veracity of information provided to them by the school. To put it bluntly, they think the school has been lying to them. They have made a further visit on 30 April, presumably for the purpose of learning the truth of the matter, and why the school lied.

This isn't little old me having doubts, this is doubts being expressed by the inspecting organisation appointed via OFSTED by the Government, and these doubts are being communicated by the Director of Safeguarding at the Department for Education. In other words, doubts are being expressed and communicated by those who are expert in this matter and have national responsibilities with respect to safeguarding.

So, we are still awaiting the publication of this revised report and the report of the subsequent inspection on 30 April. I have since had further correspondence with Georgina Carney of the Independent Education & Boarding Schools Team at the Department for Education. In response to questions I had put to ISI about the inspection and which I had copied to her, she wrote the following to me in an email on 18 June.
I should point out that the Inspection/follow up action is still on-going.

The report has not been published yet, therefore the ISI is not in a position to respond to any of these detailed questions. The ISI as relevant inspectorate will be publishing and responding to this Department as the school Regulator in the first instance. What I can confirm at this stage is the ISI’s point of reference for scrutinising an independent school’s safeguarding and child protection documents is the Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education guidance that schools are required to comply with under Standard 3(2)(b).
So, don't think that this will all blow over. There is still official interest in the safeguarding arrangements at St. Benedict's. So, on 18 June, follow-up action was still continuing. But the latest version of the school's child protection policy is dated 24 May 2010, and makes no significant improvements relative to the September 2009 version. In a phone call I had with Georgina Carney a day or two before, she most carefully assured me that the 24 May version of the school's child protection policy is not the outcome of that follow-up work, and that work was still in progress on an agreed update to the school's child protection policy.

So when Peter Turner wrote to me (coincidentally also on 18 June) conveying the Abbot's statement that:
The schools current child protection policy has been approved by the Independent Schools inspection team.
I already knew this was a lie, though there is no reason for Peter Turner to have realised that it was a lie at the time that he passed on the message.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Child protection Policy - 6

8. If the Designated Teacher is unavailable or is him / herself the subject of a complaint, his / her duties will be carried out by the Headmaster or other Deputy, who has received appropriate training.
So, the Headmaster (and any unnamed deputy) is also an ex officio Deputy Designated Teacher. They have received "appropriate" (there's that word again!) training, whatever might be considered to be appropriate. And he presumably has to inform himself of any actions he takes, as required by paragraph 7.
9. The Designated Teacher has undertaken basic child protection training and training in inter-agency working and will attend refresher training at two yearly intervals. The Deputy Designated Teacher will also undertake this same training.
Ealing Safeguarding Children Board runs a set of training courses in safeguarding practice. Their description indicates what kinds of courses are intended for what kinds of professionals. Group A (the basic course) is intended for "workers [who] have contact/work with children and young people and with their parents/carers, they have a responsibility to contribute to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the community but do not necessarily have specific organisational responsibility to intervene in the lives of children and families".

In other words, Group A training is unsuitable even for all but the most junior teachers at the school who don't have specific safeguarding responsibilities. It is utterly inadequate for those with such specific responsibilities. But this basic level of training is all that is required of the Designated Teacher, who is in charge of the operation of the school's whole child protection policy. This is nuts.

More senior teachers, but not the Designated Teachers, should clearly be undergoing Group B training.

Group B training is for people who work regularly with children and young people and adults who are parents/carers. They:
  • have considerable professional and organisational responsibility for safeguarding and promoting children’s well-being
  • have to be able to act on child welfare concerns and to contribute appropriately to the safeguarding processes
  • require the skills and knowledge to manage effectively the interface between themselves and those from group A, who may approach them with concerns about a child’s welfare, and Group C to whom referrals will be addressed
It is perfectly clear from the Ealing SCB descriptions, that the Designated Teachers have responsibilities that make the Group C training appropriate. Group C is as follows.

This group of people hold particular responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. They:
  • hold particular professional or organisational authority and a substantial degree of personal responsibility and autonomy to act on child welfare concerns
  • work extensively within a multi-agency context
  • often have responsibility for the work of others
Quite clearly, the headmasters and deputy heads also fall into a category that requires Group C training. And yet, only "basic" training has been given to the Designated Teachers, and merely "appropriate" training to the heads and deputy heads.

It is any wonder that the child protection policy is such a shambles? If the people responsible are as poorly trained as the document permits, it can hardly be otherwise.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Carrying on

One of the anonymous Abbey supporters has made the following comment on the Father Gregory Chillman thread.
It seems from what is posted on your blog that the 'protection policy' operating at St Benedict's is not in any way an aberration, in so far as it would seem to be very much in line with those operating in private schools generally.
Not all private schools have a child protection policy as bad as that of St. Benedict's. Not all private schools have had two of their former teachers (including one of their former headmasters) recently convicted of child sex abuse and sentenced to a lengthy terms of imprisonment. I can't help but wonder if there may be a connection between these two facts.

One would have thought that those in charge of a school where this has happened would want to do their absolute best to ensure that this sort of thing can never ever happen again here. And one would have thought they would be very keen to describe in detail to the parents what is being done.

But as we can see, that isn't happening here. The Abbot writes to parents of the school promising an independent review into this matter, but when the summary of the report of the review appears, it does not include the school in its Terms of Reference, and it makes no recommendations concerning improvements in safeguarding at the school.

When the child protection problems get some publicity, the Abbot writes again to all parents, a letter which to put it bluntly contains lies, and moreover lies that are easily demonstrated to be so.

One has to wonder why this is. I think it is entirely reasonable to ask the Abbot this question. I would ask him myself and report the answers to you, except that the Abbot refuses to meet with me. Hardly the attitude of somebody looking to provide reassurance to concerned parents!

Even if it were true that the St. Benedict's Child Protection Policy is characteristic of private schools generally, that wouldn't excuse the Trustees' failure to improve it in the light of recent events.

My anonymous commenter goes on to say:
On this score, you have made your point/points, Mr West, and no one, as far as I can see, has accused you of being 'wrong'. Not on this particular score at least!
When somebody says "you have made your point" what they generally mean is "I want you to shut up now".

