Review of safeguarding practice in response to events at Harlow Academy

8 June 2023

The Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP) has today published the review of safeguarding practice in response to events at Harlow Academy.

This review was commissioned by the NSCP to better understand what went wrong and how the partnership can learn from this for the future.

Read the report [PDF]

Statement from the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership

This review was requested by us, the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership, so that we could fully understand what happened and how, as a partnership, we could learn from that to ensure that children with complex needs are better protected in the future.

On behalf of the partnership, we fully accept the findings of this review. The report details the intricacies of the different agencies and their individual and collective roles and responsibilities. It is clear that there are lessons to be learnt, both by local partners and at a national policy level.

All of those who are involved in commissioning of services or providing care for young people with complex needs has a duty to provide good standards of care and keep children as safe as they can be. We would like to reassure families that the partnership is committed to making sure that children are kept safe. We will work together to ensure that all of the recommendations for the individual Nottinghamshire agencies and the partnership are swiftly actioned.

Assistant Chief Constable R Griffin
Chair of the Nottinghamshire Strategic Leadership Group
5 June 2023

Introductory statement from the Independent Scrutineer, Dr Mark Peel, Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership

The Independently authored, Review of Safeguarding Practice in Response to Events at Harlow Academy is now completed and will be published, in its entirety, on 8 June through the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP) website.

This review of issues at Harlow Academy (independently authored by Colin Green) was commissioned by the NSCP as a means to bring together evidence from a variety of individuals and agencies, including parents, to better understand what went wrong and how the Partnership can learn from this for the future.

At the point concerns about Harlow Academy were brought to the NSCP, the national guidance with regard to commissioning a Rapid Review (an internal review to be completed within fifteen working days) was not met. A view was nonetheless taken that the concerns raised with respect to Harlow Academy generally, and more specifically with regard to very vulnerable children cared for there, that an independently authored review should be commissioned.

It is important to note that the Partnership were not compelled by any statutory duty to undertake this review. But rather took the view that it was ‘the right thing to do’ and that there must be no suggestion of issues being dealt with behind closed doors, or worse a feeling that these multifaceted and sensitive issues involving children with the most complex needs, had in any way been 'swept under the carpet'.

From my independent point of view, I would suggest it speaks well of the NSCP that they were prepared to confront the complex circumstances at Harlow Academy and commission this review, even though the process of doing so has been challenging. This, I would suggest, should assure everybody, but especially the parents, of an equal commitment to now learn from what we have found, and improve safeguarding in future.

This review comes at a similar point in time to that commissioned by the national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel with regard to the safeguarding of children with disabilities in residential settings. Indeed, the rigor and clarity of the work completed by the National Panel have been enormously useful to us in our approach to reviewing and learning from events at Harlow Academy. As a result, we will ensure that we take full account of the recommendations of the national review, whilst also taking into account the local and specific context of Harlow Academy, and for children in Nottinghamshire.

Whilst there are clear similarities between the review undertaken by the National Panel, and that into Harlow Academy, there are also significant differences. At Harlow the principal issues of concern relate, in my opinion, to the governance and leadership of the Academy whilst run by the Evolve Trust, and secondly to communication and co-ordination of response to concerns between OFSTED and the Local Authority. In terms of accountability, the Evolve Trust no longer have responsibility for Harlow Academy, and the process of developing this review, as well as the recommendations and learning flowing from it, will help to ensure better co-ordination and communication in future.

One of the major advantages of the independent review of Harlow Academy has been the opportunity for the independent author to engage with parents, listen to their experiences and respond to their questions. It was felt to be imperative that parents had opportunity to meet Colin Green directly as part of the process of gathering information, that they should see copy of the final review prior to publication and be invited to a presentation summarising the recommendations made as a result.

As the Independent Scrutineer of the NSCP it is my role to ensure that local agencies with statutory responsibilities for safeguarding children (Health, Police and Local Authority) are properly held to account and, in respect of the review Harlow Academy, I can confirm that I was fully informed and appropriately consulted throughout. I independently asked Colin Green to author the review, being aware of his experience as an independent author and interest in children with a disability, as well as his uncompromising commitment to precision and transparency.

The process leading to publication of this review of Harlow Academy evidences to me a degree of confidence that safeguarding partnership in Nottinghamshire has appropriate governance, oversight and leadership and is committed to best practice and improvement where that is found to be needed.

Finally, I can confirm that the Senior Leadership Group of the NSCP (representing Health, Police and the Local Authority) have been party to and have accepted the review of Harlow Academy without reservation and including all recommendations. In my role as Independent Scrutineer, I will make sure over the coming weeks and months that this commitment is followed through in the same open and transparent way that has been the case to date.

Dr, M. A. Peel
Independent Scrutineer NSCP

1 June 2023

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