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Ampleforth acting head stands down after damning report

Ampleforth College (Ampleforth College)

The report found that the prestigious school is still failing to meet safeguarding requirements

The acting director of Ampleforth College, Deirdre Rowe, is stepping down after just ten months in her current role.

A highly critical inspection report found that the prestigious Catholic private school continues not to meet standards for safeguarding and leadership, and faces problems in the areas of behaviour, bullying, and complaints.

The school has educated some of England’s most noteworthy Catholics, including actors Rupert Everett and James Norton, and writer Lord Fellowes, who created Downton Abbey. Ampleforth’s former abbot, Basil Hume, was appointed Archbishop of Westminster in 1976.

The Department for Education called for an unannounced Progress Monitoring Visit in May to check on the status of issues found in a November visit to the college.

The Tablet reports that Ampleforth was found to not have implemented safeguarding policies effectively by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

“It does not identify the different responses required for behavioural concerns and safeguarding concerns, particularly with reference to bullying and peer-on-peer abuse and the potential danger stemming from the misuse of internet messaging,” the report said.

Ampleforth also was found not to have implemented reforms to its leadership and management previously recommended to them in earlier reports.

“Incidents involving the physical abuse of pupils are not always recognised as a potential bullying or safeguarding concerns, and at times have been recorded only as poor behaviour,” the report said. “In addition, appropriate referrals to the police or to the local safeguarding authorities are not always made in a timely manner.”

The report made note of a December 2018 incident in which a “serious safeguarding issue arose” when “the school’s leadership took advice from the Interim Director of Safeguarding who advised immediate referral to the police and North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board (NYSCB). This advice was not followed and it was not referred to the police until 3 January 2019  and even later to the NYSCB.”

The school’s decision, the ISI found, “put a child at risk.”

The report also found that “Serious incidents of peer-on-peer abuse are not always treated according to the safeguarding policy or the required procedures followed” and that a cause for concern was that “the welfare of the victim is not always prioritised.”

The school was found to have violated its own complaints policy when it failed to communicate with a parent in the appropriate response time the policy established.

The report found that “Members of the senior leadership team within the college do not demonstrate good skills and knowledge and have not always fulfilled their responsibilities effectively since the previous inspection in November 2018, and thus do not consistently promote the well-being of pupils.”

In a comment to The Tablet, an Ampleforth spokesperson said: “We have recognised that a small number of incidents, where our robust policies have not been followed, have led to the judgement from the inspectors that we have not yet met all of the required standards. Each incident has been, or is being, investigated and addressed with the authorities and the students and parents involved.”

Deirdre Rowe was appointed in August 2018 due to her background in child protection. She previously served for five years as the College’s Designated Safeguarding Lead.

Rowe will continue to serve until the next acting head takes office.

Ampleforth is expected to have four headteachers in one year after the naming of a new acting head who will start by September 2019 and a permanent head expected to be announced by the end of the year.