But he goes on to say:
However, if problems in this area remain outstanding, they are in all likelihood not going to be resolved by you and certainly not via this blog!
So, I'm being encouraged to shut up, because nothing I do is going to change anything. I should just give up and go home.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
(Edmund Burke)
The situation at the school is one where children are in very real danger if there is another paedophile among the staff or Trustees, because there is nothing in the school's child protection policy that would effectively detect this and bring an end to it.

But there is one thing I can do, no matter how intransigent the Trustees remain. I can publicise this lamentable state of affairs, in order to warn parents of the dangers of sending their children to St. Benedict's School.

They can then make an informed choice as to whether to send their children there or elsewhere. If they still choose to send their children to St. Benedict's, then they can at least be alert to the possibility of child sex abuse there, and unlike C's mother (who didn't know any better), be ready to believe their children if they report something untoward.

I have heard the stories of quite a large number of victims of abuse at St. Benedict's School and Ealing Abbey, and the effect on them has been devastating, extending long into their adult lives. If my action helps prevent or bring an end to the sexual abuse of just one more child at the school, then the time I've spent on this will be more than worth it.

It is such a pity that the Abbot doesn't seem to agree.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 5

On to paragraph 7.
7. The Designated Teacher for the Junior School and Early Years Foundation Stage is Mrs Monica McCarthy (Deputy Head of the Junior School) who may be contacted on 020 8862 2056. The Deputy Designated Teacher for the Junior School and Early Years Foundation Stage is Mr Robert Simmons (Headmaster of the Junior School) who may be contacted on 020 8862 2054. The Designated Teacher for the Senior School is Mr Stephen Oliver (Deputy Head of the Senior School) who may be contacted on 020 8862 2012. The Deputy Designated Teacher for the Senior School is Miss Fiona MacTaggart (Director of Upper and Middle Schools) who may be contacted on 020 8862 2021 They will (for each respective school/department):
How very curious. We finally have the names of the designated teachers and their deputies, along with contact details, for both the Junior and Senior Schools. But then we follow on with a new list of responsibilities.

Hang on a moment, weren't the responsibilities of the Designated Teacher listed in the previous paragraph?

Ah, I remember now, those were just the "main responsibilities", which turned out not to involve much in the way of an obligation to carry out any action at all. These new ones must be just mere "responsibilities".

One gets the overwhelming impression of a document rather thrown together in a hurry in order to satisfy an inspection requirement that there be a sheaf of papers somewhere with the words "Child Protection Policy" on the title page, but which nobody at the school has any serious intention of using.

Anyway, let's have a look at these new responsibilities:
  • advise and act upon all suspicion, belief and evidence of abuse reported to him / her;
Advise whom? Act in what way? Unless that is defined, they are free to do whatever they like. In essence, this commits them to nothing specific. This is becoming tiresomely familiar.
  • keep the Headmaster informed of all actions unless the Headmaster is the subject of a complaint. In this situation, the Designated Teacher should consult with Abbot Martin Shipperlee, Chair of Governors or in his absence, Dom Francis Rossiter, the Prior;
The Headmaster as a result is able to advise the Designated Teacher that the case he has been informed of doesn't form "proper circumstances" (as stated in paragraph 5) for a referral to an outside agency. Since "proper circumstances" are still undefined, there is complete discretion as to what they are, and there is nothing preventing the headteacher from advising the Designated Teacher accordingly. Remember, according to paragraph 3 "the Headmaster and Deputy Heads have very important roles in being available to all members of the community to offer advice" and I suspect they might consider this a most appropriate occasion for them to do so.

The Abbot and Prior are are good friends of the Headmaster. A problem with the Headmaster would reflect very badly on them, since they appointed him. So they will also be able to "consult" with the Designated Teacher and advise that these are not "proper circumstances" for an outside referral.

It gets even more surreal in the case of the Deputy Designated Teacher for the Junior School. He can inform himself of his actions (as he is also the Junior School Headmaster), and advise himself as to whether there are "proper circumstances" for an outside referral.

There's absolutely nothing in the policy that would prevent any of this from happening. They could do precisely as I have described, and still comply perfectly with the letter of this document. That is how utterly useless it is, and how it is that all these caveats provide the school with an excuse to do nothing.

Let's move on.
  • liaise with the SSD and other agencies on behalf of the School.
Well, we've already been told in paragraph 6 that they will be liaising with the SSD and other professionals. There's no need for a duplication.

Except for one interesting point. Here, the Designated Teachers are doing their liaison "on behalf of the School". But all the duties described in paragraph 6 are supposed to be carried out for the protection of the child. The Designated Teacher, if his/her role involves representing the the school as well as protecting children, has a clear conflict of interest, in that bringing to light a case of harm to a child might cause harm to the reputation of the school.

In matters of child protection, conflicts of interest built into procedures are totally unacceptable.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Father Gregory Chillman

I have just had confirmation from the Diocese of Westminster of the following facts.

Father Gregory Chillman has been arrested in connection with complaints of sexual abuse at St. Benedict's School.

The complaints are the subject of a continuing investigation by police and Social Services.

He is presently on a restricted ministry.

I've separately learned that in addition to having recently resigned as a Trustee of St. Benedict's, he has also resigned as Chairman of Governors of St. Augustine's Priory School.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Fire and smoke

My article on Chris Patten seems to have touched a few raw nerves. Good.

Some have accused me of making smoke, or of shouting "Fire!"

I don't wish to push analogies too far, but I will point out that Abbot Martin Shipperlee has it entirely within his power to clear the air.

On the day that Father David Pearce was sentenced, the Abbot wrote to all parents. He started out by saying.
Fr David Pearce, who taught at St Benedict’s from 1976-1992, pleaded guilty on 10th August to serious criminal offences against children and has now been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.
He want on later in the letter to say.
I would like to apologise in every way that I can to the victims and to everyone else who has been affected by this case. I will remember in my prayers all those whose lives have been troubled by Fr David’s actions.

I am instructing an independent review into this matter to examine what there is to be learned in order to ensure that there can never be a recurrence of this situation.
In the context of his first paragraph, any reasonable person would interpret "this case" to mean at the very least all the crimes which Father David was convicted of (on dates ranging from 1972 to 2007) and to look into those and other complaints against Father David.

