The scandal of the child abuse at St. Benedict’s School has highlighted some significant problems with the Independent Schools Inspectorate’s methods. As has been widely reported in the press, child abuse was rife at this private Catholic school, which was run by monks, some of whom were abusers. Lord Carlile’s recent report into the school, which can be downloaded from the school’s website, has hinted at significant failings with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). The report says:
“The ISI inspected St Benedict’s in November 2009, with follow-up visits in April and May 2010, and further reports. Separate reports were prepared for the senior school and the junior school respectively. The November 2009 inspection was by a team of 10 inspectors with 2 reporting inspectors. They judged the School to be fully compliant with statutory requirements.”
However, as has been reported by the Times today and quoted again on this ‘Confessions of a Skeptic’ blog (not behind the paywall and), the report does not point out that the ISI praised the school for its “high quality” welfare provision in November 2009, a deeply worrying assertion considering what had been going on there.
The central problem is this: the ISI is far too cosy with the private schools it inspects, being viewed by many schools as an adjunct to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which relentlessly promotes independent schools in the media and in the highest corridors of power. The ISC’s website says: “ISI is a not-for-profit organisation, led by a Board of Directors which includes representatives of the ISC Associations. Day to day management is the responsibility of the Chief Inspector who is also a member of the Board.” This indicates that the very organisation which is there to promote independent schools, the ISC, is hand-in-glove with the ISI.
The Confessions of the Skeptic blog urges people to write to their MPs about the poor safeguarding that children at boarding schools enjoy, with these schools having no statutory duty to report abuse. It goes on to say:
“The Education Bill currently going through Parliament includes a clause which would enable the DfE to appoint the ISI to inspect welfare at independent boarding schools (those which are members of the Independent Schools Council). This responsibility is currently held by OFSTED. Baroness Brinton spoke forcefully against this extension of the ISI’s powers in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords.”
I think this ‘Skeptic’ blog has a very good point. If I had a child at a private boarding school, I’d be quite worried.
It’s yet more evidence that the private school system is certainly not what it’s cracked up to be. Gove and Cameron’s trust in the private system is deeply troubling in the light of these revelations for all sorts of reasons.