The Facilitator


Tony Blackburn is a British radio DJ, whose cheesy style has become synonymous with pop music since the 1960s. He is an affable bloke. The harmless, perpetually over-excited lilt in his voice is as comforting as a duvet. Tony is the man you want to break the news that a comet was 4 minutes from destroying the earth and we should all say our final farewells while we can. Armageddon…groovy.

I was pleased Tony was on hand today, dear readers.

Every five years I need to renew my training in regards to safeguarding children. Safeguarding involves a raft of issues but the main thrust of today’s work was to explore the ways paedophiles find their way into positions of trust, their grooming techniques and how they maintain a relationship of abuse. Heavy stuff.

As I sat down in the back row of a small room this morning to start the day’s training, I heard the disembodied voice of the course’s facilitator at the front, obscured by a sea of bodies between my vantage point and the podium at the front. “Morning everyone, we will get started in about 10 minutes.” I had to stretch my neck to view the speaker, in my mind he sounded EXACTLY like Tony Blackburn.

I had to divorce the notion that the DJ was actually now delivering courses on sexual predators. It wasn’t Tony, of course. Tony was probably doing a promo for Smooth FM somewhere but the similarity to the two voices was uncanny. I turned to the colleague next to me, probably 15 years my junior, “That bloke sounds just like Tony Blackburn,” I offered. “Who is Tony Blackburn?” was the reply.

It was all the more harrowing in that the training featured interviews with convicted predators who calmly and clinically described how they find children objects of sexual desire. Most have completely legitimised the abusive relationship in their minds. Many view their victim’s experience as a pleasurable one. But Tony’s running commentary made the whole experience surreal if not downright absurd. I expected him to be whispering through the end of The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin and into news at the top of the hour but the talk was of poor and fatherless children being far more likely to be the object of the paedophile’s affections.

Police checks are run on anyone who seeks to work in a school, even on a volunteer basis. Should the checks uncover something untoward, it is up to the Head Teacher to decide if the criminality disallows the person from working with children. Get it right and a child’s safety remains intact. Get it wrong and someone’s life and reputation is ruined. And it happens, dear readers. It happens with a regularity which might shock you.

Tony wasn’t shocked. Tony spent the day making thumbs up gestures at the room whenever someone shared a personal case study. He would smile broadly and give a long, drawn-out “Fantastic,” when two groups in the room disagreed on whether the criminal infraction was a reason not to permit the person access.

The chilling voice on the interview of a convicted predator hung in the room. We were all silent as we listened. “I like them slim and with a gentle smile; boys or girls it doesn’t matter.”

It was nightmarish.

Even Tony stopped for a moment, “Harrowing listening but you need to hear it from his own mouth. This kind of predator will do whatever they can to gain access.  We cannot stop him 100 but we can make access as difficult as possible, that is our job.”

I looked out the window for the approaching comet.

Keep the Faith,

The Head

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