Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
SES Schools Action
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Postby SES Schools Action » Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:43 pm

SES Schools Action?s position on the Inquiry

Inquiry Terms of Reference (TOR)

The finalised Terms of Reference for the Inquiry were issued to a limited number of former pupils on Fri 10th June and have been made available to others on request by C Betts.

Since we were first made aware in October 2004 of the Governor?s proposals for an inquiry we have repeatedly stated that this inquiry must be formulated to enable an open, full, fair and independent investigation and that it must have sufficient scope to address the complaints that have been aired on the internet and elsewhere.

On the appointment of James Townend QC as Chairman, we reiterated our grave concerns about the Governor?s stance on a number of fundamental aspects of the inquiry. We provided the Governors, and the Chairman, with detailed comments and constructive suggestions on the Terms of Reference that should be adopted.

We also requested to the Governors and to the Chairman that, prior to being finalised, there be an opportunity for ourselves and others to comment on a draft version of the Terms of Reference. This request was denied.

We have been consistent in our position that the aim of the Inquiry must be to investigate fully and impartially all complaints and concerns which relate to the care and treatment of children who attended the St James and St Vedast Schools. We have always held that it must not be restricted solely to ?complaints about past discipline policy and practice?.

Pressure from ourselves and others has had an effect - the inquiry is no longer restricted to St Vedast, it also now includes the Girls Schools, the time period is no longer strictly defined as 1975 ? 1985, the initial nomination for Chair was withdrawn, and finally, the Schools have made some efforts to contact former pupils.

However, contrary to the impression which may be given by paragraph 11 of the Terms of Reference, consultation has been inadequate and comments by ourselves or others on a number of key areas have not been addressed or reflected in the final TOR issued on Fri 10th June.

We have serious concerns about:
    1. The limited scope of the Inquiry - despite the removal of the 1975 to 1985 time period limit and its widening to include the St James and St Vedast schools for girls, as well as the the boys? schools.
    2. The unrealistic timetable for submission of complaints
    3. Limitations on participation (both who can participate and the mechanisms for participation)
The TOR published on 10th June are in most respects the same as those originally drafted by the Governors in December 2004. The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry clearly restrict the full participation of interested parties; for example, they exclude altogether submissions from parents of former pupils. Severe restrictions have been imposed on the scope of complaints which the Chair can investigate, or report on. The unrealistic timetabling will limit the number of complaints submitted and deny complainants time for their proper formulation. For all of these reasons we find the Terms of Reference wanting.

It is, however, clear that the Governors of St James Schools will go ahead with their Inquiry, with or without our participation, and that the Inquiry will start on 20th June.

Participation in the inquiry

We believe that if former pupils and other interested parties do no not participate in the inquiry the Schools will use this to argue that there are in fact very few genuine complaints. This has become evident from communication from the Schools and from David Boddy?s continual reference over the last eight months to the lack of formal complaints to date.

We feel therefore that it is necessary that this Inquiry is used as an opportunity demonstrate that former pupils, parents and others have legitimate complaints about the conduct of the Schools and that the Schools manifestly failed in their duty of care to the children in their charge. Further, that their actions had a detrimental and damaging effect on the mental, emotional and physical welfare of the children concerned.

For the reasons stated above, we:
    ? intend to contribute to the inquiry
    ? intend, however, to ignore the narrow scope, and restrictions on participation specified in the Terms of Reference
    ? intend to submit all our complaints and concerns that relate to the care and treatment of children at the schools regardless of whether these complaints fall within the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry
    ? will reiterate to the Governors and the Chairman directly our concerns about the scope, timetable and TOR of this inquiry, and request that the Terms of Reference are amended, and that all complaints submitted are investigated thoroughly.
    ? encourage all interested parties (other ex-pupils, parents, former or current members of staff, and any others) who may have complaints relevant to any aspect of the care and treatment of children at the Schools, to participate in the inquiry
    ? encourage all participants to ignore the narrow scope, and restrictions on participation

The Governors, in deciding to adopt the Terms of Reference as currently formulated, have undermined a unique opportunity to fully address the past mistreatment of children in their care. We are under no illusions that complaints and the failings of the Schools may not be adequately addressed by the Governor?s inquiry.

Should this be the case, other avenues for achieving a full acknowledgement and apology remain open to former pupils who suffered at the Schools.

We are committed to ensuring that the Schools acknowledge the truth.

SES Schools Action

13 June 2005

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