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Serious failings exposed in PKC child/adult protection procedures

FOI documentation has revealed that PKC officers failed to adhere to national child/adult protection guidelines when investigating a concern raised by school staff.

Correspondence between school managers and the council between January and July 2018 shows that the Head of School and Head of Care made desperate attempts to discover the outcome of an investigation originating at the beginning of the year but encountered delays, failures to respond to emails, and an apparent indifference to the requirement that all protection matters should be addressed “timeously”.

The matter was only resolved after the Head of School wrote directly to the Head of Children’s Services, Jacquie Pepper in May 2018 and demanded that the school be informed of the outcome of the PKC investigation to reduce the suffering experienced by the two families involved. Ms Pepper failed to respond.

Following a reminder sent 5 weeks later, the school was finally informed that there were no concerns with pupil safety but critical questions posed by the school were not answered.

Accusations made by PKC that the school had failed to follow its own guidelines were also shown by the SSSC to be completely untrue, and undermine the credibility of the council’s complaint to the Registrar of Independent Schools in January 2018. Both families referenced in that report have expressed anger that their cases were used by the council in a clear attempt to harm the reputation of the school, and have agreed to provide evidence to the independent investigation into the closure of the school.

The Support Group investigations team asked the (former) Head of School why he did not accept an offer of child protection training made by Ms Pepper in July and chosen instead to use the NSPCC. He stated that he had great concerns about the council’s understanding of child protection following the long delays in addressing the issue above, and did not have confidence that their training would be of a standard high enough to meet school demands. Council training was also criticised by the Witherslack Group who insisted their their own programme be used in the school, even though it was based on English legislation and guidelines.

He also indicated that the lack of confidence in the authority meant that the school felt unable to share complex child protection matters with them and had to consult other professionals who had a superior understanding of autism, disability and the current national guidance.

The Registrar of Independent Schools has failed to identify any failings at the school and it will now fall to an independent investigation to examine the behaviour of council officers over the last 2 years, and their professional competence and integrity.

Bill Colley