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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools Investigation Report

Contents

E.5: Mandatory reporting

74. During the course of the investigation, some organisations and individuals suggested that a system of mandatory reporting would provide a solution to some of the failures to report that took place at the schools examined. Others disagreed that mandatory reporting would have helped and considered that it would not improve the procedures currently in place. Mandatory reporting will be considered in detail in the Inquiry’s final report.

75. Those representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse linked to schools called for the government to introduce mandatory reporting in schools. Some advocated mandatory reporting, including:

  • a statutory obligation to report known or suspected abuse of a child where there were reasonable grounds for suspicion;
  • that the obligation applies to all people undertaking regulated activity (see Part I) who have “personal responsibility for the care of children”;
  • legal immunity for those reporting on reasonable grounds; and
  • a criminal sanction for failure to report.[1]

76. There was a mixed response to the issue of mandatory reporting from the teaching unions. Mr Paul Whiteman from the National Association of Head Teachers did not think there was sufficient evidence that it would make a difference at the moment. He considered that it needed further consideration.[2] Dr Patrick Roach of the NASUWT considered that a lot more work needed to be done to ensure that there were not unintended consequences. He considered that the experience of the NASUWT members was that it was not a failure to report so much as a failure to take appropriate action once something was reported which had caused problems. Dr Roach said that:

it could create a culture of inappropriate or defensive reporting within schools, which may not be conducive to the kind of school cultures that we would want to be seeing where there is, you know, a real sense of professional openness, transparency and collegiality in relation to working practices”.[3]

He was also concerned that LADOs might be overwhelmed and the serious issues could be overlooked. He said that, while these are not reasons to discount mandatory reporting, they need to be carefully thought about.[4]

77. The Independent Schools Inspectorate considered that, from the perspective of school inspection, there was a mandatory duty on independent schools to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the LADO and to the police.[5] The Inspectorate considered that the obligation arose from paragraph 7 of the Independent School Standards which required the school to have regard to KCSIE, which in turn required a school to report an allegation of abuse where the threshold was met to either the LADO or the police unless it had a good reason not to report.[6] The Inspectorate stated that “It is difficult to think of an example of a reason which inspectors would accept as a ‘good reason’ not to report an allegation of abuse”.[7] Failure to comply with KCSIE would therefore result in a finding of non-compliance with the Independent School Standards and lead to the Department for Education taking regulatory action in respect of the school.[8] However, mandatory reporting regimes are usually backed by some form of sanction, professional or even criminal in nature. No such sanction is attached to the current statutory guidance.

78. The Independent Schools Inspectorate also considered that Part Two of the Teachers’ Standards,[9] which set out professional and personal conduct, was wide enough to cover cases of not reporting abuse and could result in an individual being prohibited from teaching by the Teaching Regulation Agency.[10] As discussed in Part I, not all staff in schools are covered by the misconduct jurisdiction of the Teaching Regulation Agency.

79. Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, Minister at the Department for Education, told the Inquiry in November 2020 that the Department for Education was reviewing the information it had received following its consultation on the subject in 2018 and was waiting for the outcome of this Inquiry as well as considering a possible offence of concealment of abuse.[11]

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