The last child protection consultation relating to institutional settings which the founder of Mandate Now and a colleague co-contributed to was the Singleton Review – Keeping our School Safe (March 2009). It was announced in late October 2008 just a few days after the first broadcast of the feature length documentary ‘Chosen.’ The film prompted significant activity at the Department of Education where the Secretary of State was Ed Balls. The Chair of a Safeguarding Board suggested during a call to me that there was nothing else on the horizon that could possibly have prompted the review, and no pre-announcement consultation with safeguarding boards had happened. It seemed this was a reaction to the documentary.
Sir Roger’s report has recently been cited in the serious case review published by Hampshire Safeguarding Children’s Board into pupil on pupil abuse at Stanbridge Earls School in Hampshire. Abuse appears to have occurred at the school for a much longer period than suggested by the limited scope of the SCR as this recent recent conviction of a former pupil indicates. Furthermore the report does not suggest boys were abused contrary article. MN will not comment further on the central detail of this report as we speculate it may well be subjected to significant scrutiny.
The SCR author managed to omit an important point that Sir Roger made in his covering letter that accompanied the review :
The comments and recommendations in my report refer to independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools as these are the categories of schools that you asked me to consider. You might wish to reflect on whether some of the changes I propose would equally benefit pupils in schools that are outside the scope of this review.
In his written reply Ed Balls confirmed he agreed with Singleton. In reality, few of Singleton’s recommendations were in the end put into operation because of a change in Government which saw Mr Gove become Secretary of State for Education. He immediately embarked of a fetish of deregulation which even extended to child protection and included changes to the DBS via the Protection of Freedoms Act. Jenni Russell a Sunday Times opinion writer and a friend of the Gove’s apparently, enthusiastically shouldered the wheel with this bizarre article.
Towards the end of his tenure Mr Gove began to appreciate that child protection should perhaps have been excluded from the dash for deregulation, not least because there was so little to deregulate. Nonetheless with a burst of energy he succeeded in weakening the DBS system which should have thrilled the aforementioned journalist who wrote in her article:
A frustrated senior Tory told me the coalition’s reforms have had no real impact. The culture is so
embedded that only a dramatic repealing of many of the current rules will catch the public’s
He even floated the possibility that the CRB might be scrapped altogether so people return to
relying on references. He told me that there has been a prolonged struggle within government over
more reforms, with the Home Office and the Department of Health resisting changes.
It appears that Ms Russell’s shared addiction for deregulation at any cost combined with child protection subject illiteracy confers debenture membership of the ‘Independent Serious Case Review Panel’ as featured below:
Double click on image to enlarge
Is it any wonder child protection in Regulated Activities is dysfunctional. Who is in charge of the clattering train?
Returning to the Singleton Review. Contributors to it are contained in Annex ii of Sir Roger’s report. You will see among them is the NSPCC. It might be helpful to appreciate the depth of the NSPCC submission to it not least because of the importance of the impending consultation on Mandatory Reporting due shortly.
The submission for the NGO was made by Emily Arkell who now works elsewhere. Bearing in mind the very many child protection shortcomings that existed in all schools (Regulated Activities) in 2008 and which are mostly still in place today because of inert Ministers and civil servants, the extent of the NGO’s submission is gossamer thin yet Ms Arkell describes the NSPCC as “the UK’s leading charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children.“ She applied a big badge to the submission and delivered a candy floss punch which failed to address issues of critical importance to child protection in these settings.
This submission by two former pupils of Caldicott School, one the founder of MN, was the result of years of independent research into child protection in schools initially. It started in 2004 and it laid bare many matters which have yet to be addressed. The submission was accompanied by over 200 pages of supporting evidence. Following a two hour meeting with Singleton, which was attended by the then Director of Safeguarding for the DfE (Jeanette Pugh OBE), a number of the proposals were adopted by Singleton. As previously mentioned, when the Coalition government arrived it embarked on a different strategy which resulted in very few of Singleton’s recommendations being put into practice.
But even if Singleton’s recommendations had all been adopted the report was in large part yet another pulled punch in child protection. The forthcoming consultation on Mandatory Reporting is a chance for Government to get it right, but will it? Empirical research is now evidencing the very positive influence MR law has on child protection in Regulated Activities. In order to make this consultation effective, it is essential for those making submissions to have a detailed appreciation of the dynamics of abuse in Regulated Activities, and the way law contributes positively to the delivery of child protection for the benefit staff and children.
On its own law is not enough as MN’s recent discussions with NSPCC agreed and which has been emphasised on the pages and postings on this site. We hope the NSPCC equips itself with a detailed working appreciation of the factors that inhibit and facilitate the reporting of abuse in these settings. These are complex issues which take a considerable time to learn and appreciate and that time is not available to it.