Charity Commission launches inquiry into school trust at centre of sex abuse allegations

The regulator will examine governance at the Stanbridge Earls Schools Trust after the Department of Education rejected the school's action plan

Stanbridge Earls School
Stanbridge Earls School

The Charity Commission has launched an inquiry into the charitable school the Stanbridge Earls School Trust after allegations of sexual abuse were made.

Stanbridge Earls School, based in Romsey, Hampshire, provides boarding for children aged between 11 and 19 who have special needs such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. It has been registered with the commission since 1964.

The regulator said earlier this week that it was "urgently assessing the issues" at the school after two female pupils alleged they suffered sexual abuse there, dating back to 2010.

The commission has opened its inquiry after the Department for Education rejected the school’s action plan to address the failings identified during a recent Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted’s inspection report, published in February, said the school had failed to identify how it cared for the needs of individual students and did not make individual risk assessments "even in cases where the risk of harm that a child poses to others or themselves is known to be high".

The report said some members of staff had started working at the school before they had undergone a Criminal Records Bureau check.

The commission said its inquiry would not deal with matters of actual abuse or safeguarding, because those would be dealt with by the police and the local education authority.

It would instead examine the overall administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees.

The commission is also to assess whether the trustees are capable of fulfilling their legal duties and responsibilities, and in particular if they are able to create and implement an action plan that will be acceptable to the DfE.

The inquiry will also look into what would happen if the trustees failed to put in place an acceptable action plan and the DfE removed the charity from the register of independent schools.

A spokesman for the charity said: "The trustees of Stanbridge Earls School Trust welcome the opportunity to explain to the commission how they fulfil their duties. They will outline, too, the considerable amount of work currently under way to meet Ofsted and the DfE's requirements."

A DfE spokeswoman said that it expected the school to improve in time for its final inspection by the department in May.

She said: "If rapid progress is not made, the department will consider removing the school from the register of independent schools."

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