TNS fiasco a "national embarrassment"
A senior journalist who contacted our web team has claimed that the debacle surrounding the closure of the school is causing tensions within the ruling SNP with some colleagues voicing concerns at the failure of John Swinney to honour promises he made that pupils displaced by the closure would be provided with an alternative provision as soon as possible.
Opposition MSPs have already questioned the assertion made by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in January that, “the majority of pupils have been offered alternative placements” when only 1 of the 24 former TNS students is currently attending school, whilst Mr Swinney’s colleagues are becoming increasingly frustrated by his failure to assert his authority when education was paraded as the government’s top priority following the 2016 election.
Mr Swinney must also address a series of concerns raised by the Education & Skills Committee about the quality of additional support needs provision across the country, including the apparent failure of successive governments to ensure that reliable data is available to allow MSPs to assess the performance of government at both local and national level in delivering an ‘adequate’ education for all. Of particular concern is the number of children who are not attending school or who have been informally excluded or placed on part-time timetables due to failures in local authority provision. In Perth & Kinross alone, nearly 200 pupils are not currently attending school according to a recent freedom of Inforamtion request.
The journalist stated that, “although Swinney is too big to be allowed to fall”, he has been damaged by the closure of TNS in his own constituency, and by the growing body of evidence pointing towards a coordinated campaign by the supposedly apolitical national regulators which led to its demise. Rather then addressing problems inherent in the current education system,the closure has highlighted failings at national level and in the current government’s approach to mainstreaming pupils with additional support needs. It has also illustrated how poor Perth & Kinross is as an education authority at meeting pupil needs when 4+ months after the school ceased to function, not one PKC pupil is attending a school on a permanent full-time basis.
Mr Swinney has agreed to meet representatives of the parent and staff support groups on 23rd April but has restricted the number to 3 in order to avoid the inevitable backlash that has followed his failure to save the school, and an almost universal belief that he and the regulators fabricated concerns about child safety to force the board of governors to announce closure on 19th November, 2018.
In his filmed interview, the former Head of School described the closure as, “clearly coordinated” and a “national scandal”.
Mr Swinney is likely to be damaged still further if he resists calls for a full independent investigation, and the political heat is likely to increase if opposition parties press him to explain the misleading statements that he and the First Minister made to the Scottish Parliament soon after the closure took place.
When we asked the journalist if he thought that the whole fiasco could bring Mr Swinney down as Education Minister his response was that it was more likely that Nicola Sturgeon would allow him to side-step the damage that he has caused by appointing him to lead Indyref2, and that a new Education Minister would be appointed in his place.
None of this will bring much satisfaction to the 24 families still reeling from the sudden closure, nor the 51 staff who lost their jobs and were unfairly tainted by the false allegations about child safety made by the Care Inspectorate, Perth & Kinross Council, and John Swinney himself.
As one stated recently, “there is an appalling stench of corruption about the whole thing and it reflects very badly on a nation that once prided itself on our distinct education and justice systems”.
Meanwhile, this moving message was posted by a former staff member who has been forced to find alternative employment;
“This latest article and revelation in the ongoing saga of the cruel and callous closure of The (beautiful) New School has got me somewhat furiously conflicted. To say that I'm angry would be a massive understatement. 24 vulnerable and fragile, ASN kids lost their safe, nurturing and therapeutic place of learning, 51 staff lost their jobs with some having their reputations tarnished and questioned, and on a very personal note, I suffered a huge loss as my daughter and her husband, along with my three grandchildren had to move 500 miles away to find suitable work due to my son in law being made redundant. Lives have been shattered.
As a now former member of the SNP I hereby declare my disgust at the handling of this situation and call for the immediate suspension/resignation of Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Education Secretary John Swinney who is not fit for purpose.
My conflict now lies in the enforcement of the necessity to seek new employment after 10 years dedicated service at The New School having hoped to have seen out my working years there. I started an excellent new job this week with a fostering and children's residential agency, and I am grateful to my new employers for this exciting new opportunity, but a piece of my heart will always be TNS and the wonderful kids and colleagues I had the privilege of associating with in my time there. I thought long and hard before accepting this new post, as I had been offered a new position with the new provider at Butterstone, but The New School no longer exists, and I had to make that emotional detachment.
I will continue to support and fight for a public enquiry into the New School closure and I wish all former students, parents, colleagues and associates of TNS all the very best.”