Since 2014, an ongoing objective has been to achieve, and then maintain, beacon status for safeguarding procedures and practice within the UK independent education sector.
To that end, in 2014 Professor Graham Badman CBE was commissioned to conduct a thorough and independent review of current safeguarding practice and culture, and make recommendations on how the School can achieve the objective. Professor Badman is well known in maintained-sector education, a campaigner for children’s rights through UNICEF, and a former Director of Children’s Services for Kent, and his team included senior figures from policing, children’s charities and the independent sector.
The review, which concluded early in 2015, confirmed that the School is safe, fully compliant with statutory safeguarding requirements, and, in a number of areas, already exceeds the practice in many independent schools. It also identifies areas for further development to enable St Paul’s School to become a centre of excellent practice. The recommendations are categorised into three main areas:
- Further developing positive culture and practice in well-being
- Improving communication with parents, and improving the visibility and transparency of the Governing Body
- Improving Governors’ management information and strengthening its oversight of the Executive
Professor Badman’s review was published in its entirety to parents, staff and pupils and is freely available to others upon request. The School’s leadership team subsequently developed and executed a comprehensive action plan to implement the Badman team’s recommendations.
Subsequently, in 2017, the School’s Governors commissioned a follow up review of progress against Badman’s recommendations and of current safeguarding systems and culture.
The Barnardo’s review team, led by Julie Dugdale (Head of Business, Barnardo’s), and supported by Martyn Ayres (former Head of Inspection for ISI, with a particular focus on strengthening inspection arrangements), had four main areas of focus:
- the effectiveness of the overall safeguarding systems and the various safeguarding arrangements already put in place;
- the safeguarding aspects of activities offered to boys across both junior and senior schools, including boarders;
- the targeted activity carried out to safeguard vulnerable groups of children and
- the identification of and prompt response to, child protection concerns.
The Barnardo’s review confirmed that the School is safe, fully compliant with statutory safeguarding requirements, and, exceeding those requirements in a number of areas:
In particular, Martin Ayres concluded that:
“There are no significant recommendations for action arising from this review, as compliance is fully achieved. In discussion with school leaders, the notion of the school being a beacon within the sector for safeguarding and promotion of wellbeing is a realistic and helpful objective. The quality and expectation for effective safeguarding in the school is one that could benefit learning in other schools in all sectors as well as local Safeguarding Children Boards.”
and Barnardo’s key findings were that:
“the school has made considerable progress since the Badman Review and has evidenced a strong ongoing commitment to safeguarding children. There is a positive culture reflected by the school’s commitment to learn lessons wherever necessary and improve, along with its determination to ensure the safety and protection of children is paramount at all times. The school has recently built a strong safeguarding team to lead on the management of safeguarding matters.
“The school has also been innovative in developing a range of methods for both staff and pupils to report any concerns. Overall the school now has a solid safeguarding infrastructure which includes competent designated safeguarding leads and deputies in the senior and junior school, clear procedures and regular meetings to review progress and address lessons learnt. Findings overall were that the school exceeded statutory requirements and its investment in safeguarding had resulted in a strong and positive culture to safeguard children. The school’s policies and practice reflected the school’s drive to safeguard pupils and are evidence of the seriousness with which the school treats safeguarding matters.”
Barnardo’s also identified areas for further development to inform the school’s continuing work in seeking to lead safeguarding practice across the sector.
The Barnardo’s report was published in its entirety to parents, pupils and staff, and is available to others on request.
We continue to update parents and pupils as recommendations from the review are implemented. The review, and the process underpinning it, are honest and open, in a way that schools seldom are. More than any other area of school practice, the safeguarding of our pupils necessitates such openness and honesty, as well as ongoing, critical self-reflection. The reviews and their recommendation have provided a blue-print from which we can build upon the excellent work done to date in this area. However, it is the daily awareness of and vigilance for any signs and symptoms of abuse or harm, by every member of staff, which is critical in protecting our pupils’ safety, both now and in the future.
St Paul’s has long been renowned for its leadership in teaching, learning, pastoral care and a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Our response to the reviews signifies our commitment to be leaders in safeguarding, as evidenced by our current practices.