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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


J.4: Leadership and governance

21. At Ruthin School in 2019 and 2020, there were failings of both leadership and governance in relation to safeguarding. As Professor Holland told the Inquiry:

Unfortunately, in this school, we seem to have had coming together both – you know, the controlling behaviour of the headteacher and disregard for safeguarding practices plus a council of management that was not in a position – didn’t have the procedures or the practice to challenge that. So we had neither of those in the school, and that’s where things seem to have really fallen through”.[1]

22. The COM of the school, whose role it was to challenge the principal and hold him to account, was ineffective:

“The Ruthin case has highlighted how weak governance arrangements can contribute to the development of a culture and practice that places children and young people at risk. From evidence seen by my office the Council of Management at Ruthin was largely ineffective in exercising any form of scrutiny in respect of [the Principal and the Chair of the COM]”.[2]

23. In November 2019, Estyn concluded that the COM was not fulfilling its duty to safeguard pupils. It had not undertaken its monitoring and challenging role in a sufficiently robust manner. The Ruthin School handbook was criticised for not defining the role of the principal precisely, so that it was not clear how he would be held to account and what he could and could not do.[3] The Care Inspectorate Wales also issued a report in November 2019 which found that “some staff did not always feel supported, morale was low and they felt undermined and vulnerable by the lack of effective oversight by the COM”.[4]

24. Ms Jassa Scott, strategic director for Estyn, said that since 2010 Estyn had continued to strengthen its focus on the role of leaders and managers in safeguarding. In 2012, Estyn introduced a safeguarding self-evaluation form which a provider must complete before an inspection. The aim was to emphasise, as part of the inspection process, “the importance of safeguarding and the need for leaders and managers in a school to take ownership of it and to take it seriously”.[5] Despite this focus, Estyn’s scheduled visit to Ruthin School in February 2019 found no concerns about the leadership or governance of the school.[6]

25. A complete change of governance and management can often solve problems of safeguarding when they arise because the governance and management is the problem in the first place.[7] The evidence of the Welsh institutions was that the new principal and chair of the COM had effected a real change in safeguarding at Ruthin School.[8]

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