Any reasonable person would interpret a promise of an "independent review into this matter" with the aim of ensuring that "there can never be a recurrence of this situation" as being a promise of a wide ranging enquiry into how it was that Father David was able to molest children unhindered for so long.

Any reasonable person would expect that the process of ensuring there could not be a recurrence of the situation would involve the independent review examining and making recommendations for the school's child protection and safeguarding policy.

But this is not what the Abbot provided. The Independent Review which was actually carried out was much narrower in scope. It concentrated relentlessly on Father David's last victim, who although he was a pupil at the school, was molested at a time when Father David held no role at the school.

The review concentrated also solely on the failures to supervise Father David once it had been recognised that he was a danger to children, and not the previous 35 years or so when he had actually been abusing children but the danger he posed had not been officially recognised.

The review looked at the procedures of the Abbey, but not of the school.

And the review was not independently published. A summary of it was prepared by "Peter B" (presumably Father Peter Burns) and it is this summary that was published. Because of this, we don't know who conducted the review, whether they were truly independent, what the terms of reference were, whether those conducting the review were made aware of the extent and timescale of Father David's crimes, and whether the summary of the conclusions and recommendations is actually a fair summary of what the report itself contained.

The Abbot could clear away all doubts by instituting a proper independent enquiry into these matters, to ascertain what lessons need to be learned, whether there are additional cases which should come to light, and what changes of policy and procedure are needed prevent a recurrence.

This independent enquiry would need to look back at least 40 years (since Father David joined the Abbey about 40 years ago). The names of those conducting it should be known and their independence established. The Abbey should be prepared to open all its correspondence and records to the independent reviewers. Subject to keeping the names of victims confidential,the report should be published in full, by those conducting the review itself.

It's not too late for the Abbot to decide to have another go at the review and do it right this time. It would clear the air.

So far, nothing has been looked into concerning how it was that Father David was able to operate for so long as a paedophile while remaining resident at the Abbey. So no lessons as to how to prevent that from happening again can possibly have been learned.

Surely, the Abbot, all the Trustees, and indeed every parent and parishioner would welcome such a review if they want to learn what can be done to prevent a recurrence. But instead of this enquiry to clear the air, a lot of smoke is being blown instead. One has to wonder why. Until the Abbot is prepared to speak publicly about this, all we can do is comment on all this smoke that is billowing around.

The Child Protection Policy - 4

On to paragraph 6. The Duties of the Designated Teacher.
6. The Designated Teacher for Child Protection – Role and Responsibilities

The School has appointed a senior member of staff with the necessary status and authority (Designated Teacher) to be responsible for matters relating to child protection and welfare. The main responsibilities of the Designated Teacher are:
First point: The designated teacher ought to be a named individual. (Paragraph 7 lists the duties of the designated teacher for the Junior School, and names both the designated teacher and deputy.)

Also, to say "the main responsibilities" is to suggest that there are other child protection responsibilities which are not documented. Wrong. If there is something the designated teacher is supposed to be doing in fulfilment of his/her duties, then it has to be written down here, otherwise nobody can tell whether the duties are in fact being carried out properly.

But let's go through this list of "main responsibilities".
  • To be the first point of contact for parents, pupils, teaching and non-teaching staff and external agencies in all matters of child protection.
Well, the obvious point is that an unnamed person cannot be a first point of contact, since without a name, parents don't know who to contact!
  • To be fully conversant with the Local Authority and School Child Protection Policy and procedures.
I notice that "School Child Protection Policy" is capitalised - it is near enough the title of this document. But we have "and procedures" not capitalised after it, which suggests that there are unpublished procedures as well.

If that is the case, that is illegal - there is a legal obligation for the whole of the policy and associated procedures to be published on the school website. if we don't know the procedures, nobody can tell whether they are appropriate and whether they are being followed.

It's also unrealistic to expect the designated teacher to be "fully conversant with" the local authority policy. Anyway, the designated teacher is not responsible for what the local authority does. This is another of those throwaway phrases that is intended to look impressive but is in fact meaningless.

It's worth noting that having knowledge doesn't of itself require action.
  • To be available to all staff of the School community for consultation on child protection issues.
Again, this doesn't require that the designated teacher actually ever do anything.
  • To co-ordinate the child protection procedures in the School.
Odd. Again, either there are additional procedures not published here which are being coordinated, or the designated teacher is supposed to be co-ordinatng procedures that are already written down and fixed here.
  • To maintain an ongoing training programme for all School employees.
This is the first requirement for the designated teacher actually to do something. but it is sufficiently vaguely worded that it is more or less meaningless. Nothing is stated as to the content of the training, or the frequency with which it will be undertaken by staff.
  • To monitor the keeping, confidentiality and storage of records in relation to child protection.
To monitor the keeping of the records? Or actually to keep records? Surely the designated teacher has actually to keep records? It is this kind of sloppy language that suggests that nobody is serious about implementing this document.
  • To liaise with the child protection officer appointed by the SSD (Local Authority Designated Officer).
OK. Liaison. Great. All in favour of liaison in all directions. The only problem is that there is nothing about what kinds of information will be passed in each direction, or when, or in response to what sorts of incidents. Either this is specified in more detail elsewhere, in which case it is not needed here, or it isn't specified elsewhere, in which case this is inadequate by itself. Guess which is the case!
  • To ensure that appropriate action is taken in the School and that procedures are followed in actual or suspected cases of child abuse.
Oh joy. Another of our little qualified phrases! The designated teacher must ensure that "appropriate action" is taken "in the school", and that "procedures are followed".

"Appropriate action" is not defined, and so is left for the school to define as it sees fit.

To say that the action (whatever action is "appropriate") will be taken "in the school" is passive voice. It leaves it unstated as to who in the school is supposed to be taking this action. An action not assigned to a specific person is too often an action that doesn't actually happen.

To say "procedures are followed" is entirely useless unless you say what procedures. So far, this document doesn't have any.
  • To contact the duty social worker or the duty education welfare/social worker within twenty-four hours to seek advice on concerns brought by staff. To also check whether or not the family involved is known to the SSD.
Notice that the second sentence gives the impression that the assumption is that the abuse is happening within the family.

Saying "duty social worker or the duty education welfare/social worker" leaves it unstated which of these will be contacted for what kinds of incidents.

