The chief inspector of schools in England asked for more powers to monitor independent schools over ‘potential safeguarding issues’ but was ignored by ministers, it emerged today.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman wrote to the Department for Education from 2018 to 2019 to complain that her organisation was unable to effectively scrutinise the work of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
The body inspects the vast majority of independent schools, including elite public schools such as Dulwich College and Westminster that have been at the centre of a ‘rape culture’ scandal involving thousands of allegations of sexual abuse.
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman wrote to the Department for Education from 2018 to 2019 to complain that her organisation was unable to effectively scrutinise the work of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)
Emailed obtained the Guardian show that, in 2018, Spielman told the DfE that Ofsted had not been able to properly monitor the ISI’s inspections of private schools because of official restrictions.
The dispute rumbled on until 2019, when then schools minister Lord Agnew told Spielman that Ofsted’s oversight role over ISI inspections would be instead taken over by the DfE.
Around 80% of private school pupils in England fall under the ISI’s regime, which covers institutions belonging to the Independent Schools Council, a representative body made up of several different ‘associations’.
One of these is the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which dates back to 1869 and includes the traditional public schools, including Eton and St Paul’s.
They, along with hundreds of other schools both private and independent, have been named on the Everyone’s Invited website, which documents anonymous complaints of sexual harassment and assault.
In November 2018 Spielman wrote to education secretary Damien Hinds to complain about Ofsted not being allowed to properly oversee the ISI’s work.
“I am therefore concerned that, while many inspections are doubtless carried out to a high standard, the system is not currently configured so that any problems can be spotted and tackled, for example regarding potential safeguarding issues in the schools,” she wrote.
The body inspects the vast majority of independent schools, including elite public schools such as Westminster (pictured)
Spielman said that “as a minimum” Ofsted should be allowed to conduct “unannounced on-site monitoring visits” and “carry out termly safeguarding-focused checks’ to verify that any safeguarding issues identified by the ISI were being followed up on.
A series of email exchanges followed.
Then, in November 2019, Lord Agnew told to Spielman that Ofsted would have only an minor part in overseeing ISI.
“I expect that the Department of Education’s own monitoring of ISI’s reports and information provided directly by ISI, should allow the secretary of state to fulfil this role,” he wrote.
Former cabinet minister Maria Miller has demanded Ofsted be drafted in to lead an independent probe into the allegations.
The Tory MP, who was chair of of the Commons women and equalities committee when it published a report detailing harrowing findings of abuse five years ago, said it appeared nothing had changed.
Ms Miller said that while the Government had accepted many of her committee’s recommendations, schools appeared to be failing to implement new guidelines which had followed its 2016 report.
‘What I think now, very strongly, is we need to have Ofsted do a deep dive on the issue of the handling of sexual harassment in schools,’ she told The Guardian.
It came as the head of the headteachers’ union called on parents and social media companies to do more to tackle ‘rape culture’ rather than leaving it all up to schools.
Around 80% of private school pupils in England fall under the ISI’s regime, including Dulwich
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said parents, said many incidents of sexual harassment happened at parties outside schools beyond the reach of teachers.
And he argued that many of the allegations on websites such as Everyone’s Invited were sex crimes that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system.
He said: ‘The testimonies posted on the Everyone’s Invited website are utterly horrifying and the behaviour described is not only unacceptable but in many cases constitutes a serious sexual offence.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said parents, said many incidents of sexual harassment happened at parties outside schools
‘Media reporting of these testimonies has focused on the role of schools. In fact, these testimonies involve young people, in schools and universities, in a wide variety of circumstances, often outside school premises in settings such as parties.
‘This is not to minimise the vital responsibility of schools in tackling sexual violence and sexual harassment, and instilling good values in young people and respect for one another. Our experience is that schools work very hard on all aspects of safeguarding, and take these matters extremely seriously.
‘However, it is also clear that this is a wider issue than what happens in schools. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about how they behave towards others.’
He also called on social media giants to start policing the content on their platforms.
‘Social media companies have a responsibility to take more care about how their platforms are used,’ he said.
‘The criminal justice system has a responsibility to show young people that it can be trusted to prosecute and bring to justice sexual offenders.’
It came as primary schools were the latest to become embroiled in the ‘rape culture’ storm after former pupils posted claims of sexual assaults.
Everyone’s Invited, on which thousands of older children have reported harassment and abuse now has allegations involving pupils as young as five.
The 11,000-plus claims include one alleged assault by a child at the £22,000-a-year Fulham Preparatory School in west London.
Mr Barton said: ‘Social media companies have a responsibility to take more care about how their platforms are used’
Head teachers have urged anonymous victims to come forward and speak to teachers so they can respond, saying staff were struggling to ‘act effectively’ because many of the testimonies have no named victim, aggressor or date.
