Ampleforth College: Damning new Ofsted report finds sexual activity between vulnerable pupils, 'monks of concern' and Class A drug use

North Yorkshire public school Ampleforth College has been heavily criticised by Ofsted in a report from their latest inspection published today.

Inspectors who visited the Roman Catholic boarding school in Ryedale last November rated it Inadequate in the safeguarding category, and Good in all other areas.

However they detailed a number of concerning incidents including the lack of headteacher's veto over 'monks of concern' living in neighbouring Ampleforth Abbey, sexual activity between unsupervised vulnerable pupils, Class A drug use, and even a 2.30am 'breakout' by a group of sixth formers who held a party in the nearby countryside which ended up with one being found unconscious in an orchard and another hospitalised.

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Extracts from the report, which has been made publicly available, include:-

Ampleforth College

- The arrangements to safeguard pupils, including the most vulnerable, at Ampleforth College remain ineffective. There have been some improvements to the school’s safeguarding arrangements since the previous inspection in March 2021. Most, but not all, pupils say that they feel safe. However, pupils are at risk of harm. 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 process to separate the administration of the school from the abbey remains in progress. Information technology and telephone systems are still in the process of separation. During the inspection, leaders updated the school’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) registration with the information commissioner’s office and removed Ampleforth Abbey Trust as the data controller.

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- Discussions about turning the symbolic, low-level boundary marker between the school and the abbey into an effective physical boundary continue.

- At the time of the last inspection, in March 2021, the headteacher had a veto over which monks could/could not reside at the abbey. This agreement is no longer in place. This means that there is now little that leaders can do if the abbot decides to admit monks of concern onto the Ampleforth Abbey site. Monks of concern would include those who have been accused, and any found guilty of, child sexual abuse in the past and any who are under investigation currently. At the time of the inspection, an information-sharing protocol was being negotiated between the school and the abbey. This draft protocol stipulates that safeguarding information should be shared between the abbey and the school, but it does not include a headteacher’s veto.

- All visitors to the school, including the nine monks who are chaplains and/or teachers, must sign in and wear a lanyard. The colour of the lanyard indicates whether the visitor must be accompanied or not while on the school’s site, depending on the level of risk posed. Unfortunately, some younger pupils do not know what to do if a monk who should be accompanied is unaccompanied on the school site. These younger pupils described all monks as ‘trusted’ adults.

- Whistle-blowers, who are worried that pupils are not safe, contacted Ofsted before and after the inspection about the following serious safeguarding incident. On their last day of school, 81 Year 13 students left their individual boarding houses at 2.30am. Leaders told inspectors that students were frustrated because they were unable to have a graduation party due to COVID-19 restrictions. Having disabled locks and alarms, they took a pre-planned route, carefully avoiding CCTV cameras, to an agreed destination. These unsupervised students consumed alcohol that had been brought onto site in secret. One student was found unconscious and alone in an orchard. Another student was hospitalised because of excess alcohol consumption. At the same time, leaders located, and alerted police to, Class A drugs found on the school’s site. 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. Since this incident, leaders have started to use sniffer dogs and thermal-imaging cameras to prevent any recurrences. On another occasion, very recently, some younger pupils with identified SEND engaged in penetrative sexual activity during the school day while not supervised sufficiently well. This sexual activity was witnessed by one of their peers. The school’s staff knew of risk factors in relation to these children. They did not take proper account of the information they had when organising changing facilities for 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.

- Despite these significant failings, there have been some improvements to the arrangements for safeguarding since the previous inspection in March 2021. The school’s safeguarding team has been strengthened with the appointment of a new designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and two new deputy designated safeguarding leads. The DSL continues to test out staff’s understanding of safeguarding training with five-a-week quizzes. When serious incidents occur, the DSL and his team make referrals to appropriate external agencies, such as the police and the local authority. The school continues to commission and rely on external support for safeguarding. At the time of the progress monitoring inspection in March 2021, 599 online records relating to pupils who have left the school had not been checked to ascertain the extent of poor recording and misreporting of safeguarding incidents. The DSL has now checked these historical entries and, as a result, made several safeguarding referrals to the appropriate agencies.