Also, nothing is stated here regarding the keeping of records of any such calls made, the nature of the advice sought, or the actions to be taken thereafter.

  • To monitor records of pupils in the School on the Child Protection Register (CPR) to ensure that this is maintained and updated as notification is received.
So let me see if I understand this. The Designated Teacher must monitor the records and ensure that they are maintained. We don't know who is supposed to be keeping the records or who is supposed to be updating the records. Presumably not the Designated Teacher because he is only supposed to be monitoring that it is done. And nothing is stated as to what has to be done as a result of any notifications received, apart from monitoring the records of it.
  • To liaise with other professionals to ensure that children on the CPR are monitored.
There does seem to be an awful lot of monitoring going on, and just about nothing else. Now it is the children on the CPR who are being monitored. Presumably this means pupils in the school, but this is not stated. The purpose of this monitoring is not stated. The bullet is meaningless as it stands.

  • Where appropriate, to take part in the child protection conferences or reviews. In the case of non-attendance to ensure that a key member of staff attends. Where this is not possible to provide a written report to the conference from the School. (It is acknowledged that this should occur rarely as the involvement of School staff is vital given the close involvement with the child.)
Another of those little weasel phrases "where appropriate". The policy should be saying where it is appropriate!

Also, the term "key member of staff" is not defined. It is left to the discretion of the school. For all the policy says on the subject, it could be the caretaker.

  • To inform the SSD Child Protection Co-ordinator in writing when a child on the CPR moves to another School and to inform the new School of the child’s status on the CPR.
Ah! An action! A real live action! A defined circumstance and a required response! I was thinking that they didn't know how do do one of these. The circumstance is "when a child on the CPR moves to another school", and the required action is "To inform the SSD Child Protection Co-ordinator in writing ... and to inform the new School of the child’s status on the CPR."

If only the rest of the policy were that clear. It's interesting that the first clear procedure in the whole document applies to a child who has left the school! At the beginning of page 3 of the document.
  • In consultation with the Headmaster, to monitor staff development and training needs with regard to child protection issues and to provide training as appropriate.
Sigh. More monitoring. More unspecified decisions as to what is appropriate.
  • To ensure that training is current and relevant.
Relevant to what? Again, this meaningless unless it is better directed. In fact, there is guidance on the subject provided by Ealing Safeguarding Children's Board, which should be referred to here, but isn't.
  • To ensure that the curriculum offers opportunities for raising student awareness of child protection issues and developing strategies for ensuring their own protection, for example through the PSHE programme.
Oh I see. The children have the responsibility of "ensuring their own protection". Can't be done. A more realistic objective would be "Include in the curriculum activities and opportunities for PSHE/Citizenship which equip children with the skills they need to stay safe from abuse, and which will help children develop realistic attitudes to the responsibilities of adult life." But this is a whole-school commitment and shouldn't simply be dumped on the Designated Teacher.
  • To review the School’s Policy on Child Protection with the Headmaster and Leadership Team on an annual basis.
No, this should be the responsibility of the governors, or in the case of St. Benedict's, the Board of Trustees. It is the trustees who by resolution bring a new version of the policy into effect.

Overall the duties of the Designated Teacher are either too much (in the case of things the Designated Teacher does not have authority over, such as the policy itself and the curriculum), or not adequately described (i.e. just about everything else).

Friday, 9 July 2010

Chris Patten and the Pope's visit.

So. David Cameron has appointed Chris Patten (or to use his full title, Lord Patten of Barnes) as his personal representative to organiser the Pope's forthcoming visit.

Of course, one of the greatest possible sources of embarrassment from the visit is the possibility that some paedophile scandal will get raised in the press during or just before the visit.

So I'm not sure what David Cameron was thinking of when he appointed Chris Patten, and what Chris Patten was thinking when he accepted, because the appointment makes the raising of the paedophile abuse issue all that much more likely.

Chris Patten is an old boy of St. Benedict's School. He's has the Christopher Patten Cup for "Outstanding Performance at GCSE" named after him, and he is on the board of School Advisors.

This of course is the school where Father David Pearce enjoyed a 36 year paedophile career, whose child protection policy remains a shambles, and where the Abbot, who is also is Chairman of Trustees, refuses to attend a meeting called by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor to discuss these matters, and where a supposedly independent review has managed to avoid reviewing almost the whole of the time David Pearce was a monk at the Abbey, and managed to avoid reviewing anything of his career as a teacher at the school.

It is also the school at which John Maestri taught, who has been convicted three times of sexual offences whose victims were boys at the school, and who was sent on his way as he was about to take over as headmaster of the Middle School.

This is the school where the Independent Schools Inspectorate has had to withdraw its most recent inspection report because of concerns over the accuracy of the information provided to it by the school.

This is the school about which the Charity Commission conducted two Statutory Enquiries, the report of which was "severely critical of the Trustees".

This is the school where Father Gregory Chillman has recently mysteriously resigned as a trustee.

This is the school where, according to evidence given in court and not denied, Father Stanislaus Hobbs sexually assaulted a pupil while on a school trip to Italy.

This is the school which in 2006 contested a civil case in respect of accusations of abuse by Father David Pearce and lost, with the judge awarding damages of £43,000.

And Chris Patten is a member of the Board of School Advisers. So he has some degree of responsibility for running the school.

In the light of all this, it seems to me that either:
  • He isn't aware of all these problems, in which case he's not doing much of a job as a School Advisor, or

  • He is aware of all these problems, and has chosen not to do anything about it, in which case I had better not offer my opinion of him, or

  • He is aware of all these problems, and has tried to do something about it and failed, coming up against the intransigence of the Abbot. If this is the case the honourable thing to do would be to publicly resign as a School Advisor, since his name at present is providing cover to a deplorable state of affairs.
It would be nice if Chris Patten would use his present position to help ensure that St. Benedict's does properly clean up its safeguarding procedures, and does set up a proper enquiry.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting for it.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Talking to the ISI about St.Benedict's

I have been having a lengthy correspondence with Mr. Durell Barnes, Director of Communication at the Independent Schools Inspectorate. I initially phoned him, and then followed up with emails. I started this because of the unbelievably good reports the ISI gave out in respect of their inspections of both junior and senior schools in November last year.
From: Jonathan West
Date: 25 February 2010
Subject: St Benedicts School
To: Durell Barnes

Dear Mr Barnes

I am writing concerning our previous telephone calls about the Reports of the ISI Inspection of St Benedict's School, Ealing (Senior and Junior school) carried out in November 2009.

