‘Pants On Fire’ Redux
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on more hide-and-seek from North Yorkshire County Council’s pyrobraccaephile-in-residence.
I report now on the matter of my request to NYCC’s Corporate Director: Children & Young People’s Services (CYPS), Mr Pete DWYER, for information, dated 17th February 2017 (reminder sent 11th March 2017):
“Have you made, or are you aware of any other agency or agencies having made a referral (or referrals) to the National College of Teaching & Leadership and/or to the Disclosure & Barring Service in connection with a member (or members) of staff at either Richmond School or Caedmon College Whitby (the latter, either in its present form or as Whitby Community College) during the time period beginning with the appointments of Mr ROBERTSON and Mr PRYTHERCH, respectively? If so, please provide a transparent account thereof, extending at least to identifying how many such cases at each of the named schools. Thank you.”
On the last available day for a lawful response (17/03/17), Mr DWYER’s Business Support Manager Ms Marion SADLER emailed me as follows:
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: FOI Request N2183 – Referrals question
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2017 09:09:18 +0000
From: cypsfoi <email@example.com>
I write in response to your email of 17 February addressed to Mr Dwyer in which you request information as follows:
“Have you made, or are you aware of any other agency or agencies having made a referral (or referrals) to the National College of Teaching & Leadership and/or to the Disclosure & Barring Service in connection with a member (or members) of staff at either Richmond School or Caedmon College Whitby (the latter, either in its present form or as Whitby Community College) during the time period beginning with the appointments of Mr ROBERTSON and Mr PRYTHERCH, respectively? If so, please provide a transparent account thereof, extending at least to identifying how many such cases at each of the named schools.”
We are unable to provide you with specific numbers of said referrals to NCTL or DBS as these are so low that we feel it may lead to the identification of individuals. We are therefore withholding this information under section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which exempts personal information from disclosure if disclosure would breach one or more principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. In this case we consider that disclosure would breach the first principle, namely that personal information must be fairly and lawfully processed and must meet one of the conditions for processing as provided by schedule 2 of the Act. In this case we consider that the disclosure would be unfair and unlawful and none of the conditions for processing would be met and have only disclosed that there are fewer than five in total.
Please find attached the Council’s appeals procedure for your information.
Business Support Manager (Leadership Support – Children and Young People’s Service)
Was it really the intention of those who drafted the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to ensure that the identity of offenders (whose transgressions were sufficiently serious as to necessitate reports to the NCTL and the DBS) should remain secret?
Is the public really not entitled to know that their trust has been breached in such extreme degree?
Can it really be fair, just and equitable that a single mum caught shop-lifting a packet of nappies can have her name splashed all over the local papers, but a teacher who risks the safety of a child can crawl away under a blanket of secrecy provided by the LEA’s cynical manipulation of the Freedom of Information Act?
Not in my opinion.
Setting aside the fully anticipated invocation of the exemption clauses to avoid disclosing information of obvious public interest, there is something very significant to be gleaned from this email. Namely, that despite the high volume of Safeguarding issues, CYPS is claiming that the number of NYCC teachers and supporting staff held to account is so small (less than five) that even to disclose that total number of referrals would risk identifying specific individuals.
In practice, very few transgressors are ever held to account or suffer any sanctions or penalties for their wrongdoing.
So let us examine Marion SADLER’s response on Pete DWYER’s behalf a little more closely.
Caedmon College Whitby’s Headteacher Mr Keith PRYTHERCH’s appointment began in September 2007 (when the school was called Whitby Community College).
Richmond School’s Headteacher Mr Ian ROBERTSON’s appointment began in January 2010.
Thus, the timeframe of my request covers some ten years in the case of Mr PRYTHERCH and seven in the case of Mr ROBERTSON.
According to Ms Marion SADLER, CYPS and Pete DWYER “have only disclosed that there are fewer than five [referrals] in total”.
“Fewer than five” can only mean one, two, three or a maximum of four referrals in that period.
Pants on Fire
In the light of the foregoing, few readers will evince surprise at the following information, freely available in the public domain.
On 8th April 2014, an article appeared on the SimplyChildSafe website entitled “North Yorkshire tops list of child serious incident reports”, referencing entries in the National Archives, here.
North Yorkshire County Council had the worst record in the country as regards Serious Incident Notifications.
The article was published on the back of the OfSTED April 2012 to March 2013 statistics recording NINE Serious Incident Notifications in North Yorkshire.
When Pete DWYER was appointed to the position of Corporate Director: Children & Young People’s Services for North Yorkshire in April 2013 – immediately following that chart-topping failure of the previous year – the Yorkshire Post reported:
“Pete Dwyer, who has been appointed as the head of the directorate at North Yorkshire County Council, admitted abuse against children was prevalent in often isolated communities and difficult to detect, but stressed he will be focusing heavily on tackling the problem.”
And, sure enough, under the searing beam of Pete DWYER “focusing heavily on tackling the problem”, the number of Serious Incident Notifications from North Yorkshire were recorded in the OfSTED April 2013 to March 2014 statistics as – wait for it – ZERO. My word! That Pete DWYER must be some kind of miracle worker. Once he arrived on the scene, nobody behaved badly again. Bravo!
It has long been my contention that the trick to keeping OfSTED Reports free of any reputational damage to schools under Inspection – especially reputational damage contingent upon negative criticism of Safeguarding performance – is simply not to record Safeguarding issues at all, thus keeping OfSTED in the dark. That is one way of “tackling the problem”.
Of course, it is also possible that potential offenders were deterred by Pete DWYER’s appointment and simply stopped offending once he came on the scene – which can only be to his credit.
Whatever the explanation, clearly Her Majesty’s Inspector Debbie REDSHAW’s recent Inspections at Richmond School and Caedmon College Whitby found no cause for alarm regarding Safeguarding standards.
Of course, had HMI REDSHAW been aware of any on-going investigations at the Department for Education or the National College of Teaching & Leadership, her Report may have been less benign.
Having solicited some inside information from my Northallerton sources, I found myself increasingly suspicious that certain very serious allegations of Safeguarding failures already known to Pete DWYER may not have been reported to OfSTED ahead of HMI REDSHAW’s Inspection of Richmond School on 17th/18th January 2017.
So I decided to seek confirmation from the man himself:
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Richmond School – clarification request
Date: Sat, 27 May 2017 09:19:36 +0100
CC: Marion.Sadler@northyorks.gov.uk, Barry.Khan@northyorks.gov.uk
Mr Pete DWYER – Corporate Director: Children & Young People’s Services – NYCC
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Could I ask you, please, to clarify the following points for me? Thank you.
1) Please confirm (or deny) that, within the past few months, findings of managerial inadequacy at Richmond School have been made by the Department for Education.
2) Please confirm (or deny) that related matters, also at Richmond School, are presently the subject of scrutiny by the National College of Teaching & Leadership.
I emphasize the importance of you maintaining the highest standard of honesty in your response.
Note the date upon which I sent the above email – 27th May 2017; not twenty working days ago, but thirty.
At the time of submitting this article for publication, I have received no response from Pete DWYER. But I do know, from impeccable sources, that all three recipients, i.e. Pete DWYER, his Business Support Manager Ms Marion SADLER and Director of Legal & Democratic Services Mr Barry KHAN, have all studied and discussed the contents of my email ad nauseam – and cannot bring themselves to provide a straightforward response to a straightforward question.
When I do receive a response – if I do – I will make it available to higher authority.
If I do not receive a response from Pete DWYER, I will be making certain information public.