On day three of Anglican Hearing at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Dr Sheila Fish gave evidence on the work the Social Care Institute of Excellence is doing for the Church of England.

On the important matter of ‘audits’ that SCIE have been commissioned to undertake in the 42 dioceses of the Church, we alighted on the following comments made by Dr Fish :

The approach we take with audits is flavoured with the Learning Together methodology. So that Learning Together method is SCIE’s model for initially conducting incident reviews …….

Dr Fish continued : 

So we have tried to bring that flavour, if you like to our approach to the independent audits…..

…..We have set up the audits to be as collaborative as possible, with the sites that are audited, to try to make the process of doing them helpful to the improvement and not putting people backwards……

….. audits by their nature are, in a way, a snapshot. They are in  some ways inevitably quite superficial, and we have tried within the proportionate sort of structure that we have given them to get a good balance in terms of data and evidence in the process between — by having interviews with key people in the safeguarding  structure, as it were, in leadership, as well as looking at documentation, and particularly casework documentation ……

Q. Okay. It’s one of the things people used to raise about sort of school inspections: everybody is on their best behaviour on that day.

A. Yes.

Q. That is not a concern that has come through in your work?

A. It is a snapshot. So there’s always that risk, of course. There’s always that risk…..


“Snapshot.” A klaxon screamed. The contradictions in this short extract are profound. Dr Fish is talking of ‘audits’ being undertaken in the 42 dioceses but then informs us they’re “snapshots” which Dr Fish explains, “are in  some ways inevitably quite superficial” :

Audit :  An audit is an objective examination and evaluation of the (financial statements) of an organization to make sure that the (financial) records are a fair and accurate representation of the transactions they claim to represent. The audit is usually conducted by an external firm. (of Chartered Accountants).

Snapshot :  A brief look or summary.

An audit provides investors with a detailed and accurate evaluation of the financial condition of the business. Furthermore it helps investors assess the quality of the management in the business. A ‘snapshot’ is something else altogether. Which has SCIE been commissioned to undertake by the Church of England because Dr Fish is using contradictory terminology? Her evidence seemed to suggest this is a faux audit that in reality is a snapshot.  If this is not an audit of safeguarding, what is the purpose of this exercise which has been commissioned by the Church of England?

The schools inspectorates have been using similar contradictory lexicon for years but in their case the lexicon is ‘inspection’ and ‘snapshot.’ The inspectorates are the originators of this loose language that has been attached to safety critical safeguarding inspections of educational settings. The idea that a safeguarding ‘snapshot’ can be effective and can have reliance placed upon it, is flawed. Here are examples of Ofsted’s ‘snapshot’ safeguarding inspections reported by Channel4 News. One of our number took the story to C4 :


And Mr Sheerman did know months in advance of being interviewed. We have the letters.

Reports are still silent on safeguarding incidents, not even giving an assurance that the subject of a referral (to the DBS) has been inspected against to assure a reader of a report that a repeat in similar circumstances (whatever they were) is unlikely.

Individuals who coalesce around Mandate Now raised this shortcoming in a submission to the ‘Keeping our School Safe,’ review of safeguarding (2008) which was announced three weeks after the broadcast of ‘Chosen.‘ It was chaired by Sir Roger Singleton who is currently the Acting National Safeguarding Director for the Church of England. This is an extract from the submission :

D. THE CONVERGENCE OF OFSTED WITH THE C.S.C.I.1 Ofsted assumed responsibility for boarding schools inspection from CSCI on 1st April 2007. CSCI was contemporaneously subsumed into the CQC

To give just one example of what goes wrong conceptually when the two subjects (education and safeguarding inspection) are conflated in the one organisation : it is possible, and desirable, where the inspection of education is concerned, to as it were “take a snapshot” of the general educational standing of a school at a given moment of time, rather as a Company’s Balance Sheet does where finance is concerned. But to do – or to attempt, as it is not in fact possible – the same thing where child welfare is concerned is an approach that can only be described as disastrously mistaken, and dangerously wrong. In the latter case what is needed – to pursue the accounting analogy – is more of a Profit & Loss Account : that is to say, the following of the child protection history of the school that is being inspected over the period of time since the last inspection, which is done, inter alia, by inspecting against the Referrals (to the ISA, now called the DBS) returned by the school if any, and similar matters on a recurring basis.

There was no mention at the IICSA hearing of this important aspect of inspection being undertaken in SCIE’s ‘audits.’  Is it occurring? Fiona Scolding QC did not ask. She may not be aware that in order for SCIE to fulfil its work credibly, it should be asking for and inspecting against DBS referrals and ensuring the setting has sent them in appropriate circumstances to the DBS and its forerunners. Making a referral to the DBS is afterall, legislatively mandated and a summary conviction exists for failing to fulfil this statutory obligation (a fine up to level 5).  Some of this might be challenging to arrange, but a protocol exists in education and should be deployed here. Unless it is, SCIE’s contract with the Church of England is for what purpose?