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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

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

Governance and safeguarding structure

5. The Downside Abbey General Trust is a charitable company responsible for both the abbey and the school.[1] Downside School therefore does not have a separate legal status, and the monastic trustees have financial and executive control of the school. The school’s governing body is responsible for the governance, general direction and ensuring the proper management and control of the school, but remains accountable to the trustees in all matters.[2]

6. The school’s governing body is currently made up of members of the monastic community and lay people from a range of different professional backgrounds. Executive authority is delegated in general terms to the headmaster and the school leadership team (SLT), although, at the time of the hearings, some members of the SLT reported directly to Dom Leo as prior administrator, chair of governors and chair of the trustees (although he has since ceased to be the chair of governors – see below). Safeguarding matters are the responsibility of the trust, as it retains a position of oversight of the school.[3]

7. There is a designated governor for safeguarding. There is also a monastic compliance trustee. The monastic compliance trustee meets the human resources manager and designated safeguarding lead (DSL) for the school, checks the single central register (SCR), the record that illustrates whether or not all necessary record-keeping measures have been followed in terms of safer recruitment, and also provides a report at every month’s trustees’ (abbot’s and prior’s council) meeting. The monastic compliance trustee also receives termly reports from the school’s DSL for the governors of the school and passes this on to the trustees.[4]

8. The relationship between the abbey and the school has evolved over time. Until 2014 the headmasters of Downside School were always members of the monastic community. At the time of the public hearing the headmaster was Dr James Whitehead, who took up his appointment in April 2014 and was the first lay headmaster of Downside.[5] We understand that Dr Whitehead is currently on sabbatical and steps down on 31 August 2018. Andrew Hobbs, also not a member of the monastic community, has been acting headmaster since 16 December 2017 and becomes headmaster on 1 September 2018.

9. There has also been a significant decline in the involvement of members of the monastic community in the school. There are currently 74 teachers at the school, and only one of these is a monk. Today the main role of the monastic community in the life of Downside School, apart from in terms of governance, is to assist with chaplaincy arrangements. Subject to rare exceptions, monks will not usually be in the area of the school unless they are members of the chaplaincy team, who are required to comply with the same code of conduct as the teaching staff.[6]

10. Historically the abbot was chairman of both the trustees and the school governing body. At the time of the hearings, the Downside School Instrument of Government stated that the ‘Chair of the board of Governors shall be the abbot ex officio’,[7] and so, in the absence of an abbot, until very recently Dom Leo Maidlow Davies as prior administrator sat in both roles. In January 2018, he was replaced by the first lay chair.[8]

11. Despite developments in the relationship between the school and abbey, they remain one institution. In 2009–2010 (following recommendations made by the ISI in respect of St Benedict’s, Ealing), the Downside governing body considered the feasibility of a complete separation of the school from the monastery. However, they concluded this was not a practicable option, on the basis that the school could not be financially viable if separated from the rest of the trust. The decision was made in consultation with the abbot and the abbot’s council. Dom Leo Maidlow Davis told us that Downside is still now, more than eight years on, working towards the school becoming both legally and financially separate and independent from the monastery.[9]

12. At the time of the hearings, Mr Hobbs was the school’s DSL. There are two other members of staff who are deputy DSLs. All three DSLs attend regular external training in safeguarding, delivered by the local authority, as Mr Whitehead did as headmaster.[10] At the time of the hearings, Mr Hobbs reviewed the school’s safeguarding arrangements each year and provided a twice-termly child protection report on safeguarding to the governing body, at the governors’ education committee meeting and the governors’ plenary meeting. He also prepared and issued the annual report on safeguarding children which is issued to the governing body.[11]

13. The headmaster attends regular internal training provided by the DSL, as well as external training where appropriate, including in respect of topics such as safe recruitment and allegation management. He also ensures that safeguarding is a standing item on the agenda for all formal school meetings. Since approximately May 2011 he has been responsible for chairing the termly meetings of two new safeguarding committees: (i) the safeguarding subcommittee, which comprises the headmaster, the deputy headmaster/DSL, the director of pastoral care (one of the two deputy DSLs), the abbot/prior administrator and the compliance trustee and (ii) the safeguarding committee, which comprises the members of the subcommittee, as well as the child protection governor, the second deputy DSL and a representative from the Clifton diocese safeguarding office (with which Downside is currently aligned, see below).[12]

14. Mr Hobbs told us that the current procedures for the recruitment and oversight of staff at the school (including monks) are consistent with the duties and protocols for safer recruitment (as set by the Independent Schools Standards Regulations) and are upheld and inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).[13] Since 2011, all monks, whether involved with the school or not, must undergo Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. Downside Abbey is also obliged to inform Downside School of the return to the monastery of any individual against whom ‘relevant allegations have been made (whether or not these have been proven)’,[14] though what precisely would fall into this category was not explained.

15. In addition to the compliance trustee, the headmaster completes a termly check of the single central register (SCR) appointments. This record evidences the necessary record-keeping measures required by safer recruitment procedures.[15]

16. In terms of the school’s reporting duties to the abbey, we are told that the school is required to report allegations or suspicions of abuse to the abbey through the committees and reports to the governing body.[16]

External oversight

17. As noted above, the Downside Abbey General Trust is a charitable company and therefore registered with the Charity Commission. Downside School is also subject to the oversight of Clifton diocese, ISI and Ofsted.

18. Following the 2001 Nolan Report, Downside Abbey began the process of aligning itself with Clifton diocese in 2002. This process was finalised in 2003.[17] However, between 2003 and 2013, any safeguarding advice or support was provided on a case-by-case basis. It was only in 2013, following pressure from the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) that all religious orders aligned themselves to a safeguarding office, that Downside Abbey became officially aligned to Clifton diocese.[18] The current safeguarding coordinator is Liam Ring, who provided the Inquiry with case summaries setting out Clifton diocese’s involvement.

19. In the course of their evidence, witnesses have made reference to Clifton diocese’s safeguarding commission, Clifton child protection commission and Clifton safeguarding office. Liam Ring and his predecessor Jane Dziadulewicz have both explained Clifton diocese’s safeguarding structures. Clifton diocese has both a safeguarding commission and a safeguarding office. The commission is an independent body and comprises a mixture of lay people and clergy. Following the Nolan Report in 2001 it was initially called the child protection management team and in 2003 it became the safeguarding commission. The safeguarding office employs a safeguarding coordinator who reports to the commission, trustees and the bishop.[19] Because of the many changes in nomenclature and structure, for the purposes of this report we will generally refer to Clifton diocese rather than seeking to distinguish between the office and the commission, but will be more specific if the evidence requires it.

20. Over the period covered by this investigation, Downside School has been inspected by Somerset County Council, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), Ofsted and ISI.

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