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Ofsted’s Blind Eye

May 21, 2010

The Channel 4 exclusive screened last night about sexual abuse in schools and Ofsted’s failure to mention it in their inspection reports was incredible and deeply shocking.

In many cases Ofsted gave the schools positive ratings for their safeguarding” procedures. One of the most striking cases involves Headlands comprehensive school in Bridlington where five members of staff have been convicted for sex offences against pupils in the past five years. Astonishingly, the seven Ofsted reports covering the period when these offences and convictions occurred say nothing about them and instead some offer assurances about the quality of safeguarding at the school.

If you were a Bridlington parent considering which school to send your 11-year-old to you would likely read the Ofsted reports. You would discover that both comprehensive schools in Bridlington have only in the past couple of years come off “special measures”, but in the case of Headlands the inspection reports would give you no clue about the series of convictions of Headlands staff over the last five years for sexual offences against pupils. According to Patrick Leeson, Education and Care director at Ofsted; “Parents can be reassured that when they don’t include these details it’s because the situation has been resolved.” At Headlands, it seems it was unnecessary to mention the “details” because that the “situation” was resolved – five times in succession appasrently! I doubt parents will be reassured by those weasel words.

If, as a parent you did know this you would very probably decide not to send your child to Headlands and if lots of parents took that responsible decision then the school would likely have to close. By the sound of it a good thing too. Is that why Ofsted have tried to brush these scandals under the carpet for fear of schools having to close? Sounds a bit like the Catholic church putting the reputation of the church ahead of the protection of children. I wonder if the Chanel 4 report will become just the first of many reports of the covering up of sexual abuse in the state school system? Ofsted say responsibility for dealing with these matters lies not with them but with police and local authorities. But in other realms Ofsted boast of their role in safeguarding children and roundly criticise others for safeguarding failures.

The fact is the primary duty to keep children safe lies with their parents and that is a duty which the vast majority of parents are very mindful of and carry out much better than any state agency. What parents need, in order to make good, safe decisions about their children is good accurate and full information. What I find most shocking is that Ofsted, knowing about the abuse, apparently deliberately decided not to pass this information on to the current or prospective parents of children at these schools so preventing responsible parents from taking responsible decisions.

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