Sunday, 28 November 2010

St. Augustine's Priory

There seems to be something of a delay in the publication of the ISI inspection report for St. Augustine's Priory School. In July the headmistress made the following comment in a letter to parents.

Where is it?

I have delayed writing this letter to you in the hope that we would be in receipt of the ISI report. It has yet to materialise. When it does, the School will have the chance to correct factual inaccuracies and it will then go back to ISI for amendments and final editing and then be returned to us when we will have a fortnight within which to make it available to all parents.
I believe the ISI inspection took place in April. For publication of the report to be so far delayed is extremely unusual. Given the great problems that St. Benedict's has been having with safeguarding recently, which has resulted in the Trustees commissioning an inquiry by Lord Carlile into safeguarding failures there, I suspect that the ISI will be taking especial care over this report because of the association between St. Augustine's and Ealing Abbey. Father Gregory Chillman was until recently Chairman of Governors of the school and also Chaplain. The report has not yet been published on the ISI website, but when it finally does appear, you will be able to see it here.

And there is this odd statement about "factual inaccuracies" in the headmistress's letter. It is almost as if she is expecting that there will be statements in the report which she regards as factual inaccuracies. She is hardly likely to complain about factual inaccuracies which are complimentary about the school, so it would seem that she may be expecting adverse comment that she wishes to present to parents as being inaccurate.

And if there is adverse comment, given the sensitivity of the ISI to criticism about its ability to detect safeguarding problems, one can reasonably speculate that the ISI may have concerns about safeguarding at the school. Certainly the school's safeguarding policy is highly unimpressive, even though it has been comprehensively updated (in fact rewritten from scratch) as compared to the set of utterly useless procedure-free platitudes that the policy used to consist of at the beginning of this year.

The present version of the policy talks of "appropriate actions" far too often without defining what actions are appropriate, and doesn't specify that all allegations of child sexual abuse will automatically be reported to the LADO. According to section 2.4 of the policy, the EYFS Nominated Safeguarding Children Officer is supposed to report allegations to Ofsted and ISI. This is completely wrong, since those bodies are not investigating bodies and have no power to do anything with the report. The reports should go to the LADO. The latest version of the St. Benedict's Child Protection Policy (the third update published this year) has finally got round to making explicit reference to the LADO in its policy.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Comment policy

I normally operate a policy here of not deleting comments unless they are spam. However, now that charges have been made against Pearce and Maestri, I shall in addition delete any comment which in my opinion might be prejudical to a fair trial or leave me or the commenter open to allegations of contempt of court.

If it should become necessary, I will turn on comment moderation to ensure that comments remain within the law in this respect. I shall not delete comments merely because they are derogatory towards me.

UPDATE: On reflection and having received advice, I have decided to turn on comment moderation with immediate effect for all articles on this blog.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

More charges

According to the Ealing Today website, Father David Pearce and John Maestri have both been charged with child abuse offences dating from the late 1970s. Although the report doesn't specifically say so, it would appear that the victim or victims of these alleged offences are pupils of St. Benedict's, since both were teachers at St. Benedict's at the time.

Mr. Cleugh and Mr. Simmons (the senior and junior school headmasters) have written to parents. Their letter has included the following. "We ask for your prayers for all affected by these latest allegations and for the School at this difficult time.''

Now that is a very odd thing to say. They asking for your prayers for those affected by the allegations. That means thay are asking for your prayers primarily for Pearce and Maestri themselves, as they are most affected by the allegations. And then they are asking for prayers for the school "at this difficult time". There is no suggestion that you should pray for the victims of the alleged crimes.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Telegraph Advert

I've now had a chance to see the advert placed in the Telegraph on October 22nd. Now I have seen it, I understand why I and my friends missed it. You can see and understand as well.

