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Joint child protection inspection finds Chetham’s to be underperforming

- 4 April 2013

Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester
Photo: David Dixon

Joint investigations by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) and the children’s services department of Manchester City Council, carried out on 6 and 7 March, found that arrangements at Chetham’s music school were not meeting regulations to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils.

The two bodies conducted a joint inspection and the findings have been published in two reports (ISI & MCC, via ianpace.wordpress.com).

The school has reportedly been given a deadline of 10 May to formulate a response, with the Department for Education reserving its right to remove Chetham’s from the register of independent schools.

Chetham’s has released a statement saying it has ‘given careful and detailed consideration to the subsequent reports received’ but that it felt ‘the time allowed for the Review was insufficient’. School leaders have committed to a meeting with the Department for Education.

‘There is enormous interest in the school at the current time and it is imperative that Chetham’s, and all students, staff and parents associated with it, are treated and represented accurately,’ says the statement.

The ISI report notes a number of issues which led it to conclude that the school ‘does not fully meet’ the regulations to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils at the school. While ‘the vast majority of pupils said that they feel safe around the school’, a number of procedures had not been followed or had been inconsistently applied. It notes that:

  • The programme for personal, social and health education ‘does not include sufficient teaching on how pupils can keep themselves safe in terms of developing an awareness of risk and inappropriate actions of others’
  • ‘The school has a “teaching at home” policy which requires a written risk assessment to be completed. In practice this is focused on health and safety matters and not the safeguarding of pupils. The school does not ensure that the policy for home tuition is clear to all staff or that appropriate measures are put in place to safeguard pupils and staff’
  • ‘At least two staff from overseas had not been checked against the barred list or received an enhanced disclosure for several months after they had begun work at the school’
  • ‘One member of staff appointed from overseas has not been subject to a criminal records check in the UK although appropriate measures had been taken in relation to checks from the home country’
  • ‘[Agency] catering staff have not always been subject to barred list checks in advance of appointment’
  • A member of staff had been appointed as guardian for one pupil, ‘an arrangement [that] makes the lines of responsibility indistinct between employee and guardian and could be problematic if a difficulty were to arise’
  • The school’s complaints policy ‘includes inappropriate wording in relation to repeated complaints which may act as a deterrent to parents in bringing complaints against the school’
  • The person appointed as ‘independent listener’ for boarders ‘is also a governor of the school which, while acceptable under the wording of the Standard, is not as demonstrably independent as would normally be expected’

Mike Brewer, co-founder and former artistic director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and former director of music at Chetham’s School of Music, is serving a six-year sentence

The report by Manchester Children’s Services says ‘the Local Authority is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school’ and reached the following conclusions:

  • ‘Little evidence that the governing body/school committee have sufficiently held the senior leaders of the school to account regarding providing assurances that the current arrangements for safeguarding are actually being implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately or evaluated effectively. In the context of recent convictions, allegations and ongoing police investigations, where extra assurances would be expected, this is a cause for concern’
  • ‘Arrangements are present to promote a culture and climate of effective safeguarding at Chetham’s School of Music but the arrangements are not routinely and reliably implemented, robustly applied, monitored or evaluated by the senior leadership team, governors and Feoffees. This demonstrates inadequate oversight of safeguarding by the proprietors’
  • ‘The Feoffees as proprietors of the school have not effectively discharged their duties with respect to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils. They have not ensured that the Headteacher has fulfilled her duties for the effective implementation of the school’s policies and procedures in regard to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils’

Clare Moreland, head of Chetham’s, said at the conclusion of Michael Brewer’s trial on 8 February that ‘the child protection measures we have in place are robust and extensive and reflect the huge improvements in child protection across the education sector’.

Ian Pace, who organised a petition for an independent inquiry into ‘sexual and other abuse at Chetham’s School of Music and other specialist music institutions’ which gained more than 1,000 signatories, has described the situation described by the reports as ‘grave’ and in the wake of the sentencing of Michael Brewer to six years’ imprisonment last month has renewed calls for an inquiry, asking all signatories to write to their MPs.

 

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