I refer to Paragraph 4.4 of the Senior School report and paragraph 4.5 of the Junior School report. Paragraph 4.4 of the Senior School report states:

"The trustees and advisors are aware of and are diligent in discharging their responsibilities for the welfare, health and safety of pupils, including taking proper steps to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their child protection policies and procedures. A serious recent incident involving a member of the monastic community caused the trustees to request an independent review of the measures taken to minimise risk. The advice received from the independent experts has been fully implemented."

The same wording is included in paragraph 4.5 of the Junior School Report.

The "serious recent incident" presumably refers to the 2009 conviction and sentencing of Father David Pearce on multiple charges of indecent assault and sexual assault against pupils at the school over a period of 36 years.

The most recent version of the school's Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy is available online at the following location

It is dated 1st September 2009.

Abbot Martin Shipperlee of Ealing Abbey is chairman of governors of both schools and chairman of trustees of the charitable trust which runs both the schools and the Abbey.

I met the Abbot on 10th September to discuss matters arising out of the conviction of Pearce. (Pearce pleaded guilty to 11 charges of assaults on 5 boys on 12th August, the first day of his trial, having agreed the previous day to change his plea.) You can find a report of my meeting with the Abbot here.

As you can see, I suggested the need for an independent review at the meeting. The Abbot did not state that an independent review had already been carried out, and did not promise that he would have one. He wanted to reflect on the matter.

On 2nd October, Pearce was sentenced to a total of 8 years imprisonment for his crimes, and on the same day the Abbot issued a press notice in which he promised an independent review. This was reported in several newspapers.

The Independent:
Ealing Gazette:
The BBC:

The Abbot repeated the promise in letters of the same date to all parents and to all parishioners. You can see a copy of the letter to parishioners here

The Charity Commission has held two Statutory Inquiries into the conduct of the Trust which runs the school and the Abbey. Their report (published in December) is exceedingly critical of the trustees. Their report is available here

Key points from the report you may wish to note are as follows

Child Protection 53. Despite assurances from the trustees, they failed to implement the restrictions placed on Individual A whilst on Charity premises and the Commission is extremely critical of the trustees in this regard. One of the terms of Individual A’s continued role in the Charity was that he was to have no access to children and young people on the Charity’s premises – the trustees failed to ensure this was the case (refer to paragraph 47 above). Actions taken to protect the reputation of the Charity 54. Following the arrest in January 2008 the trustees took positive steps to protect the reputation of the Charity and continue to do so – the trustees have confirmed publicly that an independent review will be carried out to ensure that this situation can not reoccur.

Local MP Andy Slaughter called for an "independent and transparent inquiry" in an article published in the Ealing Gazette in response to the Charity Commission report.

I have been in contact with Peter Turner, the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor for the Diocese of Westminster, who has written to me stating

A Review was commissioned by Abbot Martin, but this is still to report back with the findings. It is intended that within the bounds of confidentiality the report will be published.

And yet, the report of the ISI inspections carried out in November states that an independent review has already happened and its recommendations have been acted on!

Since the ISI's previous inspection of the schools in January 2004, there have to my knowledge been the following notifiable incidents concerning child protection at St Benedict's School.
  1. The trial and conviction in 2005 of former maths teacher John Maestri, on charges of sexual abuse of pupils at the school.
  2. The civil case brought by "C" in 2006 against Pearce and the school, in respect of complaints of sexual abuse by Pearce when C was a pupil. The case resulted in damages of more than £40,000 being awarded against the school.
  3. The trial in 2007 of Father Stanislaus Hobbs, a monk at the Abbey and former teacher at the school, on charges of sexual abuse of a boy in the Abbey. He was acquitted.
  4. 4. During the trial of Fr Hobbs, evidence was given of a separate sexual assault on the same boy by Fr Hobbs during a school trip to Italy. Because the event occurred outside the UK, it cannot be prosecuted here, but during police questioning, a record of which was given in evidence at the trial, Fr Hobbs accepted that the incident had occurred as described.
  5. A second trial and conviction of John Maestri in 2008 on similar charges.
  6. The trial and conviction of Father David Pearce in 2009, on a series of charges of sexual abuse of pupils at the school on dates ranging from 1972 to 2007.
There was a further trial of John Maestri in 2003, but your January 2004 inspection report makes no mention of it and appears to make no mention of child protection issues at all.

As I understand it, all the above events should have been notified by the school to the DCSF Teacher Misconduct Section even though some of them may have referred to incidents which occurred some years previously. As I understand it, the ISI has a duty to inspect on these notifications if they have been received since the last inspection, even if the incidents referred to occurred prior to the last inspection.

I therefore have the following questions.
  1. What notifications were the inspectors in possession of in respect of these cases at the time they carried out their November 2009 inspection of the school?
  2. On what dates were those notifications made to the DCSF and on what dates were the notifications passed to the ISI?
  3. Have any other notifications been made by the school to the DCSF in respect of any child protection issues since your January 2004 inspection? If so, on what date(s) were these notifications made, and on what dates were they passed to ISI?
  4. What actions were taken in the course of the visit to inspect against the notifications?
  5. What evidence was provided to the inspectors concerning the "independent review" referred to in the report?
  6. Were the inspectors aware of the Statutory Inquiries which had been conducted by the Charity Commission?
  7. Were the inspectors given access by the school to the correspondence with the Charity Commission, and the minutes of meetings between the Commission and the trustees in the course of the Statutory Inquiries?
  8. Did the inspectors contact the Charity Commission in order to ascertain the scope of the Charity Commission's Inquiries and the outcome of their investigations?
  9. What training in and qualifications in child protection did the inspector(s) specifically responsible for inspecting child protection policies have?
  10. Did the inspectors recommend any further improvements to child protection procedures? If so, what recommendations were made?
  11. What information was provided by the school to the inspectors concerning the "independent review" promised on October 2nd but not yet completed?
  12. Have the inspectors requested written confirmation by the school on completion of any actions requested as a result of the inspection?
I look forward to your early reply on these points.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan West
He replied about a week later.
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 3 March 2010
Subject: RE: St Benedicts School
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

Thank you for the email below. It arrived while I was away for a few days and I hope you received an out of office response. It is receiving our attention at the moment.