In November 2020 the school, which was founded by an order of Benedictine monks, was banned from admitting new pupils by the government, though this was later lifted. The management agreed to implement changes such as appointing new trustees with no prior connection to the school, which has now been done.

An inquiry into child sexual abuse at the school that concluded in 2018 found there was a widespread culture of tolerance of the behaviour and that the monks of Ampleforth Abbey were “evasive” with police and social services when suspicions were raised about members of the order.

The new leadership has since removed several staff from their posts and initially banned monks from unsupervised visits to the school.The report can be read here.

Statement from Ampleforth College

"Ofsted has published an inspection report on Ampleforth College today. We welcome Ofsted’s conclusions on the good quality of education, behaviours and attitudes, our sixth form provision, personal development and pastoral care. We are deeply disappointed by their conclusions on safeguarding and consequently on leadership and management.

"The College welcomes the guidance of Ofsted and maintains a strong desire for a constructive working relationship with the regulator. We have always accepted its recommendations and worked to correct any failings identified and will continue to do so. However, in this case, the College and those advising us, have been obliged to conclude that Ofsted's report contains substantive factual inaccuracies which undermine its conclusions about our safeguarding and leadership.

"Ampleforth College has been on a relentless drive to transform safeguarding policies, practices and culture. Since the end of 2020 we have commissioned the support of external safeguarding experts to help us put sector-leading procedures in place. We recruited three experienced safeguarding staff (from the police, social services, and another school); strengthened our trustees through the appointments which increased safeguarding expertise and reinforced independence, and commissioned four external audits by safeguarding professionals over this period. We were also inspected by Ofsted four times and accepted their recommendations on each occasion.

"Importantly, the independent audits found us to be open and transparent with a strong safeguarding culture. Two Ofsted surveys found 100% of our parents felt their child to be safe and happy in the school. Their survey of students found 99.6% felt safe. The statutory safeguarding agencies we work with locally - police, children’s services, and Health - are happy with what we are doing to safeguard and promote the welfare of our students. Ofsted itself has acknowledged the progress we have made. Other, leading boarding schools have visited us to learn from our safeguarding practices. It is deeply regrettable that Ofsted has reached different conclusions.

"We have used and are continuing to use Ofsted’s procedures to demonstrate that the information relied upon to underpin their conclusions is factually inaccurate. Unfortunately, our steps to ensure accuracy have been received by Ofsted as a failure on our part to accept responsibility. It is with great reluctance and regret that we find ourselves compelled into this response but we cannot stand publicly behind a report containing ill-founded conclusions and we will continue to do everything in our power to demonstrate to Ofsted the need to revisit their assessment in the light of the evidence already in their possession.

"Ofsted’s conclusions rest on four cases or issues. In each instance, Ofsted’s report contains factual inaccuracies and draws judgements which are not substantiated by the evidence base.

"Ofsted describe a case of two students who engaged in ‘penetrative’ sexual activity, despite being contrary to the statements of those involved and a witness. The police report states ‘no implication of penetration’ and ‘no further action for police’. The witness described ‘a three second incident in which both [students] were laughing’. A third student was in the room.

"Ofsted states that students were not supervised sufficiently well. They were getting changed for sport and in line with usual safeguarding procedures staff are not allowed in a room while students change. Staff were on duty in the corridor outside the changing room. Ofsted also says the school knew the risk factors around these children and that our risk assessments were insufficient. However, nothing in the previous behaviour of the students known to the school suggested there was a risk of physical sexual behaviour. There was, as it happens, relevant information in the hands of the statutory agencies which was not shared with the school until after the event.

