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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

Recent reviews and inspections (2016–2018)

300. As a result of continued concerns about the extent to which current safeguarding risks to pupils at schools run by the charities are adequately managed, the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the SLET and AAT in November 2016.[1] Their inquiry investigated the approach taken by the trustee of both AAT and SLET to safeguarding and the handling of allegations, in particular considering:

  1. The administration, governance and management of the charities by the trustees and whether or not the trustees had complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law.
  2. Whether and to what extent there was/has been misconduct or mismanagement on the administration of the charities by the trustees.
  3. The charities’ handling of safeguarding matters, including the creation, development, substance and implementation of their safeguarding policy and review procedures.
  4. How the charities dealt with the risks to the charities and their beneficiaries arising from alleged abuse incidents, including the application of their safeguarding policy and procedures.

301. Also in November 2016,[2] the AAT commissioned an independent external review into safeguarding and child protection policies and practices at Ampleforth. They instructed Professor Susan Proctor, an independent consultant with expertise in the conduct of complex investigations into allegations of historic sexual abuse and matters relating to leadership, safeguarding and governance. She previously led the Savile investigation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals and the Kendall House Review for the Anglican dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury and is the current independent chair of the strategic safeguarding group for the diocese of York.[3]

The independent external review (2016–2017) – the Proctor Report

302. The review began in January 2017 and Professor Proctor produced her full report on 31 March 2017.[4] Among areas of strength, she found that the safeguarding of children and young people is taken seriously at Ampleforth. The relevant school safeguarding policies have been produced and updated in recent years in line with DfE guidance, and the processes to monitor these are currently being developed. Safeguarding policies and practices for the recruitment and selection of staff are robust, and staff training is based on DfE guidance. The monastic community have also had regular safeguarding training. She also commented that the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) and the North Yorkshire local authority designated officer (LADO) are of the opinion that the management of current cases is appropriate.

303. Professor Proctor did however note that the Ampleforth governance arrangements are complex, and there is a risk of duplication and confusion in lines of accountability. She identified several areas for further improvement, and among other things found that:

  1. Overall, across the organisation leadership capacity for safeguarding is insufficient, and communication is less effective. No one is in overall charge of safeguarding for the organisation, and strategic relationships with external partners are not fostered.
  2. There is no safeguarding strategic plan for schools or for the wider organisation.
  3. The role and purpose of the safeguarding commission is not clear to these partners and their attendance is inconsistent.
  4. Assurance is needed on the robustness of the safeguarding policy for those facing unfounded or malicious allegations, or those who wish to complain about the handling of an allegation.
  5. New policies are required, including in respect of safeguarding vulnerable adults and raising concerns about inappropriate behaviour.

304. Professor Proctor made 90 detailed recommendations. We have heard from Ampleforth that they ‘have accepted her recommendations’ and ‘are in the process of implementing them’ and ‘will in the future commission similar periodic independent external reviews’.[5]

ISI inspection at Ampleforth College (March 2018)

305. In March 2018, there was an ISI inspection of Ampleforth College. The inspection found that the college did not meet all the required standards contained in the schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 as well as the national minimum standards for boarding schools. The inspection report states that:

2.9 Arrangements to safeguard pupils are not all secure or well managed. School has a suitable safeguarding policy, but this is not fully implemented with regard to making referrals to statutory bodies for safeguarding; in the arrangements for training of staff in safeguarding; in the accuracy of recording safeguarding issues; and in safe recruitment of staff. School does not have due regard to the guidance of the Secretary of State, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) on allowing the [Designated Safeguarding Lead] sufficient time to fulfill the role effectively, and there is confusion about the division of responsibilities between deputy designated safeguarding leads. Staff recruitment to safeguard pupils does not follow its own stated procedures for checking the suitability of staff with sufficient rigour with regard to checks of barred lists, prohibition from teaching and/or management, and the seeking of references before appointment is confirmed. Governance and leadership have not ensured that effective systems are in place to monitor safeguarding procedures on school site to ensure the safety of pupils.[6]

Charity Commission findings – April 2018

306. The Commission’s statutory inquiry announced its findings on 3 April 2018. In summary, the Commission was not satisfied that AAT and SLET’s current safeguarding policies, procedures and practices are adequate and working properly. This includes concerns about their compliance with established safeguarding procedures.

307. The Commission reviewed the progress made by the trustees in implementing the recommendations made by Professor Proctor in March 2017 and said: ‘It is of paramount importance that beneficiaries, and others who come into contact with charities, are protected from harm. We are not satisfied that the trustees of these charities have made enough progress in improving the safeguarding environment for pupils in schools connected to the charities.’

308. As a result, on 3 April 2018, the Commission announced that it had stripped Ampleforth and SLET of their safeguarding oversight and appointed an interim manager for both charities. Her responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing the sufficiency of the charities’ governance, leadership, management, culture, policies and practices with regard to safeguarding.
  • Scrutinising and reviewing the charities’ progress with implementing the recommendations arising from the independent review in 2017.
  • Identifying and implementing any additional actions which are considered necessary or appropriate to provide a safe environment for children, young persons and vulnerable people at Ampleforth.

309. The interim manager will have all the powers and duties of a trustee, to the exclusion of the trustees, in respect of a number of safeguarding-related matters.[7]


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