It is possible that you find that unreasonably small to read. You can expand it to see what it says by clicking on the graphic above, but then it will be far larger than it actually appeared in the paper. I've looked in detail at the advert, and I can tell that the body of the advert was printed in Georgia font (or a font very siilar to Georgiam with a the characteristic descending capital J) , at a size of 4.5pt, (to the nearest 0.5 pt). This is the text repeated, in 4.5pt Georgia.
An enquiry is being undertaken by Queen's Counsel, Lord Carlile of Berriew, in relation to events at St Benedict’s School, Ealing and Ealing Abbey, which have given rise to adverse publicity. The terms of reference are:
• The history of abuse allegations and findings made by and/or concerning pupils at St Benedict’s School.
• The history of abuse allegations and findings made in connection with Ealing Abbey, and anyone involved in any
    activities at the Abbey.
• The action taken in respect of the matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
• Past and present policies, written or otherwise, for dealing with such abuse allegations and findings.
• A future policy for the effective protection of young persons by whom any such allegations are made.
• An effective complaints system, and the provision of information about such a system.
• Files and paperwork concerning complaints.   
• Other reassurance for present and prospective students and their parents/guardians.
• Issues concerning presence at the Abbey or School of persons who have been the subject of findings and/or allegations.
Anybody wishing to provide evidence to the enquiry should do so in writing within 28 days to:
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC   
c/o 9-12 Bell Yard   
London, WC2A 2JR

I challenge you to copy and paste that into a Word document, format it using Georgia font at 4.5pt, and then print it and see if you can read it. Remember that the paper loaded into your printer is much better quality than newsprint, and that text is correspondingly more legible because of the higher contrast.

That is the sum total of the advertising campaign for the inquiry in the national press. As far as I am aware, there have been no other adverts placed in any other national paper. So much for the headmaster's promise that "adverts would be placed in local and national newspapers", and Carlile's statement to me at our meeting that there would be "a further round of adverts in the national press". One advert, with text so small as to be illegible if you don't use a magnnifying glass.

I think there is now every reason believe that it is not the Trustees' intention for the Carlile inquiry to uncover the truth about abuse at the school. The balance of the evidence seems strongly towards ensuring that Carlile discovers as little as possible about the past abuses at the school, by ensuring that as few victims as possible get to hear of the inquiry.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Advertising Campaign

As far as I can tell, the adverts promised by the Abbot to publicise Lord Carlile's inquiry have amounted to exactly three adverts.
  1. An advert on page 17 of the Ealing Gazette on 24th September.
  2. An advert in the Eveing Standard on or around 3th October.
  3. A very small advert in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd October.
The easiest way to contact Lord Carlile, one which he himself recommended,  was via his Parliament email address. So of course, his email address was not included on any of the adverts in the papers, nor was it included in the Call for Evidence on the school website. Curiously, the email address was included in the email sent out to Old Priorians, and is shown on the homepage of the OPA website.

The Telegraph ad is particilarly pitiful. It is very small (about 3 inches by 1.5), and the text is so small as to be more or less unreadable without a magnifying glass. It was published on a Friday (generally regarded as being the day with the lowest circulation for national papers) and it was tucked away among the legal notices which is a part of the paper nobody reads unless they are a lawyer..

The headmaster promised that adverts would be placed in local and national newspapers. So he hasn't quite lied, in that adverts have been placed in more than one paper, and at least one local and one national newspaper have been represented. But it is perfectly clear that the advertising has been the most minimal that could possibly be regarded as consistent with the letter of the promise.

If you are a parent who attended the meeting on 14th September I would be interested to know whether this level of publicity is consistent with what you understood was promised at the meeting.

When I met Lord Carlile on 12th October, he told me that there would be "a further round of advertisements in the national papers" in the next week. Plural for advertisements and plural for papers. I've raised this with Lord Carlile since, saying that if he was told that there would be adverts, he has been lied to. One advert in one paper does not make a round by any reasonable meaning of the word.

Publicity in the national papers is very important. Former pupils of the school live all over the country, indeed all over the world. Therefore adverts in the Ealing Gazette or Evening Standard aren't going to reach many of them.

Those who have been abused are in general going to have moved away from the area in much higher proportions than others, in order to try and leave their bad memories behind. For the same reason they are less likely to have kept in touch through the OPA.

It very much appears to me that the adverts have been carefully crafted to involve as little publicity for the inquiry as possible, and to ensure that victims are under-represented in those reached by the publicity. And Lord Carlile appears to be going along with this.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Little Ted's

From today's Guardian website.