"Ofsted say the special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) is not sufficiently involved in safeguarding decisions. The College provided Ofsted with many examples of expert input from our Special Educational Needs (SEN) team on safeguarding issues concerning pupils with SEN.

"In the case of the Year 13 incident, Ofsted implies this was brought to their attention by whistle- blowers whereas the school fully reported to the appropriate agency that same day and immediately undertook an exercise to learn lessons. Ofsted’s assertion that a student was missing for an hour and was unconscious in an orchard is simply incorrect. 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.

"In recognition that this was the Year 13 students’ last night at school and there had been some frustrations about Covid restrictions, boarding House staff stayed up until 1.30am and were on duty all night. Established and maintained security procedures were in place including on-site security personnel, CCTV alarm systems, security stays on windows and other security devices. The students planned and co-ordinated their departure from the boarding houses after 2am, and damaged or disabled the security systems in order to evade detection. This is a matter of great regret and they were disciplined in a manner which reflected the seriousness of the incident. Long before Ofsted’s inspection, the school commissioned and had implemented additional security measures.

"The Ofsted report implies there have been multiple cases where the school has failed to follow statutory guidance when a member of staff is dismissed. This is not correct. This is founded on a single case. In line with statutory and local authority guidance, the senior leadership team consulted the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and, with the LADO’s support, decided not to refer the member of staff to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) until the relevant employment related process was complete. There was no question of the member of staff in question applying for another job in education in the meantime as this would require a reference and full disclosure from the College. Ofsted disagrees with the school and the LADO’s assessment. The College had consulted the LADO for external specialist statutory guidance so they could responsibly discharge their safeguarding obligations. It is hard to reconcile this with Ofsted’s criticism of senior leaders not accepting responsibility for safeguarding.

"Ofsted say that the College safeguarding is inadequate because the arrangements agreed between the College and the nearby Ampleforth Abbey had changed. They conclude that this means monks found guilty of child sexual abuse could live in the neighbouring monastery. This is incorrect. In line with arrangements put in place in recent years, the School and the Abbey have become two separate institutions with delineated sites and marked boundaries. This separation is monitored and controlled by CCTV, fences, risk assessments, a robust Visitor Policy, and security personnel. The monastic community is subject to regulatory oversight and concerns about any person implicated in misconduct is a matter for determination between the monastic community, its Charitable Trustees and statutory regulators. All resident monks have enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service clearance (a requirement of the Catholic Church for any monk in ministry). Nine of the monks at Ampleforth Abbey work in the College as Chaplains. They have gone through all the usual checks for staff required by safer recruitment regulations. Like all other visitors to the school, monks who are not members of staff must register at Reception, wear a specifically coloured lanyard and be accompanied by an authorised member of staff at all times.

"The College has no right to control who lives in the nearby monastic community. However, to make safeguarding as robust as possible, the College has agreed a draft Safeguarding Protocol with the Abbey and enlisted the support of local statutory agencies to maximise the effectiveness of these measures. The draft Protocol, which is in operation and was at the time of the inspection, sets out that both the school and North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NYSCP) will be informed of any possibility of a monk about whom there is a safeguarding concern living in the Abbey and will be able to make representations before any decision is made. Decisions will also be informed by external professional advice and risk assessments. This places the College in a far more informed and influential position than any other school where there is a risk of adults of concern residing or working nearby. Through this Protocol, we know there are no monks currently subject to a police investigation or without a current enhanced DBS check in place living at Ampleforth Abbey.

"It would not be possible for any monks found guilty of child sexual abuse to return to the Abbey. First, the consequence of such a finding is that they would be laicised and are no longer monks. Second, the protocol requires any returning monk to be risk assessed. No person convicted of child sexual abuse would receive a positive risk assessment. In addition, the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) process enables the Police, Probation Service and others to assess and manage risks posed by MAPPA eligible offenders.

Commenting on the report’s publication, headteacher Robin Dyer said: “We are deeply disappointed that Ofsted should have produced a report based on a number of incorrectassumptions 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."