Since I wrote that piece “Has Anybody Here Seen Danny etc” on the14th June 2012, I have been approached by experts in the field of Child Safeguarding and the Duty of Care schools have for their pupils during school hours or even while they are on the premises. These experts, and I use the word wisely, are not people who have just read books on the subject but are people who have been subjected to the sharp end of the law in this particular field for years and recognise that the law covering this subject is totally inadequate. Why this should be I will comment on at the end of this article.
These experts have been involved in court cases where Safeguarding of Children and Duty of Care was at the forefront of their arguments, so they learnt quickly and they learnt thoroughly, so their opinion I value greatly. They used the best legal advice they possibly could to side step the obstacles the law as put in their path and for them it has been a long, wearying but successful journey.
My friends, the experts, have all looked at the Safeguarding Policy of St Bede’s College in Manchester and they have all declared it is awful. In fact they consider it a scam to entice parents to bring their children to the school. It all looks good on paper and there are many pages of script and St Bede’s shouts its veracity from the rooftops that their policy is a paragon of all that is good in Safeguarding. However all you need to do is go to page 14 of this document http://www.stbedescollege.co.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/child-protection-policy-statement-for-website.pdf to realise it is just unacceptable, it is just flimflam. Knowing St Bede’s as I do, I fear that this document has been deliberately worded in such a manner because they know abuse is endemic in the institution. One of my experts says “with a policy this bad, children at the school most definitely remain at risk”
At the moment and given the wording in St Bede’s Safeguarding Policy, if there is a case that requires referral, the school decides whether that referral is made but it does not say to whom, or whether it investigates the matter internally. Under the law, which is amazingly weak, if a child is sexually or physically assaulted by a teacher or in fact by any member of staff, the headmaster does not have a statutory obligation to report the incident to the police. He does have a statutory obligation to report the incident to the Independent Safeguarding Authority within a month if he sacks the miscreant for the crime but if he keeps him in employment he does not have to tell anybody. How mad and open to abuse is that? At St Benedicts at least two of the staff were moved on using these compromise agreements and went on to abuse again but nobody at St Benedicts has been charged with misuse of duty. The law states that any member of staff who leaves a school with allegations hanging over him has to be reported to the ISA within one month of his leaving and what normally happens and in order to save the name of the school the head will report this allegation in all its gory detail. The ISA, a quango and a buffer to government that tracks paedophile movements, looks to the police to see if they have received any allegation to investigate. The police will immediately say no, as the school has no duty to report matters of abuse to them. So the matter dies at this point. Sometimes and quite often ISA refer the matter to the LADO who tells them that he cannot do anything because he has not been invited on to school premises in order to carry out an investigation. There it definitely dies. Whoever thought this shambles up deserves a medal from the Paedophile Association. The Government sits idly by, smiles and organises another paedophile party in Downing Street.
At St Bede’s the man with overall control over these matters and who would be responsible for the above nonsense is the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Monsignor Michael Quinlan, a priest and a man of god, yet he has powers to play snakes and ladders with his pupils and employees. He must be very pleased with his powers.
The one way out of this conundrum is for the school to include in its policy, words to the effect that in every instance of abuse the school will definitely report all matters immediately to the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection, the LADO; and that will ensure the abuse is investigated thoroughly and independently because the LADO now has an invitation to investigate on school premises. St Bede’s do not do this and definitely have not got this clause in their policy.
At Downside Abbey when, like Bede’s, they did not have this clause in place, it took 20 years to bring the abuser, Richard White, to justice. At St Benedict’s in Ealing, this was again the case. St Bede’s, if they are to practise what they preach, should be making a bulletproof commitment to make an immediate referral of all allegations to the LADO. They do not and therefore they might just as well hang out a banner at the school gates saying “Paedophiles Welcome Here”
It is the duty of the Independent Schools Inspectorate to police these matters and ensure that policies are correct and worthy and not just to the letter of the law. Unfortunately ISI are useless, their most recent inspection of St Bede’s in October/November 2007 (they must surely be due another shortly) says that “comprehensive and appropriate child protection policies are in place and the required checks are made on all those working with pupils. The designated child protection officers of both schools (Preparatory and Senior) are trained in child protection”. This is simply and demonstrably untrue. It is a standard text that ISI puts into all inspection reports. What in fact probably happened was that the school showed the ISI a document saying “Child Protection Policy” but ISI did not bother to read it. They do not really care.
This is what happened at St Benedict’s in Ealing until ISI were forced to go back in and then they brought out a second and very much adverse report. This is what I intend to do to ISI at St Bede’s and I am sure they do not want to be caught with their pants round their ankles again.
It is the duty of everybody and especially parents to ensure that abuse in schools has no hiding place. It is the duty for everybody to highlight this menace. The Church says they have stopped abuse and the school say their Safeguarding policies are top hole but both are only paying lip service to the problem, dare one say it is a deliberate action to avoid culpability. To clean St Bede’s up and make it presentable to this 21st century world, the Board of Governors needs cleaning clerically. St Bede’s is a business and it needs a board that understands commerce. It certainly does not need a board of bishops and monsignors and fuddy duddy old solicitors and doctors. It also needs a safeguarding board of knowledgeable parents looking after these profoundly important school principles. Governors cannot look after both sides of the coin especially the rag-tag bunch that are there now.
To complete this piece I ask myself why is the law on safeguarding so weak? After years of pressure from schools as important as Downside, St Benedicts and Caldicott Preparatory School in London whose pupils move on to Eton, Harrow and Winchester and whose alumni include Nick Clegg, Andrew Strauss and that famous girl getting rugby player Nick Sheasby, this law has remained static, unchanged. I would proffer the thought that it is perhaps the establishment of this country, the elite who pride themselves on their ability to abuse all and sundry, that have refused the change, ably backed by the Churches of both denominations.
It would take nothing to sort this mess of a law out but it would obviously queer the pitch of certain high flyers. Let us all take this subject seriously, do not leave it to the legislators. For the sake of children just born and for those to come, contact me and I will get these friends of mine to help you and your families out. Normally I would thank these kind friends publicly but in this instance I will do it privately, you do not know what forces abound these days in dear old Merry England.