Child Protection Policy
Worcester College, Oxford
Child Protection Policy: Boy Choristers
The purpose of a Child Protection Policy is to ensure, as far as is practical, that the College provides a safe and secure environment for children whilst they are in our care, and that any problems which are identified are dealt with properly. Whilst the college would wish to do this in any case, it is required to have one by law (Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) and this document has been compiled after study of ‘best practice’ in a number of organisations.
Scope of the policy
This policy covers the Boy Choristers of the Choir and how they are cared for and supervised whilst in the charge of members of the College. The College’s responsibilities cover the following activities. The boy choristers, who are all pupils of Christ Church School, sing in the college chapel twice a week and attend two weekly rehearsals in college. In addition, the Organ Scholars rehearse the boys in the school on three, or occasionally four, mornings a week. For the weekday services and rehearsals in college, the boys walk from the school to college under the supervision of the organ scholars or, very rarely, senior members of the choir – who will always be accompanied by one organ scholar. On Sundays, the choristers’ parents bring the boys to the college in time for a rehearsal prior to the service in chapel. The boys are collected from college by their parents both during the week and on Sunday.
The requirements of a child protection policy
Broadly, the requirements of a child protection policy can be categorized under the following headings:
- Provision of a safe and secure environment for children whilst in the college’s care.
- Procedures that govern the interaction of members of the college with the boys and describe what to do if something goes wrong or it is discovered there is a cause for concern.
- The designation of responsible officers to oversee the provisions and to act as a link with others interested in the care of the boys.
- Provision of information and training to ensure members or employees of the college who are likely to come into contact with the choristers know what to do and how to behave.
- Periodic review of the policy to ensure that it is up to date and fit for purpose.
1 – Provision of a safe and secure environment
The college will seek to provide a suitable environment for the choristers whilst in its care so that, as far as can be managed, they come to no harm. The places where the choristers are in some way the responsibility of the college can be divided into three main areas: i) in the school, ii) in transit from the school to college and iii) in college.
i) In school
When in the school, the organ scholars work under the school’s child protection policy, and the college’s only responsibility is to make sure that the organ scholars are suitable people to have charge of the choristers. Suitability is determined before a scholarship is awarded. The scholar receives instruction and advice on the duties of being an organ scholar at the beginning of tenure and continued suitability is tested by the procedures (described later) for monitoring incidents.
ii) In transit
The choristers walk from school to college on Tuesday evenings. They are collected by the two organ scholars (or occasionally one organ scholar and a choral scholar) and walk a designated route to college. The organ scholars and any other accompanying adults are in possession of mobile phones and carry with them the telephone numbers of the school office, of the Director of Chapel Music, the Chaplain, and of Worcester College Lodge. Details of the designated route, the appropriate supervision arrangements and the procedures to follow if a problem emerges in transit are supplied to the organ scholars in writing and are detailed in Appendix A.
iii) In college
The college must provide a safe and secure environment for the choristers when they are in the college. The environment is not just the physical space, which must provide for the normal human needs, be comfortable and free from physical danger, but also the supervision and care arrangements, which must be sufficient to guard against the possibilities of physical harm, emotional abuse (bullying) or sexual abuse.
Normal college procedures should ensure the physical space is clean, safe and comfortable. If any deficiencies are identified they should be rectified as soon as possible.
To reduce the possibilities of abuse, DBS disclosures (or their current equivalent) will be required for all people who might themselves be in regular unsupervised contact with the boys, and everyone concerned will be made aware of the personal consequences of any abuse. Supervision should be arranged so that no one is in sole contact with the choristers except for short periods of time.
The Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) keeps a written record of all the regular activities with the choristers, and of the supervision arrangements surrounding them. He/she also maintains the list of people who are subject to DBS checks or equivalent legally required screening procedures.
2 – What to do if something goes wrong or there is a cause for concern
The procedure for the physical environment was outlined above, but the route of reporting is through the Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO), whose role is described below.
Problems with the care of the choristers can arise in three ways.
The first is if the procedures go wrong or we fall short in our physical care of the children, e.g. the boys are left unsupervised for a time, or a child has an accident. This we can rectify if the lapse is noted and if necessary the procedures changed or monitored more closely.
The second is if a child approaches someone and wants to tell him or her something. The latest legislation (Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) requires us to pay attention and act if a child gives us cause for concern, for example: if they are being abused at home, or they have been molested by someone (not necessarily in college). Given the scale of the possible consequences of this to the child and the people accused, these instances must be handled carefully and properly from the start to cover the interests of both the child and the person who might be harming the child. There is an accepted way of doing this which is detailed in appendix B. All adult members of the choir are notified of the appropriate procedures to follow in the event that they are approached by a child wishing to tell them something.
