Will lessons be learned?

Findings from the independent inquiry into one of the leading tennis centres has revealed the sport’s governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), failed in their response to repeated warnings about bullying and sexual abuse.

The inquiry was commissioned by the LTA following the conviction of former Wrexham Tennis Centre head coach Daniel Saunders, jailed following his admission to eight counts of sexual activity with a player under 16-years. The inquiry report criticised both the LTA and Wrexham Tennis Centre, finding they had acted “inadequately” before Sunders was arrested and that they had failed to recognise safeguarding concerns.

In clear breech of safeguarding policy and practice, it is unthinkable that the extreme culture of ‘laddish behaviour’ Saunders created within the club, was not deemed a safeguarding risk, even after an internal investigation into his behaviour in 2012. It seems very odd that following the internal investigation, which found there were no child protection risks, clear glass was then installed to the window of Saunders’ office- presumably as a safeguarding measure? Sadly, Saunders simply covered the window in posters, using the office to later abuse his victim.

As a practitioner I find it unbelievable that the behaviours descried and reported by parents, which included coaches using sexually explicit language when on court with children, showing pornography to boys under the age of 12 and bullying of girls about their physical appearance (a parent reported that her daughter was called a “hefty elephant” and told that she (the girl) would “never get a boyfriend because of the way she looked”) were not taken seriously or addressed as abuse.

LTA chief executive, Scott Lloyd states lessons have been learned and that the LTA is “concerned that opportunities to act were missed” apologising to all those affected regarding this case. But one still has to seriously question the LTA’s action following the inquiry’s findings. Yes, a critical review of policy and strategy is essential, it always is following a serious incident, but what this case highlights is a failure to embed best safeguarding practice and have ongoing evaluation of that practice at its core. The actions of Saunders were abhorrent but so too was the culture he developed within Wrexham Tennis centre participated in by others.

Spring Audit

Spring is associated with growth, as Tolstoy said “the time of plans and projects,” and our development teams have been busy extending our safeguarding range with extended course content and new support products. Having headed up a specialist unit for vulnerable children and through my work auditing schools and academies for many years, I know the challenge of ensuring robust safeguarding arrangements are in place, reviewed and regularly updated to keep in line with this ever-changing environment. With everything else to manage it can seem daunting. Just where do you find the time?

I am thrilled to announce we are now including our secure online safeguarding audit tool – ‘Safeguarding Auditor’, as part of our Safeguarding Suite. The audit will help you audit your safeguarding provision step-by-step to either confirm your existing provision is compliant or produce a task list of the steps you can take to ensure compliance. We think this will be an invaluable tool for busy SLTs. Focusing on safeguarding in its widest context, it will enable you to comprehensively audit your current safeguarding arrangements, identify any areas where development is needed and how best practice can be further developed collectively. The audit, which includes the new standards in the revised Keeping children safe in education (2018), is simple to use and progress is tracked through our comprehensive action plan monitoring. Just answer the questions and we’ll formulate your report and action plan. We’ve even added an avatar feature, so I will be there throughout the process to share detailed information.