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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) Investigation Report

Governance and safeguarding

8. The relationship between the abbey and school has evolved over time. In the past there was no strict delineation between the two, including in matters of safeguarding. We heard from Ampleforth that it ‘took the decision in 1997 to separate school effectively from the abbey and has been working ever since to solidify that aim’. As is described below, there are currently separate governance and safeguarding arrangements for the school and abbey,[1] with several different bodies involved. An organogram setting out the structure of Ampleforth appears at the front of this section.

9. AAT is the parent trust of Ampleforth and holds all its assets.[2] It is responsible for the overall management of the abbey,[3] including safeguarding matters.[4] Although AAT works to ensure that the school retains its Benedictine character, it has no direct safeguarding function within the school.[5] The trustees of AAT are all monks of the community,[6] and all are presently members of the abbot’s council. In recent times Abbot Cuthbert Madden has made it a policy that where the dismissal of a monk has been approved by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), it is noted in the minutes of AAT meetings together with the reason for the dismissal.[7] In 2006, Abbot Cuthbert Madden established the Ampleforth Child Protection Commission (now known as the Ampleforth Safeguarding Commission) to advise the AAT on safeguarding at Ampleforth. The safeguarding commission meets twice a year.[8]

10. The school has been run by a separate educational trust, the SLET, since 1997.[9] SLET is a wholly owned subsidiary trust of the AAT. Up until 2010, all SLET trustees were monks. SLET and its trustees are responsible for the governance of both Ampleforth College and SMA.[10] They design and implement policies relating to the management and staffing of the school, including staffing structure, employment conditions, staff discipline[11] and safeguarding.[12] The headmasters of Ampleforth College and SMA are directly accountable to SLET.

11. A separate body known as the abbot’s advisory committee for Ampleforth College, made up of lay members of the legal, financial and education sectors amongst others, provided guidance to the SLET trustees. In 2010, the abbot’s advisory committee and SLET merged when members of the committee were invited to become SLET trustees as part of a series of changes made by Fr Wulstan Peterburs, with the result that the membership of SLET became one-third monastic and two-thirds lay. As of October 2017, there were six lay trustees and four monastic trustees. Until 2017, the abbot chaired SLET,[13] but would step aside when safeguarding issues were addressed to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Then the meeting would be chaired by the vice-chair or another senior lay trustee.[14]

12. The leadership of SLET changed in September or October 2017 and Mrs Claire Smith, who has been a lay trustee since 2010, replaced the abbot as chair. The evidence of Fr Wulstan Peterburs is that:

this [is] an important move because historically the advice of our lay trustees has been integral to the improvement of the operation of Ampleforth generally. The input of SLET’s lay trustees has been invaluable in gaining a comprehensive understanding of how the quality of education and safeguarding can best be improved.

13. The abbot’s decision-making powers in respect of safeguarding are limited to the monastery and are exercised in consultation with the safeguarding commission and safeguarding coordinator. Safeguarding within schools is dealt with by the headmasters of Ampleforth College and SMA, who oversee the running of each institution and who are ultimately responsible for safeguarding at their respective schools, and for the welfare of their pupils,[15] though inevitably some day-to-day responsibility is delegated to a number of senior staff members. These will include the designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) who are responsible for recording all safeguarding issues, liaising with the public authorities (social services and the police), training students on safeguarding and maintaining internal safeguarding policies.

14. SLET also has a safeguarding trustee, with lead responsibility for safeguarding matters in school, who works with both the headmasters and with the safeguarding commission to ensure that the school’s safeguarding policies are up to date, effective and properly implemented.[16]

15. These developments in the membership and changes to the leadership of SLET are a positive step forward in the management of the governance of the schools, but it is not clear why it should have taken them until 2017 to appoint a lay chair. More extreme and swifter measures are now required.

External oversight

16. After the Nolan Report, rather than align itself with the Middlesbrough diocese, AAT chose to set up its own safeguarding commissions.[17] The school (run by SLET, the subsidiary trust of the AAT) is subject to the oversight of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

17. The AAT and SLET are both registered as charities with the Charity Commission: the AAT since 24 September 1993[18] and SLET since 31 July 1997.[19] The charitable objects of both trusts include ‘the education of children and young persons in the Roman Catholic faith’.[20]

18. Ampleforth College and SMA have been inspected on several occasions by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCSI), Ofsted, ISI and the Charity Commission. In November 2016, the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the SLET and AAT.[21] It announced the findings on 3 April 2018. In summary it was not satisfied that AAT and SLET’s current safeguarding policies, procedures and practices are adequate and working properly. This is dealt with below.


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