With best wishes,

(A telephone conversation took place before the next email, in which I told Durell Barnes about the summary of the "Independent Review" published on the Abbey website.)
From: Jonathan West
Date: 29 March 2010
Subject: Re: St Benedicts School
To: Durell Barnes

Dear Mr Barnes

I've now had a chance to look over in more detail the summary of the
"Independent Review" I advised you of. I've published my view of it

The "Independent Review" at Ealing Abbey

As you will be able to see, I'm not impressed. As you will also be able to see, it was commissioned by the Abbot, who is also chairman of the trustees of the St Benedict's Trust (which charitable trust that runs both the Abbey and the school) and chairman of governors of the school.

I look forward to hearing as soon as possible the answers to the questions in my email of 25th February.

Jonathan West
This time, the reply was much quicker, though not much longer.
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 29 March 2010
Subject: RE: St Benedicts School
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

Thank you for your email and the link to your response. This will provide further scope for the ongoing discussions with DCSF.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

I decided that it was time to start pressing. He had had my original information for quite some time by now.
From: Jonathan West
Date: 29 March 2010
Subject: Re: St Benedicts School
To: Durell Barnes

Dear Mr Barnes

Could you give me some indication of the present state of those discussions? I do understand that you are dealing with a government bureaucracy and therefore the wheels grind exceedingly slowly. However it is now over a month since I provided you with the written summary of my concerns and over 2 months since I first contacted you by telephone to raise the issue.

In the circumstances, I think it reasonable to request an interim response indicating the current state of discussions with DCSF and others, and providing such facts as you have so far been able to ascertain.

Jonathan West
But I got no immediate reply, nor any kind of reply at all for 3 weeks. I phoned him, mentioning that accounts of abuse by a number of different monks and teacher had been provided in comments on the blog. This got a response.
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 19 April 2010
Subject: St Benedict's
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

Further to our telephone call this morning, I have been in touch with DCSF about the individuals you have mentioned and they have enquired if allegations exist in writing. I have done a google search and looked briefly at your blog but did not immediately find anything. I am sorry if it was technical ineptitude on my part which caused me not to find anything more rapidly. In view of the seriousness of these issues, I wondered if you could steer me more directly to the allegations?

I realise this is not an email in answer to your queries and I hope to send something to you in that regard later today.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

So I provided the details.
From: Jonathan West
Date: 19 April 2010
Subject: Re: St Benedict's
To: Durell Barnes

Dear Mr Barnes

With respect to each of the comments I've listed below, I've included at the end a hyperlink to the original comment on the blog.

Concerning Father Gregory, the following comment has been placed on the blog:

Mark Tanner said...

Having read with complete wonder the comments listed in this excellent blog, I have absolutely no compunction in adding my name to the list of pupils that suffered at the hands of these degenerate smock-fiddlers. I too have been dealing with the trauma that these troglodytes dished out in the 70's, but assuming that I was alone in my torment, I chose to deal with it on my own.

I seem to have missed out on the 'collaring' of Father Gregory, so would be most grateful if anyone out there can furnish me with more details so I can further collar the pathetic gnome and put him and the catholic church back to the swamp from which they came.

I fully intend, now at the age of 50, to try firstly to reclaim some of my troubled years and secondly, to make damn sure these child molesters no longer have the opportunities afforded them when I was at school and keep this from happening again.

The Father Gregory referred to is Father Gregory Chillman, a monk still resident at the Abbey, and one of the trustees of the charitable trust which runs both the Abbey and the school.

And the following has appeared with respect to Laurence Soper, who was Abbot at Ealing from 1991 to 2000. According to the Abbey website, Soper is currently in Rome.

Anonymous said...


A very good friend, who knows the abbey well, told me some weeks back that 'Abbot Laurence's problems' stemmed from his work with young offenders. She said there may have been other issues, relating more directly to the abbey and school, but could not be sure.

What a pity the abbey hasn't understood that 'honesty is the best policy'! Dragging the truth from it, piecemeal, is like extracting rotten teeth and a terribly sad, unpleasant spectacle to boot.

The abbey, church and school should be the heart of our community - honest, upright, trustworthy, giving - a centre of nobility and exemplary goodness.

What must St Benedict think of these errant, self-serving sons and their devious ways?

- L B

emmanuel said...

I was at St Benedict's upper school until the late 1970s.

Fr David had a reputation then as someone to avoid, however I never heard any specific allegations, he was just considered rather creepy and the "Gay Dave" nickname was current in the 1970s.

However, I was a victim of his colleague Fr Laurence Soper. I had to go to Soper's office after school one day to be caned for not doing my homework. Canings then were commonplace and almost considered as a badge of achievement amongst the boys, so that didn't bother me.

Fr Laurence told me to put my hands in my trousers and wriggle my underpants down so that they wouldn't obstruct the caning! He then went a bit red in the face as he said he wanted to double check that I didn't have some protective padding down the back of my trousers and he put his hands inside the back of my trousers and spent some time groping my buttocks. I thank God that that was the worst of it and that the creep didn't grope anywhere else. However I still felt very soiled and ashamed and felt too embarrassed to tell my parents who did not get on well at the time. I wonder if the piece of shit knew that! I do feel guilty about not spreaking up as it may have alerted the authorites to some extent.

By the way, I was caned many times at St Ben's and never did anyone else use this "underpants" and "check for padding" trick, the other teachers just issued a simple wacking with no preamble.

This was a double betrayal for me as I was passionate about science at the time and Soper, who was an accompllished physics scholar, taught me physics. I didn't exactly go off the rails but I did rebel a bit at St Benedicts and didn't achieve the qualifications I had hoped for.

A pox on Soper, Pearce, the other sick shits and especially on the craven cowards who protected them, may they rot in hell!

Anonymous said...

Father Lawrence was head of either L5 or U5 when I was there and it was definitely no trousers and no pants for the caning. It was common knowledge amongst the boys. My best friend had the misfortune to be caned by him, no padding involved or discovered. My friends Mother complained nothing happened... other teachers Fr Benedict, Mr Nonehebel just caned you in the way you'd expect. Fr Lawrence obviously had slightly more interest than just making you behave.

