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Sunday, 02 February 2020 17:14

The Shame of Holy Trinity CE Primary School, Gravesend

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This astonishing story was first reported in the Gravesend Messenger last week, and featured an incident that happened three years ago in which a child was repeatedly bullied and subjected to "incidents of a sexual nature'. The school's failure to deal with the matter appropriately has led to a rare Government Report on the matter. It was only brought to light after a crass decision by the school a fortnight ago, on an unrelated matter which encouraged the family concerned to take it to the media.

Late Collection of Pupils Policy
The original issue followed a decision by Holy Trinity to fine families who did not pick their children up after school in sufficient time, as stated in  a new school policy: ‘A fine of £1.00 per 5 minutes per child will be imposed after three late sessions. For example, if a child is picked up at 4.00 p.m., i.e. 30 minutes late, a fine of £6.00 per child is payable to the school’. I have enormous sympathy for schools where this is a problem, but clearly a fine is not enforceable, so that may well set up a confrontation the school will not win.

Whilst this may well be controversial, the original policy included the sentence: ‘The school will contact Social Services if a child isn't collected by 4 p.m. and if parents cannot be contacted, children will be admitted into the care of the Local Authority’. Since creating enormous negative publicity, this sentence has been amended to read: ‘If a child is not collected by 4.00 p.m, we will contact the appropriate authorities e.g. Police and or Front Door Services Kent’. You will find a copy of the amended policy here. I am presuming the school did not contact the Local Authority to establish if this policy could be carried through (I can imagine their reaction!), nor the police who might also just reply that they have better things to do. As for Front Door Services, there is no indication from a website describing their activities that this is an appropriate route either. Presumably the reference to the Police is just a threat, but a very empty one at that and certainly not an appropriate message in a school policy.

The Incident and Government Report
Back in 2017, a parent had serious concerns over how the school reacted to bullying of their son by another, called Boy A in the Report. The matter escalated to the Department of Education because of multiple failures by the school and governors. The DfE issued the Report castigating the school according to the newspaper, which has clearly seen it. I have only read a second hand description of what the Report stated, but have no reason to think it is false. Kent Online published an outline of the issues (which I do consider goes into prurient detail on a sensitive measure when, amongst other concerns, Boy A may also have been at risk).  

In summary, Boy A, who from the reports appears to have serious issues, had been regularly bullying his victim, including alleged sexual threats and exposure. The victim’s mother had reported the bullying to the school which initially failed to take action apart from providing a talk to the relevant children about their ‘private parts’, as other incidents had also taken place. When she pressed the matter, the victim was asked to stand up in front of the class to identify the culprit, a totally unacceptable, almost unbelievable and humiliating action by the school, especially as Boy A was clearly known to them.  Not surprisingly, it appears he refused.

The victim’s mother claims she sent a formal letter of complaint which the school denies having received. The DfE Report then reportedly delivers a wide range of criticisms of the school’s failure to act. In particular: ‘There is no evidence that the school Designated Safeguarding Lead (Mrs. D. Gibbs-Naguar the headteacher) referred the matter to other agencies, recorded their decision making regarding the situation, or monitored the victim's and Child A's behaviour or appearance for any length of time.

Also: ‘The report said it found the school had numerous opportunities to take appropriate action, and that a referral was only made to Kent County Council 15 months from the time of the victim's disclosures and 12 months after his mother's formal complaint. Even then, the referral was found to lack key information - including the name of Child A, that the victim had made separate disclosures, that the disclosures followed previous 'incidents of a sexual nature' and that Child A's behaviour was "sexualised, repeated over time, escalated in nature, and included the threat of physical violence'. Unsurprisingly, the victim has been withdrawn from the school and one can only hope that he has received appropriate support and perhaps protection, needed as a result of Holy Trinity’s failures. The reasons for Child A's extreme actions also give rise to concerns.

The Report then listed a series of elementary Safeguarding actions required to be undertaken, underlining that the school and the Designated Safeguarding Lead had failed badly in their responsibilities. For those not familiar with school procedures, it must be stressed that Safeguarding matters are now rightly at the top of any school’s priorities and, for example, an Inspection will fail a school completely if these are not followed. My own view is that the seriousness of this case should have caused the school’s leaders and governors to consider whether they are suitable for the posts they hold , to be ashamed of what they have allowed and been negligent over, and taken strong disciplinary action where appropriate.

In September 2018, the school received an Ofsted Inspection  whilst the DfE Investigation was presumably in progress, where it was found to be Good: ‘The arrangements for safeguarding are effective…. Pupils and parents state that pupils feel safe. Staff provide good pastoral care and support for pupils and families As such, pupils are confident that any concerns raised will be supported by a trusted adult’. This is surely so far from the reality that Ofsted ought to return to carry out a special Inspection.

The Kentonline article also carries a quotation from the school’s Assistant Headteacher, Mrs L Edwards, the matter being deemed so unimportant that neither the Head nor her Deputy could spare the time to make it. She said: "When we first became aware of the incidents relating to this particular complaint it was discussed by the school's safeguarding team and referred on to the safeguarding team at Kent County Council as is normal protocol. Appropriate safeguarding measures were then put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all pupils going forward. We acknowledge receipt of the subsequent report, the findings of which were also discussed to ensure the appropriate safeguards had been actioned and were effective."  

Try and spot any hint of apology, regret over the events, or even that the DfE Report had any value.

According to the school website:

Welcome to Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity CE Primary School is a wonderfully diverse cultural community which seamlessly embraces and reflects the British values of mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.  This harmony is lived out daily in our lives at school. Our core Christian values of respect, honesty and love are carefully interwoven into all aspects of the curriculum. 


Read 1263 times Last modified on Sunday, 02 February 2020 17:42

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