Ampleforth College: Catholic school in child abuse scandal fails new inspection

The Times [England]

March 9, 2021

By Nicola Woolcock

Ampleforth College, the Catholic school that is banned from taking new pupils after a child sex abuse scandal, has failed another Ofsted inspection.

The school said that the latest findings related to “procedural” issues rather than “horrific abuse”.

Ampleforth initially challenged the findings of an inspection in September before dropping its appeal. In November Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, ordered the North Yorkshire school not to take new pupils.

It was reinspected last month but a report published yesterday said that it still did not meet safeguarding standards, despite much improvement.

Ofsted said that inspectors agreed with two recent audits commissioned by the school that found weaknesses. One of the organisations that conducted the audit is giving daily support to the school, the report said.

Safeguarding arrangements were confusing and overly complex, held in too many places and left vulnerable pupils at risk, the report added. Senior leaders did not share safeguarding concerns with the right people but had shared these inappropriately with third parties. Although there had been improvements, it said it was too soon to see whether these were working.

Ofsted said: “As part of their very recent review of past records, leaders have come across some serious safeguarding concerns that haven’t been reported to the relevant authorities . . . Two external reviews commissioned by the head teacher and undertaken in January 2021 are acting as catalysts for change. After a long period of poor practice, leaders have started very recently to implement the many recommended changes. But these are not fully embedded.”

Robin Dyer, the head, says Ampleforth has dropped its “defensive arrogance” ANDREW MCCAREN FOR THE TIMES
Robin Dyer, the head, says Ampleforth has dropped its “defensive arrogance” ANDREW MCCAREN FOR THE TIMES

It added that the school was starting to acknowledge the accuracy of the earlier report. Staff were undergoing more professional development in safeguarding and had briefings and “five-a-day quizzes to check their understanding”, but accepted that it was a work in progress.

Improvement was the “tip of the iceberg” and came from an “extremely low starting point”. It was the start of a “very long journey for the school”.

Robin Dyer, who took over as headmaster in 2019, told The Times last month that the school had dropped the “defensive arrogance” of the past.

The school is enrolling new pupils for September and is hopeful that the ban will be lifted. It is thought that ministers will make a decision imminently.

In a letter to parents, Ampleforth said the problems highlighted by Ofsted were procedural and that it had invited the regulator to return because of timings for admissions for September. It said: “The college deliberately requested another inspection within a few weeks. In such a short space of time we knew it would not be possible to provide the required level of evidence of changes having been embedded to demonstrate full compliance.

“But we needed Ofsted back so soon because the Department for Education made clear the only basis for revoking the restriction [on new pupils] would be evidence of sufficient progress from Ofsted. Revocation requires a ‘change in circumstances’. We welcome Ofsted’s recognition of the significant progress we have made and confirmation the college has in place the leadership, commitment and platform to embed the improvements.”

The school said that it had taken action to address weaknesses, including commissioning two reviews.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The most recent Ofsted inspection showed the school has made some progress, but not yet enough . . . We will continue to work closely with the school and local authority to secure rapid and sustained improvement, to ensure the welfare of all pupils is protected.”