THE HEADTEACHER of a private school rocked by revelations of sexual abuse against children going back decades has spoken out to insist it is now a very different place.
Chris Cleugh, head of St Benedict’s School in Eaton Rise, Ealing, says major changes have been put in place in response to an independent inquiry by Lord Carlile which looked into 21 allegations or convictions, many against multiple victims, between the early 1970s and 2009.
The inquiry was sparked by a report by the Independent School’s Inspectorate. It visited the school – which has close ties with Ealing Abbey – in 2010 after being informed of past allegations of abuse.
Mr Cleugh, headteacher for the past 12 years, said the inspectors now have a very different opinion and their latest report in February says St Benedict’s meets legal requirements.
He said: “The school has moved on. It’s going to take a long period of time to live through the history but this is a thriving school now. A place where children are as safe as they possibly can be.”
He said the school followed recommendations made by the Carlile inquiry to improve the child protection policy and set up a different governing body.
The policy, he said, which included staff training to help them recognise signs of abuse and other problems, and ensuring the right criminal records checks are made, was “constantly monitored at the top level of the school”.
Before the inquiry’s findings in November 2011 the school was controlled by monks at the Abbey leading to a conflict of interest Lord Carlile described as ‘demonstrably unacceptable’. The school has now formed its own independent trust
Mr Cleugh said: “We made sure Lord Carlile was happy with the changes. The Benedictine influence is as strong as it ever was; as Lord Carlile says in his report, it’s one of the strengths of the school.
“Right through the crisis the current parents and pupils have been hugely supportive. They believe in the school.
“I’m deeply sorry for what happened and if I could turn the clock back I would. I have enormous sympathy for the victims but it’s not the reality of how the school operates today.”
He invited people to come and see the change for themselves and added: “Children are happy, they work hard and do well. The school roll is the highest it’s ever been.”