Code on loos and bullying

NATIONALLY-agreed standards for England's boarding schools on everything from lavatories to bullying were published this week.

The code of 54 welfare standards will underpin inspections by the new National Care Standards Commission, to be created by a Bill now before Parliament. It will cover 550 accredited independent schools, 36 state boarding schols and about 200 smaller schools currently inspected only by local social services departments.

The code demands strict recruitment checks on all staff with substantial unsupervised access to boarders. It says boarders should at all times be under the supervision of an identified member of staff whom they can contact in an emergency. Staff should be "supervising but not watching".

On bullying, the code requires schools to follow an effective policy known to boarders an staff. It also says there should be no humiliating "initiation ceremonies".

Each boarding house should have at least one toilet for every five boarders and a shower or bath for every 10, and sleeping accommodation must not be overcrowded.

The standards were agreed by parties including representatives of state and independent schools, social services inspectors, the Office for Standards in Education and the Department of Health.

The pilot version was drawn up by Roger Morgan, Oxfordshire's chief social services inspector, and field-tested in 30 schools.

The Department of Health is recommending that social services departments use the standards in inspections between now and 2002, when either the new commission or an alternative body approved by the Government will enforce them.

Biddy Passmore

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