Leading girls’ school ‘put pupils at risk’ with safeguarding failure

Streatham & Clapham High School for Girls
Streatham & Clapham High School for Girls

A leading independent girls’ school put pupils at risk by failing to alert police and the local authority about allegations made against a member of staff, an investigation has found.

Parents of children at Streatham & Clapham High School for Girls in south London were told on Friday that the independent schools’ watchdog has criticised the school for safeguarding failings.

A report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, seen by The Telegraph, states that procedures for handling allegations against staff “have not always been followed correctly”.

Streatham & Clapham High School for Girls, where senior fees cost almost £20,000 a year, is a high-performing independent school and member of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST). Last year, more than a third of A-Level grades awarded to its pupils were A*s. Notable alumni include the late Dame June Whitfield, who starred as Edina Monsoon’s mother in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham and Bell Ribeiro-Addy, a Labour MP.

A source close to parents at the school alleged that the Independent Schools Inspectorate’s findings relate to an accusation of sexual assault against a former staff member made by an individual who is not connected to the school.

The source said that the school knew about the allegation but did not alert the local authority and the staff member has since moved on to work at another school.

‘This news may be concerning’

The inspectorate’s report states that leaders and governors of the school have not been clear about their responsibilities to report adults who previously worked at the school to appropriate statutory bodies such as the Disclosures and Barring Service and the Teacher Regulation Agency when “referral criteria” are met.

It found that the school “does not always conduct and record effective risk assessments relating to pupils’ safety and welfare. In particular, the school did not explore potential transferable risk of harm when appropriate.”

The inspectorate also found that the school “does not meet the standard” for quality of leadership and management. “The proprietor has not ensured that those with leadership and management responsibilities at the school demonstrate good skills and fulfil their responsibilities effectively, so that the other standards are met consistently,” the report states.

“In particular, oversight of arrangements for safeguarding and risk assessment are not implemented effectively to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils,” it said.

In a letter to parents on Friday, Isabel Tobias, executive head, said that – since the inspector’s visit – the school has commissioned a safeguarding audit by an external expert and is providing further staff training “to make sure that we meet safeguarding requirements across all aspects of school life”.

She added: “I understand that this news may be concerning, but I want to reassure you that we do everything we can, together with the GDST, to make sure that our students’ well-being remains the top priority at Streatham & Clapham.”

A spokesman for Streatham and Clapham High School said: “The matter raised in the ISI Report did not directly involve any children. In the time since this occurred, we have had a comprehensive review of safeguarding assessment and reporting procedures and have carried out a number of actions including a thorough safeguarding audit by an independent expert. The school takes the well-being of children and the entire school community extremely seriously.”