Embattled schools dealing with the horrific disclosures on the Everyone’s Invited website are in the middle of a toxic situation that has just moved up a gear. Now the police have waded in. Norfolk's Chief Constable Simon Bailey is described in The Times this morning as believing “that schools have covered up sexual offences to protect their reputations”. I'm guessing the Department for Education won’t be far behind in wading in.
Chief Constable Bailey doesn’t disclose the evidence on which he has based his opinions, but he says he is basing his view on his experience of the FA child abuse scandal. Despite the obvious differences between the two situations – one involving child abuse by adults in an environment that had little or not safeguarding protocols, and the other involving peer on peer abuse by schoolchildren where safeguarding is at the heart of every school’s culture – the implication here is clear. In the view of the police, there is something rotten at the core of independent schools, and that something needs to be investigated by the police.
It’s time for the Independent Schools Inspectorate to come out fighting. No safeguarding culture can ever be perfect, but from what I’ve seen the quality of safeguarding regimes in the vast majority of independent schools is second to none. The quality of ISI inspections (which presumably will be brought into question quite soon) is extremely high. And the implication that Schools are responsible for some kind of wholesale cover up of criminal activity by their students is frankly outrageous.
It’s time that the Headmasters’ Conference, which speaks for the sector, and the ISI to start fighting back.
Tom Buchanan is the Founder of Paternoster, the leading academic communications agency that represents a number of high-profile independent schools and Universities. He is also Chair of Governors of an independent schools foundation. If you have any further questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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