The Charity Commission has today published a report of its inquiry into St Paul’s School (registered charity number 1119619). The inquiry was opened in June 2014 following the launch of a police investigation into allegations of historic abuse, connected to the schools (see endnote 1) operated by the charity, and concerns arising from 3 reportable incidents in 2013 (see endnote 2). The investigation considered the charity’s handling of safeguarding matters, and examined how the charity dealt with the risks arising from the incidents.
The inquiry concluded that the charity had extensive safeguarding policies which they periodically reviewed, and that the charity’s trustees acted responsibly by taking a number of steps in response to the concerns. These steps included amongst other things commissioning an independent review team (‘IRT’) to review the charity’s safeguarding policies, practice and culture. The IRT identified several examples of good practice at the charity but also made a number of recommendations to assist the trustees in further development of the charity’s safeguarding policies and practice.
The commission’s inquiry noted the good practice at the charity but found some weaknesses in the systems for trustees’ oversight of safeguarding policy and practice in 2013, including the provision of information to the trustees on complaints received and handled by the charity.
The regulator concluded that these weaknesses had the potential to inhibit the trustees’ ability to fully discharge their legal duties or to adequately evidence the discharge of their duties.
The commission made recommendations and provided regulatory advice to the charity to assist the trustees in discharging their legal duties and responsibilities.
The charity has largely implemented an action plan to address the recommendations of both the IRT and the commission.
The commission will continue to monitor the charity’s progress in implementing this action plan and future compliance.
Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations Monitoring and Enforcement at the Charity Commission, says:
Thousands of charities in the UK work with children and young people and provide vital support and services to them. It is essential to public trust and confidence in these charities and their work that they take their responsibilities for the care and wellbeing of children and young people seriously.
Trustees of schools that work with children and young people have specific legal duties under education law about safeguarding and are subject to inspections on this by Ofsted or similar bodies.
As well as their specific duties for safeguarding under education law, charity trustees are also under a duty to act prudently, in the best interests of the charity and discharge their duties in accordance with their duty of care.
This is particularly pertinent in charities that have been subject to allegations or complaints which raise potential safeguarding concerns or risks. In such cases, given the higher risks involved and the sensitivity of such issues, the commission expects trustees to consider what additional steps are necessary beyond basic compliance with other statutory guidance or regulations to satisfy themselves and the commission that they are properly discharging their duty of care under charity law.
The full report is available on GOV.UK.
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission is the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public’s interest, to ensure that:
- charities know what they have to do
- the public know what charities do
- charities are held to account
- The commission had been engaging with the charity’s trustees as part of an operational compliance case since May 2014, after becoming aware of 3 police arrests (see endnote 3) and the police investigation (see endnote 4) into allegations of non-recent abuse connected to the schools operated by the charity. The case was escalated to inquiry on 11 June 2014 after consideration of the trustees’ response and liaison with other statutory agencies.
- The commission does not investigate allegations of abuse or actual incidents of abuse, whether historic or recent, nor does it administer child protection legislation. Anyone with concerns about specific incidents of alleged abuses, whether historic or recent, for any charity, should report their concerns to the police and the relevant safeguarding authorities. As charity law regulator, the commission’s role is limited to ensuring that trustees whose charities work with vulnerable beneficiaries act in the best interests of the charity and comply with their legal duties under charity law, including their duty of prudence. The commission’s approach to dealing with safeguarding issues is set out in its ‘Strategy for dealing with safeguarding issues in charities’.
- Read more in the commission’s guidance for charity trustees on safeguarding children and young people.
- In addition to operating St Pauls School, the charity also operates Colet Court - a preparatory school.
- The 3 reportable incidents although posing a potential safeguarding risk did not relate to allegations of sexual abuse. Statutory safeguarding guidance requires incidents which meet certain criteria are reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer. The charity is also required to report serious incidents to the commission.
- One individual was at that time a teacher at Colet Court, the preparatory school operated by the charity. He has since been sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, after pleading guilty to 6 counts of possessing indecent images of children.
- The police investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service is known as Operation Winthorpe.