In addition, the leader of the secondary school head teachers’ union said schools alone should not bear the burden of dealing with the issue, as much of the abuse detailed happened away from school premises, such as at parties.
The latest claims involving primary pupils included one which read: ‘In Year Four I had to change school because this older boy in Year Seven who was [on] my school bus was harassing me.
‘He tried to apologise by offering me a Haribo. A couple [of] weeks later I told my mum – I was so young and clueless of the situation that I thought it was because he liked me because he thought I was pretty, how naïve.’
The alleged victim claimed Fulham Prep, where the boy was a pupil, did ‘very little’ when her family reported it.
Another former pupil at an unnamed Roman Catholic primary school told how a boy would ‘try and stick pencils and his hands’ up her skirt.
And an ex-student at Meersbrook Bank Primary in Sheffield told of ‘years of sexual abuse during primary school between the ages of five and ten’ by older boys.
They subjected her to ‘kissing, genital touching and manipulation’ but she was afraid of ‘snitching’ on them.
The allegations follow an explosion of claims against pupils of top private secondary schools, including Dulwich College and Highgate School.
Pupils stage a protest against rape culture at Highgate School in London
Yesterday, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents heads at such schools, urged victims to make themselves known to schools so teachers can provide support.
General secretary Dr Simon Hyde said: ‘Our members are listening and willing to act, but it is more difficult to act effectively on anonymised allegations, and we urge those affected to seek support and redress through their schools.’
In response to the allegations, Fulham Prep head teacher Neill Lunnon told the Telegraph the school takes safeguarding ‘incredibly seriously’.
He added: ‘We fully support the open dialogue that is currently taking place in the media about sexual assault and harassment.
‘We are fully committed to doing our part in educating our children about what is acceptable and what is not.’
Gemma Harvey, head teacher at Meersbrook Bank, said: ‘We do not tolerate abuse of any kind.
‘We have robust safeguarding policies to protect our children and maintain clear and effective procedures for reporting any incidents.’
The ISI said: ‘Ofsted and ISI have remained in regular contact over the past year, with fortnightly meetings which include the DfE, and have continued a constructive working relationship. This has included discussing approaches to restarting inspection so that it can be sufficiently aligned across the independent sector.
‘Ofsted inspects independent schools which are not members of ISC associations. Both ISI and Ofsted inspect against the Independent School Standards, which are set out in legislation, and statutory guidance on safeguarding.’
MailOnline has contacted Ofsted for comment.
I was attacked by Eton boy, says claims dossier activist
By Lizzie Deane and Josh White
Zan Moon wrote open letter to headteachers of eight schools over ‘serious misogynistic culture’ that ‘thrives’ in their institutions
The organiser of a dossier of sexual abuse allegations against boys at top private schools has told of being assaulted by an Eton pupil.
Zan Moon, 24, wrote an open letter to the headteachers of eight leading schools over the ‘serious misogynistic culture’ that ‘thrives’ in their institutions.
Miss Moon, a former pupil at girls’ private school Benenden in Kent, said she was overwhelmed with responses after asking for testimonies on Instagram from females who had been harassed and assaulted by private schoolboys.
She compiled 95 harrowing accounts, including her own in which she detailed how she was assaulted by an Eton boy when she was 15. She told the Mail: ‘I was at a party with a bunch of Eton boys.
Someone had rented accommodation for a party on a beach with no parents for the whole weekend.
‘There was nowhere to go – we were sort of trapped in this house. One of the boys made a beeline for me and I tried to escape the room. He followed me out and grabbed me by the neck and choked me.’
She said he then indecently assaulted her and pestered her for the rest of the night.
Miss Moon added: ‘That’s five to seven hours of him relentlessly trying and me continuously saying I didn’t want to. All of the boys there were just being complicit in that and seeing what was happening.’
She said she did not take the incident to Benenden, Eton or police at the time, adding: ‘We weren’t really educated on what sexual assault was.’
Miss Moon, who now works for the Prince’s Trust youth charity, said there was ‘definitely’ a coverup culture at schools, stressing: ‘It just seems the priority was always to uphold their reputation.’
Pictured: Eton College says it insists that all its pupils treat others with kindness, decency and respect and has condemned criminal behaviour which it says ‘has no place in society’
She insisted there had been ‘multiple people’ who complained to schools but headteachers had not acted.
Her dossier also contains allegations from female students at Bristol and Exeter universities.
Miss Moon’s letter said chauvinism ‘runs deep within the environment of private boys’ schools’. She added: ‘It is finally coming to attention how boys from the most elite schools and universities have mistreated girls for years and somehow got away with it. This ends now.’
An Eton spokesman said: ‘Criminal behaviour of this kind has no place in society. Eton always takes specific allegations such as this extremely seriously.
‘Eton insists that all our pupils treat others with kindness, decency and respect.’
Some 11,000 allegations have now been made by school pupils on the Everyone’s Invited website. At least two top private schools have called in police.