The third is when someone observes something that gives them cause for concern. This could be a possible weakness in our current practices or them becoming worried about someone’s behaviour or condition.
This process requires (and it is the most sensible way of administering the policy) the appointment of two officers, who amongst other duties receive the notifications of all of these issues.
3 – The responsible officers
There is a single person, called the Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) in the 2006 Act (in Worcester College, the Director of Chapel Music) who is responsible for administering and monitoring the policy and for acting as the link to the external care authorities when a case for concern is discovered. An additional officer, the Senior Nominated Officer (SNO – in Worcester College, the chair of the Chapel Committee) is responsible for the strategic development of this policy, audit and reporting to the ultimate point of responsibility, which is the College’s Governing Body. This officer substitutes for the DSO if the concern centres round him or her. The duties and responsibilities for these officers are given in appendix C.
4 – Training of supervisors and other staff
If the system is to work properly members of college in regular contact with the choristers should be advised how to behave in their presence. The best way of dealing with this is to have a code of conduct and a formal induction session for each of the categories of people who will come into contact with the boys at which the procedures and code of conduct can be explained. The code of conduct, which is used by many similar institutions, is given in appendix D.
5 – Periodic review
All matters relating to the care and supervision of the boy choristers are kept under constant review by the Chapel Committee, which meets on a termly basis; any changes to child protection policy are ratified by this committee, after appropriate consultation with the school. The Designated Safeguarding Officer (Director of Chapel Music) and Senior Nominated Officer (Chair of the Chapel Committee) also maintain regular contact outside formally constituted meetings. An annual report is made to the Chapel Committee by the Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) at its Trinity Term meeting; this report is then passed to the Governing Body to be considered under Chapel Business.
Appendix B – Procedure to be followed when a chorister asks to speak to an adult.
- If a chorister has asked if they can talk to you, and it is not convenient to talk at that time, make arrangements to meet with them as soon as possible.
- If you are approached by a chorister wanting to talk you should listen positively and reassure the chorister that he is not doing anything wrong (he might have been asked ‘not to tell’ etc.)
- Let the chorister know that you cannot promise to keep everything confidential and that you may have to pass on information to the Director of Chapel Music, the Chaplain or Chair of the Chapel Committee – tell him who this is – and why, if you have concerns that they may be ‘at risk’.
- Remember that an allegation of child abuse or neglect may lead to a criminal investigation, so don’t do anything that may jeopardise a police investigation. You should avoid jumping to conclusions and asking leading questions or putting words into the chorister’s mouth. Usually it is best to listen as much as possible without interrupting and let the child relay things as they feel comfortable to do so – this could be a very difficult and worrying conversation for them. It is not your responsibility to investigate the concerns, only to refer them to the Designated Senior Officer (the Director of Chapel Music: or, if the allegation concerns him or her, to the Chair of the Chapel Committee).
- Write a record of the conversation as soon as possible afterwards distinguishing clearly between fact, observation, allegation and opinion, then sign and date the record
- Notify and pass the report on to the Designated Safeguarding Officer (Director of Chapel Music) or, if the allegation concerns the Director of Chapel Music, or Chaplain, to the Chair of the Chapel Committee as soon as possible.
On receipt of the notice of concern the DSO (Director of Chapel Music) or Chair of the Chapel Committee, as appropriate, must investigate the case. This will be done in accordance with school policies and, if necessary, in further consultation with the Diocesan Child Protection Officer for Oxford.
Appendix C – College Officers and responsibilities
Designated Safeguarding Officer. Duties and Responsibilities are:
- To have overall responsibility for Chapel activities and children involved
- To ensure adequate training for those who have contact with children in Chapel activities, and to undergo regular training in child protection issues as legally required
- To work closely with the Chaplain, Organ Scholars and the Senior Nominated Officer (Chair of the Chapel Committee) on Child Protection
- To keep a written record of all regular activities with the choristers and of the supervision arrangements surrounding them
- To maintain a list of people who are subject to DBS (e.g. organ scholars and choir) or equivalent legally required screening procedures
- To administer and monitor the Child Protection Policy
- To act as a link to external authorities when a case for concern is discovered
- In the case of a complaint, to act according to the School Child Protection Policy and in consultation with the Oxford Diocesesan Child Protection Policy and advisor
- To substitute for the Senior Nominated Officer if a concern centres around him/her.
Senior Nominated Officer. Duties and Responsibilities are:
- Strategic development of this policy
- To audit and report to the ultimate point of responsibility (Governing Body of the College)
- To substitute for the Designated Safeguarding Officer in investigating allegations if the concern centres on the DSO him/herself.
Appendix D – Code of Conduct for Members of the Choir
(Originally drafted by Jesus College Cambridge)