Poor regulation, inadequate staff training and a lack of supervision created an "ideal environment" in which nursery worker Vanessa George could abuse children in her care, a serious case review concluded today. The regulator Ofsted was criticised for not picking up concerns about Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth, where George sexually assaulted infants.

Members of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board, which carried out the review, found the inspection regime was a "tick box" exercise and called for the government to look at the way checks are carried out by the regulator.
It's worth remembering that Ofsted is responsible for quality assessment of the ISI, who carried out successive inspections of St. Benedict's School without finding anything amiss. Coincidence? I think not.

And Ofsted has recently praised the quality of the ISI's inspections.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Adverts in the national press

At the parents meeting on 14th September, it was promised that adverts publicising the Carlile inquiry would be placed in local and national newspapers.

I've seen one in the Ealing Gazette. I haven't seen any in the national papers. Has anybody else made any sightings? Or has the school been a bit economical with the truth on this?

Monday, 1 November 2010

The original "independent review" at Ealing Abbey and St. Benedict's School

You might remember that the Carlile inquiry is not the first "independent review" that the Abbot has commissioned. The school website already has this document: Ealing Abbey – Independent Review Feb 2010 Summary.

I analysed the document in a previous article. But I've now learned a bit more about how that review was conducted. The original publication did not identify who the review was conducted by. However, the ISI Supplementary Report stated that the review was carried out by the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

A friend of mine phoned him up, and the conversation was most illuminating. The safeguarding officer told him that:
  • He had only been on the premises for a morning.
  • He had only examined paperwork and had not carried out any interviews.
  • He inferred that Pearce had committed more than one crime but was not aware of the extent of his offending.
  • He believed that he had done what the Trustees had asked him to do.
  • The report looked at how to move forward rather than thoroughly investigating past allegations.
  • He believed that the summary published on the school website was a fair reflection of his original report.
Now, remember that Abbot Martin wrote a letter to all parents on 2nd October 2009, the day Pearce was sentenced for a series of crimes on dates ranging from 1972 to 2007. He started 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.
And later in the letter he said:

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.
"This matter" can only reasonably be read as meaning all of Pearce's crimes, as referred to in the first sentence of his letter. And "a recurrence of this situation" can only reasonably be read as meaning the failure to prevent Pearce from continuing to offend over such a long period of time. But when the Abbot commissioned the review from the safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, he didn't actually tell him what crimes Pearce had been convicted of. Apart from the one Pearce committed while on restricted ministry this was left to him to infer!

About the only defence the Abbot has is that he didn't explicitly say what he meant by "this matter" and "this situation", so he was free to define them in whatever way he wanted, irrespective of the impression a reasonable reader would have received from the letter. He is free to ignore most of Pearce's 35-year paedophile career even though any reasonable person would expect an inquiry to look at why he operated within the Abbey unhindered for so long, even being placed in a senior position at the school.

And of course the Abbot did choose to ignore all this, and the "independent review" addressed only the procedures of the Abbey, not of the school, and addressed only the failure to supervise Pearce adequately once he was on a restricted ministry, not the failure to ascertain earlier the danger he posed to children and take action to protect them.

And the summary of the report (carefully stripped of any information that might identify those who had conducted the review) was put up on the school website as a reassurance to parents that all is now well with the school, even though the school was not included in the terms of reference and the school's procedures were not examined. If the ISI and the DfE hadn't got involved after I raised the issue with them, then this would have been an end to the matter, Lord Carlile would not have been asked to conduct another review, and there wouldn't have been even the minimal improvements to the school's child protection policy that have been made this year.

In the circumstances, with regard to this most recent "independent review" being conducted by Lord Carlile it is fair to wonder whether the Trustees have again deliberately withheld information, so that the inquiry can find out as little as possible and its conclusions can be as reassuring as possible. Obviously, they can't be quite as blatant about it as they were last time round, and obviously Lord Carlile is now in possession of far more information that the poor old safeguarding officer of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton was ever allowed access to. I have no doubt that they have told Lord Carlile that he can ask anybody about anything related to the matter, but if he doesn't know the right questions to ask because the Trustees haven't told him all he ought to know, he's not in a position to issue a comprehensive report.