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Private school still not meeting safeguarding standards, says report

14 Jul 2021 3 minutes Read
Photo Arwel Parry under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter

Safeguarding standards still aren’t good enough at a private school which sacked a former headteacher for sending inappropriate messages to female pupils, a report has said.

Principal, Toby Belfield, was dismissed in February last year after he was exposed sending inappropriate and flirty text messages to girls attending the 700-year-old Ruthin school in 2019.

His sacking followed a Welsh Government warning the school could lose its registration and be effectively shut down if it failed to address concerns about child protection.

A new Council of Management was set up and a new headteacher brought in to improve safeguarding in the aftermath of the scandal.

Some progress has been made regarding safeguarding according the the education inspection report, published by Welsh Schools regulator Estyn.

However it said “there remain a number of key and significant areas that require strengthening as a matter of urgency to enable the school to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are pupils at the school”.

‘Key findings’ 

The report, compiled after an inspection at the £35,000-a-year boarding school in February, made a number of key findings. They are:

  • Managers and leaders have not prioritised the need to change the safeguarding culture of the school strongly enough to ensure that they develop a safe, supportive environment across all areas of the school’s work, where pupils are valued and treated with respect
  • When assessing risks, the Council of Management does not always evaluate the impact of staff behaviour on the wellbeing and safety of pupils.
  • Processes to monitor and quality assure the effectiveness of arrangements for safeguarding pupils and to plan for improvement are at an early stage of development
  • There is too much variation in staff understanding of the school’s procedures when sharing concerns about pupils or other staff, which results in delays in making appropriate referrals to social services

The Estyn report said: “Overall, the school continues to fail to meet standard 3 of Independent School Standards (Wales) Regulations 2003.

“The Council of Management is beginning to respond suitably to the recommendations of the previous focused visit.

“The newly appointed chair to the council, with the support of the trustee with special responsibility for safeguarding, is committed to establishing the necessary and significant change in the safeguarding culture of the school and ensuring the highest possible code of conduct from all staff.

“However, there remain a number of key and significant areas that require
strengthening as a matter of urgency to enable the school to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are pupils at the school.”

‘Recommendations’ 

The report made a number of recommendations to strengthen safeguarding, including to “secure stable leadership arrangements as a matter of urgency” and make improved and more regular reports on issues to the school’s Council of Management.

Disgraced Mr Belfield is now the sole director of Tan-GenIQ, which is listed as an education consultancy with a head-office in London.

His “about” section on LinkedIn describes him as “results-driven with 15 years honed expertise in financial and resource management and administration”.

In an interview with the Daily Post in April last year he said he was “biding time” before telling his side of the story.

He added: “The truth will be told and not just speculation.”

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