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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The residential schools investigation report


A.4: Methodology

16. The process adopted by the Inquiry is set out in Annex 1 to this report. Core participant status was granted under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 to 51 victims and survivors, and 18 institutions and other interested parties.

17. Individuals contacted the Inquiry with concerns about over 160 schools. The Inquiry obtained information about more than 75 schools. This information was analysed in order to select a small sample of schools to examine in detail. This report examines responses to safeguarding concerns in 12 schools in England and 1 school in Wales but it does not comprehensively review safeguarding practices within them. The incidents identified provide examples of common safeguarding issues which can arise in a particular educational setting, as well as examples of poor practice or illustrations of limitations within the wider safeguarding system. In some cases, the school’s response demonstrated good practice. The examples given are intended to illustrate themes which emerge across the sector. The incidents examined are not intended to reflect current safeguarding practice at a particular school.

18. The Inquiry held three preliminary hearings on 16 January 2019, 25 July 2019 and 14 January 2020. The Phase 1 hearing was held over 2 weeks from 30 September 2019 to 11 October 2019, and the Phase 2 hearing was held over 2 weeks from 16 to 27 November 2020.

19. The Inquiry received evidence from a number of sources:

  • victim/survivor and complainant core participants and other family members;
  • witnesses responsible for safeguarding at the schools examined;
  • the relevant police and local authority officers responsible for handling allegations against adults working in the schools examined;
  • organisations involved in safeguarding children in schools, including Mencap, the National Autistic Society and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC);
  • Dame Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children since 2003 and author of two reviews commissioned by the Department for Education, one of which looked at residential special schools;
  • institutions involved in safeguarding across the education sector in England, such as the Department for Education, Ofsted, the Independent Schools Inspectorate and the Teaching Regulation Agency;
  • institutions involved in safeguarding children in schools in Wales, including the Welsh Government, Estyn (the Welsh inspectorate of schools), the Care Inspectorate Wales, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the Education Workforce Council; and
  • other organisations with a role in safeguarding in schools across England and Wales, such as the Disclosure and Barring Service, the teaching unions, as well as member organisations such as the Boarding Schools’ Association and the Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students (AEGIS).

20. Material was reviewed from many sources, including criminal prosecutions, civil claims, disciplinary tribunals, local authority investigations, and independent reviews and reports, as well as policies and procedures of individual schools and guidance published by the Department for Education.

21. The Inquiry instructed two experts in relation to this investigation:

  • Professor Simon Hackett, professor of child abuse and neglect at Durham University, is an expert on harmful sexual behaviour between children. His report deals with the developing understanding of harmful sexual behaviour between children (especially among children with learning disabilities), the evolving response and the barriers to disclosure of this type of behaviour.[1]
  • Marcus Erooga, an independent safeguarding consultant with over 25 years’ experience working within the NSPCC, explained how offenders within institutions such as residential schools operate, and how organisational cultures within schools could be improved.[2]

22. In order to learn more about child sexual abuse and safeguarding practice in residential schools, the Inquiry undertook or commissioned the following research:

  • a literature review, published by the Inquiry in November 2018, to summarise existing research on child sexual abuse in residential schools;[3] and
  • research in 15 mainstream and residential special schools in 7 local authorities across England and Wales carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), working with ResearchAbility. This NatCen research report was published in April 2020.[4]

23. The Inquiry’s research team also analysed data gathered from testimonies provided to the Truth Project by victims and survivors of sexual abuse in school settings.[5]

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