Catholic boarding school has ‘serious failings’ over safeguarding

Class A drugs and sexual activity between pupils during the school day reported by Ofsted.

Catherine Lough
Wednesday 16 March 2022 18:49
An Ofsted report criticised the safeguarding at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire (PA)
An Ofsted report criticised the safeguarding at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire (PA)

An Ofsted report into a leading Catholic boarding school has found its safeguarding of pupils was “inadequate”.

The Ofsted inspection of Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire took place in November 2021. Its report published on 16 March 2022 rated the school inadequate and found that safeguarding at the school remained “ineffective” and “inspectors became aware of serious safeguarding incidents before, during and after the inspection”.

“Leaders do not accept responsibility readily for the harm experienced by pupils in their care,” the report said.

One student was found unconscious and alone in an orchard. Another student was hospitalised because of excess alcohol consumption

Ofsted report

A March 2021 inspection said the headteacher had a veto over which monks could live in the abbey, but this veto was no longer in place, which meant “monks of concern” who had been accused of or found guilty of child sexual abuse in the past could be admitted by the abbot and that there was “little leaders could do” about this.

Visitors to the school, including the nine monks who are chaplains or teachers, must sign in and wear a lanyard, with the colour of the lanyard indicating whether the visitor should be accompanied or not, according to the level of risk they posed.

“Unfortunately, some younger pupils do not know what to do if a monk who should be accompanied is unaccompanied on the school site,” the report said.

“These younger pupils described all monks as ‘trusted’ adults. During this inspection, leaders said that they would clarify the school’s safeguarding systems and procedures to these pupils immediately,” it added.

“Leaders must ensure that pupils are adequately protected from contact with monks with a history of sexual abuse of children or who are under investigation for sexual offences,” the report notes.

Younger pupils with special educational needs were found to have engaged in sexual activity during the school day, while class A drugs were found on the school site following a Year 13 leavers’ party.

Whistle-blowers at the school contacted Ofsted before and after the inspection with their concerns following a “serious safeguarding incident” where 81 Year 13 pupils left their individual boarding houses at 2.30 am on the last day of school.

School leaders told inspectors that the pupils were “frustrated” because they were unable to have a graduation party due to Covid-19 restrictions.

They disabled locks and alarms and took a pre-planned route, carefully avoiding CCTV cameras, to an agreed destination where they drank alcohol unsupervised that had been brought onto the school site secretly.

“One student was found unconscious and alone in an orchard. Another student was hospitalised because of excess alcohol consumption,” the report said.

At the same time, school leaders found Class A drugs on the school site and alerted the police.

“Staff, who were alert to the possibility of end-of-term celebrations, were not sufficiently vigilant. They did not take action to prevent these dangerous behaviours,” the report said.

It added that since this incident, school leaders had begun using sniffer dogs and thermal imaging cameras to prevent any further drug use at the school.

Their risk assessments and subsequent actions were insufficient to prevent harmful behaviour

Ofsted report

On another occasion the report found that younger pupils with identified SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) had engaged in sexual activity during the school day because they were not supervised “sufficiently well” and that this had been witnessed by one of their peers.

“The school’s staff knew of risk factors in relation to these children,” the report said, adding that staff did not take “proper account” of information they had about pupils when organising changing rooms or physical education lessons.

“Their risk assessments and subsequent actions were insufficient to prevent harmful behaviour. They remain unsure about how to protect vulnerable children who show overly sexualised behaviours,” it added.

The report added that “despite these significant failings” there had been some improvements in their safeguarding procedures since the previous inspection in March 2021, with a new designated safeguarding lead appointed.

In November 2020, Ampleforth was ordered to stop admitting new pupils by the Government as a result of “serious failings”.

The school faced criticism in a report by an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2018.

A statement from the college said that they were “deeply disappointed” by the report’s conclusions on safeguarding and claimed it contained “substantive factual inaccuracies”.

We are deeply disappointed that Ofsted should have produced a report based on a number of incorrect assumptions and factual inaccuracies regarding our safeguarding

Headteacher Robin Dyer

It said that the school had been on a “relentless drive” to transform its safeguarding policies since 2020.

“Ofsted’s assertion that a student was missing for an hour and was unconscious in an orchard is simply incorrect,” the statement said.

“A logged phone call with the student and other evidence demonstrate that they were absent for a total of 15 minutes and were not unconscious.”

“A trace of class A drugs was found in one student’s room but there was no evidence of drugs being consumed,” it added.

Headteacher Robin Dyer said: “We are deeply disappointed that Ofsted should have produced a report based on a number of incorrect assumptions and factual inaccuracies regarding our safeguarding.”

“We have made repeated attempts to correct the facts before the report was published.”

“We do not lightly stand up to our regulator but in this instance the injustice cannot be allowed to stand. Ampleforth is a safe school. Our students know it and our parents and staff know it too.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in