Sex, booze and drugs uncovered at private school after DfE lifts intervention

Ampleforth College branded 'inadequate' by Ofsted after repeated safeguarding failures uncovered

Ampleforth College branded 'inadequate' by Ofsted after repeated safeguarding failures uncovered

17 Mar 2022, 13:31

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Ampleforth College

The Department for Education has ruled out immediate intervention against a high-profile private school despite Ofsted uncovering more shocking safeguarding failures.

A damning Ofsted report found vulnerable pupils “engaged in penetrative sexual activity during the school day” at the £37,905-a-year Ampleforth College, previously at the centre of an historic child abuse inquiry.

The Ofsted report, published yesterday, reveals one pupil was hospitalised for “excess alcohol consumption” while another was found “unconscious and alone in an orchard” after 81 pupils snuck out of their dorms to stage a secret booze-fuelled party.

At the same time Class A drugs were discovered on the school site.

Inspectors also found a risk that “monks of concern” were able to be on the school site “without the knowledge of the headteacher”.

The new findings pose questions for ministers, who had dropped previous intervention measures at the school despite ongoing safeguarding concerns.

Government ordered the school cease to admit new students in 2020 after an emergency inspection by Ofsted found the school was failing to meet safeguarding standards.

The was lifted in April last year, despite Ofsted inspectors flagging continuing safeguarding concerns.

But in a new report, published four months after the inspection in November, the North Yorkshire boarding school has been rated ‘inadequate’.

The school claims the watchdog’s findings contain “factual inaccuracies”. Headteacher Robin Dyer said it has made “repeated attempts to correct the facts before the report was published”.

The school, known as the ‘Catholic Eton’, was previously at the centre of a historic child abuse which found decades of “appalling sexual abuse” inflicted on children as young seven.

A DfE spokesperson said it has asked the school to prepare a new action plan by the end of March. It “will consider whether any further enforcement action may be necessary in light of the school’s new plan”.

DfE intervention dropped despite concerns

The DfE lifted its pupil ban despite an Ofsted monitoring report the same month warning of a spate of recent safeguarding incidents.

The DfE said enforcement action was dropped because the school had “committed to a formal action plan to sustain a strong safeguarding culture and meet the independent school standards in full” by its autumn Ofsted inspection.

The school failed to meet this commitment.

The report published this week states the school’s safeguarding arrangements “remain ineffective”.

Whistleblowers told Ofsted they feared for pupils’ safety after 81 Year 13 pupils left their boarding houses at 2.30am on their final day to stage an unofficial graduation party.

Pupils disabled locks and alarms and took a route which avoided CCTV cameras to an agreed destination where they consumed alcohol which had been smuggled onto the site, the report stated.

One student was found unconscious and alone in an orchard,” inspectors said. “Another student was hospitalised because of excess alcohol consumption.”

Ofsted ruled staff who were “alert to the possibility of end-of-term celebrations were not sufficiently vigilant” and “did not take action to prevent these dangerous behaviours”.

Ampleforth said that the pupil was not unconscious and while traces of Class A drugs were found “there was no evidence of drugs being consumed”.

It added the secret party was a “matter of great regret” and additional safety measures had been introduced “long before Ofsted’s inspection”.

SEND pupils had sex in front of classmate

Ofsted also identified an occasion “very recently” where “younger pupils with identified SEND engaged in penetrative sexual activity during the school day while not supervised sufficiently well”.

The activity was witnessed by one of their peers and inspectors found school staff “knew of risk factors in relation to these children”. Yet they “did not take proper account of the information they had when organising changing facilities” for PE lessons.

Risk assessments were “insufficient” and staff “remain unsure about how to protect vulnerable children who show overly sexualised behaviours”.

The school say no sex took place and that a police report found “no implication of penetration”. Instead, it states that a witness described “a three second incident in which both [students] were laughing”.

Leaders also moved to deny Ofsted’s finding that “monks of concern”, defined as those accused or found guilty of any child sexual abuse, could still live at the adjoining abbey.

While the school has “no right to control who lives in the nearby monastic community”, it has a safeguarding protocol in place which it could confirm there are “no monks currently subject to a police investigation or without a current enhanced DBS check in place living at Ampleforth Abbey”.

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