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"TNS closed down by the Scottish Government"

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Further evidence has emerged of those behind the plan to close down the school and the picture that emerges is of corruption at the highest levels of Scottish Government.

The former Head of School, Bill Colley, has just released the letter he received following his non-prejudicial suspension in November 2018.

The letter was dated 12th November, 5 days after his suspension took effect, and written only after he had contacted the school to inform them that he should receive a written communication indicating the nature of the suspension and the reason for it.

Sir Andrew Cubie (Chairman of Governors) stated that the suspension was caused directly by a letter he himself had received from Denise Brock, Registrar of Independent Schools, which implied two ‘failings’ in the school and which suggests that the school had become ‘objectionable’ to the Scottish Ministers (i.e. John Swinney’s office).

In March 2019, Bill Colley wrote to Denise Brock asking what evidence lay behind the assertion that there had been “two sets of failings” but she was unable to provide any information that would justify either the suspension of the Head of School or the closure of the school, or the letter itself.

To date, no evidence has been provided of any failings. There has been no disciplinary action against any member of staff and no pupil was ever harmed or at risk of being harmed.

There was no failure to report a child protection matter because there was no child protection matter to report. Both the Head of School and Head of Care have been shown to have been correct in their decision-making.

In response to parents and in communications with the press, John Swinney has stated that there were, “serious child protection concerns at the school” but has refused to explain what these were and has refused thus far to sanction a full independent inquiry into the closure – presumably because any such investigation would reveal the role he himself played in the fiasco.

Despite knowing that an independent police investigation into a malicious complaint by a former member of staff had concluded that;

· There were no allegations

· There were no child protection issues

· The events referenced by the staff member had not happened

· The pupils felt very safe and happy at the school

..Sir Andrew Cubie did not challenge the justification for either the improvement notice issued by the Care Inspectorate or the letter he had received from Denise Brock, nor did he question the suspension of the Head of School which had been demanded by Alison Jamieson of the CI.

Staff and parents believe that Bill Colley’s suspension was orchestrated by the authorities to remove him from the school at a crucial time, and when he would have advised the Board of Governors that the actions of the Care Inspectorate and Registrar of Independent Schools were unjustifiable, disproportionate and could be challenged in court. Had he not been suspended, the school would still be operating and 24 children would still be receiving the education and care for which the school was renowned, and the rapid growth of the school would have continued.

51 members of staff would also still have their jobs and careers.

Given that it is now clear that John Swinney was complicit in the closure of the school, the question arises, “why would he want to close the school down when it was providing a service that local authorities cannot”. Not one of the 13 Perth & Kinross pupils who attended TNS is currently receiving a ‘full-time’ education, and of the remainder from other authorities, only one has a school placement.

TNS was located in John Swinney’s constituency and just 15 minutes from his own office.

The success of the school was a major embarrassment to the Scottish Government because it demonstrated the serious failings in their current policy of mainstreaming pupils with additional support needs, and highlighted flaws in local authority ASN provision and especially those of Perth & Kinross Council. In other words, the success of TNS in a failing local authority was not acceptable to the Scottish Government or to Mr Swinney himself.

The tragic events of February 2017 were also an embarrassment to Mr Swinney given that the pupil who took his own life did so three days after being denied a further year at the school and after Perth & Kinross Council had been warned by the parents and by the school, that he was too ‘fragile’ to move on to college at the time. For this to happen in his own constituency would have thrown into sharp focus his own failings in improving education for Scotland’s most vulnerable pupils

For both Mr Swinney and for Perth & Kinross Council, criticisms of them could be deflected if the school could be shown to have ‘failed’ in the care it was providing to vulnerable children and young people, even if this was clearly untrue.

To date, Perth and Kinross Council has been successful in delaying (for over 2 years) the serious case review that should have been held into the tragic death. The closure of the school on the fabricated grounds of ‘safeguarding concerns’ now means that the review can be conducted in such a way that their own failings can be hidden, and aspersions cast against the quality of care the school was providing at the time.

So TNS closed because of false rumour, innuendo, and not one shred of evidence that it was failing to meet the needs of pupils who attended.

Staff and parents have also pointed to some disturbing connections between the various bodies which conspired to bring the school down;

Karen Reid (Chief Executive of PKC) was formerly head of the Care Inspectorate

Bernadette Malone (Chief Executive at PKC at the time of the suicide) is now on the board of the Care Inspectorate

John Fyfe, (former Depute Chief Executive of PKC) is currently on the board of Education Scotland

Jacquie Pepper (Head of Children’s Services at PKC) was formerly head of inspections at the Care Inspectorate

Aside from the tragic impact on the mental health and well being of the pupils who attended, and the loss of 51 vital jobs in the Dunkeld area, the circumstances which led to the closure of the school raise serious questions about the professionalism, integrity, and political independence of the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland, and the actions of John Swinney and the Scottish Government.

For the reasons above, there must now be an independent investigation into the closure of the school at national level. Nothing less will suffice.

Facts;

1. There were no child protection failings at the school

2. On no occasion did the school fail to follow its child protection guidelines

3. There were no incidents involving ‘inappropriate behaviour’ between staff and pupils

4. There were no conflicts of interest in decision-making

5. All staff have been cleared of any wrongdoing

“TNS is the first school in Scotland to be closed down as the result of something that did not happen”

Bill Colley