Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC – Senior Management and Governors should consider their positionPosted: April 3, 2013
The reports by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council on Chetham’s School of Music, prepared in the wake of the conviction of Michael Brewer and publication of wider alarming allegations of widespread abuse at the school, have now been published – they are both attached to this blog post. See also the reports in the Manchester Evening News and The Guardian as well as a discussion on the blog of Norman Lebrecht. The response from Chetham’s is here.
The situation they describe is grave: I quote the following from the ISI report:
On Child protection policy generally:
Discussions with staff indicated that not all are clear about the process to be followed when concerns are reported or allegations made, and the procedures specified by the school are not always implemented in practice – for example, the safeguarding concerns form is not always completed and informal discussions are held instead.
Parents’ views – in response to survey carried out recently by the school about music experiences provided by school and progress made by children in music:
Approximately one-third of parents responded, the majority positively, but a very small minority of parents indicated their dissatisfaction with the information they are given about their child’s progress in instrumental tuition, a factor mentioned at the time of the previous ISI inspection. Comments from parents in response to the ISI questionnaire confirmed that this remains an issue.
On Child Inspection regulatory requirements:
At the time of the inspection visit, the school’s child protection policy was found to cover most of the requirements which are the duties of proprietors of independent schools. However, the school’s written policy is not suitably comprehensive and has not been properly implemented.
And from the MCC report:
Section 4.1 (b) (viii)
No evidence was provided of any formal, minuted governing body/school committee meetings called so that leaders and governors could reflect on the implications of recent allegations in connection with the school, carry out appropriate scrutiny, audit and self evaluation and consider the need to conduct a comprehensive review of current safeguarding policies, procedures and practice;
There was no evidence to confirm that governors had sought assurances about current safeguarding arrangements, given the context of recent allegations, resulting in convictions and arrests of individuals connected with the school. A current employee was arrested on 14th February 2013 in relation to an historic allegation, is presently suspended and is the subject of
ongoing police investigation.
There are inconsistencies in relation to the CPO, designated governor for safeguarding and the head of academic music’s understanding of school policy and procedures for teaching at the home of a tutor. This ranges from an understanding that pupils ‘wouldn’t ever have home tuition’, to it is not encouraged or sanctioned by the school and would only be agreed and arranged by parents, to if there was an exceptional circumstance that required teaching at the home of a tutor, there would be a risk assessment completed and parental consent sought. No reference is made to home tuition in the staff, pupil or parents handbooks. During interviews with pupils some pupils stated that home tuition regularly takes place.
It was the view of some pupils however, that there was little point in raising issues or concerns because they would not be listened to or acted upon. This was borne out in the pupils’ response to the ISI questionnaire. 36% of pupils responded negatively to the statement: ‘the school asks for my opinions and responds to them’, when a negative response of more than 20% is seen as significant by the ISI.
The named governor for safeguarding has been identified as the person other than a parent, outside the boarding and teaching staff of the school, who pupils can talk to if they feel the need. No reference is made of this in the pupil or parent handbooks. When pupils were asked about who, other than a parent/guardian they could turn to, some pupils cited the named governor for safeguarding, others did not know about such a person and one pupil referred to them as ‘some random person’ that they were told to contact if they needed to and added that they were told about this person in a recent assembly.
The Local Authority saw little evidence that the Governing body/school committee have sufficiently held the senior leaders of the school to account regarding providing assurances that the current arrangements for safeguarding are actually being implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately or evaluated effectively. In the context of recent convictions, allegations and ongoing police investigations, where extra assurances would be expected, this is a cause for concern.
6.2 Arrangements are present to promote a culture and climate of effective safeguarding at Chetham’s School of Music but the arrangements are not routinely and reliably implemented, robustly applied, monitored or evaluated by the senior leadership team, governors and Feoffees. This demonstrates inadequate oversight of safeguarding by the proprietors and therefore the Local Authority is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school.
6.3 The Feoffees as proprietors of the school have not effectively discharged their duties with respect to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils. They have not ensured that the Headteacher has fulfilled her duties for the effective implementation of the school’s policies and procedures in regard to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils.
6.4 It is our view that in similar circumstances, in a state-maintained school setting, the nature of these findings, including the current context referred to in 6.1 above, would lead us to invite the chair of governors or trustees to a formal review meeting to discuss the capacity for governance and senior leadership to address the failings identified.
On Chetham’s website, they say the following, defensively:
Unfortunately we believe the time allowed for the Review was insufficient. We have made detailed written representations and submitted further documentation to both MCS and the ISI, seeking meetings with both organisations to discuss these points in detail. There is enormous interest in the School at the current time and it is imperative that Chetham’s, and all students, staff and parents associated with it, are treated and represented accurately.
In addition to further dialogue with the ISI and MCS, we will be seeking a meeting with the Department for Education to discuss the Review’s findings and share a detailed action plan to demonstrate how we are remedying the issues highlighted.
Much of what is detailed in the reports concurs with what I have heard from a variety of parents and recent pupils; and there are plenty of allegations suggesting that there have been dire consequences of these inadequacies. I can also disclose the following statement from the Department of Education (forwarded to me by Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 News and reproduced with permission) following these reports:
“Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect children in their care. It is clear from the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council’s reports of their joint visit that the standard of care at Chethams school must be improved.
“Today (Tuesday) under section 165(3) of the Education Act 2002, we have served a notice requiring the school to produce an action plan setting out what it will do to meet the regulatory standards. The law requires the school to produce an action plan to set out how it will address the deficiencies the ISI inspection identified.
“Chethams now has until May to produce the action plan — if the plan is inadequate the Education Secretary has powers to remove the school from the register of independent schools.”
The Senior Management and Governorship of Chetham’s have not reacted appropriately to the grave situation affecting the school at present, nor to very real concerns about safeguarding and pastoral care. It is time for them to consider their position carefully, in order for the future of the school to be protected.
This latter call is backed by the following:
Ruth Boulton, nee Butler
Harvey John Brown
Maxine Molin Rose
Anyone else wishing to support this call, please either leave a message here or e-mail me at email@example.com, and I will add your name to the list. This list of signatories will also be sent to the DfE after the end of May 2013, alongside the main petition calling for an inquiry.
Greater Manchester Police are conducting an investigation into a variety of complaints of sexual abuse related to Chetham’s School of Music and a dedicated Operation called “Kiso” has been established to support this. As an organisation, we recognise that reporting sexual abuse, which occurred some time ago is an incredibly difficult thing to do and we will afford anyone who comes forward, all the appropriate support to discuss events in their own time. We would urge anyone who wishes to report abuse or with information, to contact Greater Manchester Police on 0161 856 6777 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, persons who wish to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 .