HMC statement in response to unfair Sunday Times child abuse allegations 15.01.17

15 January 2017
Posted by Heidi Salmons

Mike Buchanan, Chair of HMC which represents some of the schools involved, said:

"The first duty of all adults working with children is to keep them safe. Any abuse is deplorable and abusers should face the full force of the justice system.

“School cultures have changed in recent years in light of what society has learnt about child protection. It is now seen as everyone’s responsibility and top priority, staff codes of conduct are a requirement and there is more rigorous scrutiny.

“Procedures for investigating allegations are independently set and inspected. Heads must report them immediately and from that point their hands are tied. They want to give unequivocal support to any alleged victims and be entirely open with parents and other schools, but they are understandably restricted by the law and local authority guidance which often determines who can be informed about any allegation.

“They also have to balance their duty to care for the accused staff member. Whilst schools normally highlight any ongoing concerns in a reference, they have to respect that anyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Schools are constantly looking to learn and share best practice across and the HMC Spring Conference will focus on this.”

  • Jonathan West

    “Procedures for investigating allegations are independently set and inspected. Heads must report them immediately and from that point their hands are tied.”

    It’s a sad day when the chair of the HMC shows himself not to know the law on child protection.

    In July 2016 the Home Office launched a public consultation “Reporting and acting on
    child abuse and neglect”. The following paragraph was included in the Home Office consultation document.

    “There is currently no general legal requirement on those working with children to report either known or suspected child abuse or neglect. Statutory guidance, however, is very clear that those who work with children and families should report to the local authority children’s social care immediately if they think a child may have been or is likely to be abused or neglected. While statutory guidance does not impose an absolute legal requirement to comply, it does require practitioners and organisations to take it into account and, if they depart from it, to have clear reasons for doing so.”

    So there’s no law, just guidance which organisations can ignore if they have good reasons to do so. Because neither the law nor the guidance defined what a good reason consists f, it can be “Because we don’t want to.”

    I’m sure the HMC was invited to respond to the consultation. Would you care to publish your submission?

    • HMC_Org

      HMC schools report allegations of abuse to the police and local authority already, and cooperate fully with any investigations.

      HMC as a member of the Independent Schools Council is in favour of making reporting of child abuse mandatory in law and the ISC response to the current Government consultation makes this clear.

      In the meantime, the current legal requirements plus statutory guidelines create a strong framework for schools to work within and they willingly do so.