The UK already has the most stringent regulations for boarding schools of any territory in the world. But does that mean there is any room for complacency?
The inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales is now making genuine progress under the stewardship of Professor Alexis Jay, moving slightly behind Scotland's Lady Smith Inquiry. Whilst the IICSA residential schools strand is still in the information-gathering phase, we are aware that several member schools have been contacted or called by the Inquiry already. The BSA has been working with the IICSA research team looking at how safeguarding is managed in the sector today.
In Spring 2016, the BSA published its Commitment to Care Charter, a ground-breaking initiative placing welfare and safeguarding of students, and the external reporting of any suspicions of abuse, at the very heart of being a BSA member.
The Charter has already had a positive and constructive impact. Members are now keeping the BSA better informed of safeguarding issues. This has given us, for the first time, an ongoing perspective on safeguarding across the sector. All ISC education associations have endorsed the Charter and it has been positively noted by both the DFE and the IICSA inquiry. At the start of this new academic year, BSA will issue an updated version of the Charter, the principal change being for members to report safeguarding issues to the BSA as a membership requirement, rather than voluntarily.
There may be some who feel that this is an unwelcome extra responsibility to remember; or who view it as an unnecessary or intrusive step. However, the BSA believes firmly that having as much awareness as possible of what is happening on safeguarding in member schools is the most effective way to build knowledge, understand common trends and offer guidance, advice and support. The new version of the Charter is just one of many things the BSA is doing on safeguarding. At our annual Heads' conference in York in May 2017, I reiterated the BSA's call for the government to introduce the mandatory reporting of abuse.
In June, we created the new role of Head of Safeguarding and Standards and were delighted to welcome Dale Wilkins, former Deputy Head of Old Swinford Hospital School, to this important full-time role. Dale is an experienced DSL, inspector and the BSA senior tutor. He will lead on all safeguarding and inspection activity for BSA and be a valuable source of expert advice and guidance for all BSA members.
The BSA Safeguarding Advisory Forum, which meets each term and comprises representatives from member schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is doing valuable work together, keeping pace with safeguarding and child protection issues and developments. And on October 27, the second BSA Safeguarding Conference will be held in London, with expert speakers sharing their experience and expertise. Last year's inaugural event attracted more than 80 delegates and we expect even greater demand for places this year.
My time as Chair as BSA finishes at the end of this term and I would like to express my warmest thanks to everyone who has supported me and the BSA throughout my term of office. We have a terrific team in place at the BSA headquarters and they continue to do great work to promote and guide our sector.
It has been an exciting year. More than 180 Heads who attended the York conference enjoyed a rich array of speakers, from the Archbishop of York through to England football manager Garath Southgate. And our £200,000 #iloveboarding marketing campaign, led by the BSA boarding bus touring the UK has helped spread the boarding message to more people than ever before.
Martin Reader, Headmaster of Cranleigh School, takes over at Chair in January 2018 and I look forward to working with him and colleagues on the national executive, and the fantastic team at the BSA, as they continue in our shared mission to 'champion boarding and promote excellence'.
Leo Winkley, Chair, BSA Headmaster, St Peter's School, York