Anonymous said...

I would like to add something about father Lawrence if I may.

I was a pupil in the Middles School, just before his hand over to Mr Burns as it turned out.

I am only aware of one boy being caned during my time there and, not being a particular close mate of his, I never sought for or heard any of the more immediate details. All I knew was he got caned and came out crying. That's it.

Nor can I lay claim to knowledge of any untoward dealings between this monk and other boys at the school be it then or at any other time. I certainly wasn't aware of any rumours.

Perhaps that's why, when I found myself alone in his rather secluded study right at the top of the building, stood next to this cleric, my trousers -at his request- around my ankles as he rubbed his had up and down my thigh, the sounds of the other boys playing in the playground below and wishing with all my heart that I could be down there amongst them, I have no problem believing what's being said about him.

I have received private emails from various victims of abuse at the school. I am treating those communications as confidential so I cannot provide their contents to you at this time, but they are in general consistent with what has been publicly said on the blog about Pearce, Maestri, Hobbs, Soper and Chillman.

In every case I do what I can to encourage the victims to come forward to relate their experiences to the police. As you are probably aware, for the victims that is much easier said than done.

In addition you should be aware that Abbot Martin Shipperlee was interviewed over the phone on the "Sunday" programme on BBC R4 on April 11th. In the interview he stated that Father David's activities had first "officially" come to his knowledge in 2004. In the interview he is questioned (rather gently) by Ed Stourton on the failure to adequately supervise Pearce once it had been determined that he was a danger to children and placed on a restricted ministry.

The Abbot's statement concerning dates is in fact not correct. On 7 April 2006, when reporting on the outcome of the civil case against Pearce and the Abbey, The Evening Standard said the following

"The pupil who won the payout, called C by High Court judge Mr Justice Field, attended between 1989 and 1993. The Abbot of Ealing Abbey, Martin Shipperlee, admitted to C in 2004 that fellow-monks knew of allegations-against Pearce before he retired as headmaster in 1993. But even after he was arrested that same year following allegations of abuse by another boy, Pearce was made bursar of the £8,730-a-year school because he was the only monk with the right skills.",000+payout+for+sex+abuse+at+school...-a0144215540

The Abbot can hardly have been officially unaware of Pearce before 2004 if he had been arrested in 1993.

I have a recording of the relevant segment of the programme which I can email to you if you wish. It is a Windows Media Audio file and is just over 2Mb in size. The segment is seven minutes, and also includes an interview with Eileen Shearer, the first director of COPCA (Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and vulnerable Adults) explaining why Archbishop Vincent Nichols, as chairman of COPCA at the time, would not have been informed about anything as unimportant as cases of abuse by priests and the measures taken in response.

Jonathan West
He replied immediately.
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 19 April 2010
Subject: St Benedict's
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

Thank you for the further information you have sent today. We are actively pursuing this matter, as we have been since you first contacted us. As you are aware, we have been in touch with both the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and action is ongoing. However, I am unable at this stage to give any more information about that.

With regard to your queries about notifications, DCSF have confirmed that we are not able either to confirm or deny information relating to notifications. It has been brought to our attention that more than one independent review has been commissioned relating to St Benedict’s and the inspection report will, on completion of enquiries, clarify this point and other matters including the charity commission inquiries.

With regard to your query about post-inspection activity, after inspections DCSF requests action plans from schools relating to any regulatory failings noted in the report and can request a visit from ISI to check that the action plan has been implemented.

I am sorry not to be able to respond to your enquiries more fully at this stage whilst enquiries are ongoing but please rest assured that we take very seriously our responsibilities with regard to safeguarding children.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

And a further email the following day
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 20 April 2010 15:20
Subject: Radio 4 programme
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

You mentioned in a previous email that you could send me a file which would enable me to listen to the interview with the former abbot which took place on the Sunday programme. I would be very grateful if you could do this.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Of course, I sent him the file immediately.
From: Jonathan West
Date: 20 April 2010
Subject: Re: Radio 4 programme
To: Durell Barnes

Dear Mr Barnes,

The interview is in fact with the current Abbot and chairman of governors, Abbot Martin Shipperlee. Before becoming Abbot, he was a monk and a teacher of RE at the school, dating back to the 1970s. You will note at the start of the interview that the presenter makes it clear that the questions with the Abbot had been agreed in advance.

Listening to the interview, it is clear what has been ruled out of bounds, i.e. any discussion of why Pearce was not caught sooner, why he retired as headteacher when he did, why other paedophiles (such as John Maestri) were never reported by the school. The scope has been narrowly defined to the failure to properly supervise Pearce once it had been determined that he was a danger to children. This is the same scope as the "independent review" I told you of before.

The file is attached.

I have contacted the Sunday programme to advise them that to the best my knowledge there are material inaccuracies in Abbot Shipperlee's account. Whether the programme will follow the matter up I do not know. I have included my email to them below.

Since we last spoke, I have since learned that yet another teacher at the school may have been convicted of sexual abuse against pupils. His name is Mr James Piper, and my information is that he was convicted of some crime around 1990. I will be making enquiries about this and if I find out any more I will advise you. This now brings to six the total number of teachers against whom something has been reported - Pearce, Maestri, Hobbs, Chillman, Soper and now Piper. That is far too many for a single school. As a result of the articles in the Times, more victims have contacted me privately, and I regard it as a distinct possibility that more names will emerge.

With regard to Abbot Shipperlee's position, as Pearce's superior in the Abbey he was personally responsible for the day-to-day supervision of Pearce's "restricted ministry" to ensure that he was not a danger to pupils. When the risk assessment was made by the diocesan child protection officer, Mr Peter Turner, both Mr Turner and the Abbot must have agreed that it was safe for Pearce to remain at the Abbey under supervision, even though that meant that he was still living next door to the school. In any secular private school, it is unimaginable that a chair of governors could avoid being forced to resign by the other governors as a result of such a failure to protect the children in the school's care.

