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It's not looking good for the Care Inspectorate

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Whilst there may be a sense that spring is in the air, storm clouds are gathering over the headquarters of the Care Inspectorate as they battle to justify the actions which forced the closure of TNS in November and robbed 24 pupils of their safe place of learning.

The problem is that, as calls for an independent investigation reach crescendo level, everyone else is now retreating behind the excuse that it was CI and not they who concluded that pupils were at risk and had to be removed from TNS as soon as possible. Our investigations team has been attritional in its approach to pinning-down each of the organisations involved (PKC, Education Scotland, Registrar of Independent Schools, Scottish Government) to determine what precisely had happened to pupils to cause such a tragic outcome, and have been met only with bland statements and finger-pointing at the CI.

In other words, 4 months on, and there is no evidence that the school failed in any way.

The investigation, when it happens, will probably conclude that the Improvement Notice which led to the withdrawal of Witherslack, the suspension of the Head of School, and the brutal closure of the school was, “wholly disproportionate and unjustifiable” given that an external inquiry had concluded just hours before it was issued that;

  • There was no evidence of any wrongdoing or poor practice by staff

  • The events investigated had not happened

  • There were no “allegations”

  • It was not a child protection matter

  • Pupils felt safe and happy in the school

  • Pupils liked the staff who had been wrongly named by a disenchanted colleague

In their statement to The National, CI state that inspectors, “were sufficiently concerned about elements of the care experienced by children and young people” to issue an improvement notice on 9th November, and thus reinforce the position that they have taken over the last 4 months.

Whilst this may seem to be a sensible option given the amount of scrutiny they are now under, it also has the potential to become a PR disaster for the organisation since they cannot now, at any later date, suggest that their ‘errors’ were due simply to a couple of incompetent and poorly-trained inspectors. In other words, this goes to the very top, and if failings are established by the independent investigation, it will mean that the inspectorate is systemically flawed and in need of serious reform.

Fearing huge compensation claims, all other parties will argue that it was the CI that caused this fiasco and that whilst the investgation might suggest that they should have actually used a bit of intelligence before taking such drastic decisions, it was the CI that precipitated the crisis and who are ultimately to blame.

But as our Head of School implies in his filmed interview, this might not be just a matter of gross professional incompetence but a part of a much wider orchestrated campaign to close the school. And if this is shown to be the case, it should not just be a couple of care inspectors who pick up their P45s.

And aside from the polititcs, this is just one example of the huge human cost of what happened. From a former member of staff at TNS;

“A former TNS student informed me recently that the "being in limbo" stage had long since passed and they felt that they were now in a deep "void". With each passing day that these fragile young souls are being denied their rights of a suitable, safe, educational and nurturing environment, the deeper they fall into this awful void. The unimaginable cruelty inflicted on these youngsters far exceeds any issues that might have ever existed at TNS even if they were true and justified, and of which we know were a total fabrication.”

Bill Colley