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"A very serious offence"

FOI documentation reveals that a senior member of Perth & Kinross Council stated to the press that the Head of School was guilty of a “very serious offence” at the time of the school closure.

We suspect that briefing statements to elected members will also have made this claim as did announcements to council employees, personnel in local authority schools, and 3rd sector organisations.

If this is the case, and given that the Head had no reporting responsibilities and that there was no child protection matter to report anyway, the claim for reputational damages against PKC could be very high given that his suspension was widely reported in the media.

Any claim made by council officials that cannot be supported by evidence is now likely to become part of the legal action that at least one school manager is taking against the authority, but the claims could go wider than PKC if the Care Inspectorate, Board of Governors, Witherslack Group and Registrar of Independent Schools have issued similar statements.

Other claims include:

  • that TNS staff are “not safe to work with pupils”

  • references provided by senior TNS managers “cannot be trusted”

  • “there is an ongoing police investigation and more serious matters will emerge”

  • “there were serious child protection concerns at the school”

For senior managers, the enforcement action and improvement notice could also be regarded as defamatory if, as we know they did, they caused reputational damage but were illegal ,because senior managers are responsible for the school and automatically associated with any accusations made against it.

As indicated before, PKC cannot claim that they were misled by the Care Inspectorate and thus innocent of making defamatory statements, and nor can the other parties involved.

If this whole fiasco leads to significant improvements in the way that public authorities and services conduct themselves, then who is going to begrudge either the lawyers or school staff from receiving the financial compensation that is due to them?

It is the taxpayer who will fork out, but one or two individuals will now be fearing for their own reputations and careers if the bill first lands on their own desks, or those of their immediate managers.

Bill Colley