However, the governance arrangements for St. Benedicts School are that all the trustees of the charitable trust which runs the school and the Abbey are monks of the abbey under the authority of the Abbot. As trustees they are also school governors. It would appear that there is therefore no mechanism for obtaining the resignation of the chairman of governors, no matter how much his failures harm the children of the school. I am surprised that no concern with regard to this aspect of governance has been raised in past inspection reports.

Jonathan West
He was good enough to acknowledge more or less straight away.
From: Durell Barnes
Date: 21 April 2010
Subject: RE: Radio 4 programme
To: Jonathan West

Dear Mr West,

Thank you for the email below and attachment. I have noted and reported the additional name which has been mentioned. I am sorry that in haste I incorrectly added the adjective ‘former’ when writing of the abbot.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

And there it stayed for quite a long time. Back in the beginning I had a list of 12 questions for him, and so far I've been providing the ISI with lots of of information they needed to know, and getting not a whole lot back in return. My questions were:
  1. What notifications were the inspectors in possession of in respect of these cases at the time they carried out their November 2009 inspection of the school?
  2. On what dates were those notifications made to the DCSF and on what dates were the notifications passed to the ISI?
  3. Have any other notifications been made by the school to the DCSF in respect of any child protection issues since your January 2004 inspection? If so, on what date(s) were these notifications made, and on what dates were they passed to ISI?
  4. What actions were taken in the course of the visit to inspect against the notifications?
  5. What evidence was provided to the inspectors concerning the "independent review" referred to in the report?
  6. Were the inspectors aware of the Statutory Inquiries which had been conducted by the Charity Commission?
  7. Were the inspectors given access by the school to the correspondence with the Charity Commission, and the minutes of meetings between the Commission and the trustees in the course of the Statutory Inquiries?
  8. Did the inspectors contact the Charity Commission in order to ascertain the scope of the Charity Commission's Inquiries and the outcome of their investigations?
  9. What training in and qualifications in child protection did the inspector(s) specifically responsible for inspecting child protection policies have?
  10. Did the inspectors recommend any further improvements to child protection procedures? If so, what recommendations were made?
  11. What information was provided by the school to the inspectors concerning the "independent review" promised on October 2nd but not yet completed?
  12. Have the inspectors requested written confirmation by the school on completion of any actions requested as a result of the inspection?
So after a while, I phoned him and said that it was really about time he got round to offering some kind of answer to my original questions, since neither I nor they were going to go away. In due course he provided the following reply.
from Durell Barnes
to Jonathan West
date 21 May 2010
subject Your enquiries

Dear Mr West,

Further to our last conversation, I understand that you would like fuller responses to your questions of 25th February than I gave in my email of 19th April.

With regard to questions 1-4 I don’t think I can add anything to the points made in April.

With regard to question 4 (and 11) I can confirm that the reporting inspector saw material relating to an independent review, but it was your contact with us which clarified that there had been more than one and that the reference to this in the report might be misleading to people who were aware of that fact.

With regard to questions 6 to 8 I can tell you that inspectors were unaware of the correspondence with and enquiries by the charity commission.

With regard to question 9 all reporting inspectors receive extensive training in regulatory compliance including regulations relating to safeguarding and child protection.

With regard to question 10 you are aware that a further visit has been made.

With regard to question 12 I don’t think there is anything to add to the points made in April.

I hope this is helpful. I know you will let me know if you have anything else to ask.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Now, this is rather unsatisfactory, and shows how parents cannot really rely on the ISI to ensure that child protection is properly addressed in schools they inspect, and moreover, you cannot tell from the inspections whether any weaknesses are being addressed.

Let's go through the questions in turn. Questions 1-4 are concerned with statutory notifications. By law, there are certain occasions on which a school is obliged to notify the Secretary of State for Education (or more recently the Independent Safeguarding Authority) of a school's concerns about a teacher. For instance, if a teacher has been dismissed (or has jumped before he would have been pushed) because of concerns about his suitability to work with children, a notification must be provided, describing the events, all the relevant correspondence, including written warnings and whatever.

But the DCSF and ISI between them are regarding all such Notifications as confidential, even in respect of people who have been convicted of criminal offences. So we cannot find out whether the school issued the notifications it was legally obliged to. And as a result we cannot know whether the ISI has obtained those Notifications, and therefore whether it has taken them into account with respect to its most recent or any previous inspections. Since we don't know what notifications have been issued and taken into account, we have no way of knowing whether the ISI has inspected the school in respect of weaknesses that permitted an abusive teacher to remain on site for a long period.

The answer to Questions 5 and 11 are interesting. Durell Barnes is suggesting that there has been a second "independent review" whose details were provided to the ISI, but which has never been published.

It would be nice to see that review, but I rather suspect it never happened. Remember, at the time all this correspondence occurred, the current version of the school's Child Protection Policy was dated 1st September 2009. I met the Abbot on 11th September 2009, and it is perfectly clear from the conversation we had that no review had by then been conducted, simply because he said that it hadn't occurred to him that a review was needed.

Questions 6-8 were about the Charity Commission Statutory Enquiries, about which the ISI say they were previously unaware. I find that astonishing, but I can just about believe that this is a matter of it simply not occurring to different government departments that they ought to advise each other of matters of common interest.

Durell Barnes has simply not answered Question 9. A blanket statement that all inspectors "receive extensive training" is not an answer to a question as to what specific training and qualifications had the inspector(s) responsible for reviewing child protection received.

Durell Barnes has also not answered Question 10. I asked what recommendations for further improvements had been made by the inspectors. He responded by saying the inspectors had visited again. True, but not an answer to my question!

And Durell Barnes simply didn't answer question 12, and didn't even make any serious attempt at it.

Parents: This is why you can't rely on the inspectorate. They won't tell you what or how much they know. They won't tell you whether there are weaknesses and what (if anything) they have required the school to do about it. They won't even tell you whether they have taken into account events at the school which are in the public domain, having been through the courts.

All I can do is hope that by bringing this to the attention of the ISI that they have done something about it. But based on the responses from Durell Barnes, for all I know it could all have been filed in the wastebasket and the inspectors are having a laugh with each other about these silly members of public who think the ISI ought to be checking child protection as part of their inspections.

If you want your child to be safe, you have to get involved and insist on proper procedures. As things stand, nobody will do it for you, and so if you leave it to others, your child is not safe.