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"They were played like a flute"

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Further evidence has emerged that demonstrates that whilst it was the Board of Governors which took the final decision to close down the school, they only did so because had they not made that decision, the Care Inspectorate would have forced it.

The following exchange took place at a meeting between the Board and parents on 28th November:

PG: How could the board have got into this position? If the CI had closed the school there might have been legal grounds for challenging them. Because the board had slosed the school, this opportunity was no longer there.

AC: Our apprehension was that if we had not acted the CI would have closed it.

SK: The CI’s judgment made it impossible for the governors to allow the school to continue.

This contradicts statements made by the Care Inspectorate over the last few months that suggested they had, “begged the Board to keep the school open” and that, “They were not involved in the decision to close the school”.

Minutes of that meeting also appear to suggest that the Board was dishonest when The Chairman of Governors, Sir Andrew Cubie stated to parents that, “CI were concerned at the failure to report. It couldn’t be swept under the caret. It was a self-inflicted wound on the school”. At this time he knew that an investigation had already concluded that there were no child protection issues, no allegations, no failure to report. The police officer pressured into investigating a staff concern that referenced the working practices of her colleague has stated that the matter was, “nothing to worry about”.

The minutes also indicates just how naive the Bord was in commissioning a ‘safeguarding report’ from the Witherslack Group which had already indicated prior to 7th November that it would withdraw from an agreement to takeover the school. Despite warnings from the Head, the report was produced at a crucial Board meeting on 19th November but Bill Colley was not permitted to see it until the decision had already been taken to close the school. He wrote to Sir Andrew Cubie on 18th November:

“You informed me last week that my prediction that the Witherslack Group would now pull out of the agreement to take over the school was in fact correct.

I immediately concluded that their ‘independent’ investigation into the allegations made by a disenchanted member of staff would be designed to provide the perfect excuse and would in no way reflect accurately what had taken place – i.e nothing.

I have not seen the report - but I fear the worst.”

In an extraordinary admission, when presented with Howard Tennant’s fake report the Board then states (Board meeting minutes) that it does not have the knowledge, skills or experience, to challenge it - having removed the Head of School who would have done just that.

When he was finally provided with a copy of the report after the school had closed, he wrote a scathing critique which, in summary, included the following criticisms:

· Mr Tennant failed to disclose a conflict of interest when submitting this report

· The report cannot be considered as an independent review of safeguarding

· Mr Tennant has re-defined the arrangements under which WG took over responsibility for the school in August 2018 to minimise WG responsibilities when the group had considerable oversight and were, “running the school” (Jude Jones, Director of WG, 17th September 2018)

· The report contradicts on multiple occasions, the assessments of safeguarding made by WG personnel during their visits – including those of Mr Tenant himself, and other safeguarding professionals from the group

· Mr Tennant has failed to provide evidence to support critical generalisations

· The report contains numerous factual errors and misunderstandings

· Mr Tennant has failed to reference the CCTV monitoring system that supports the careful supervision of highly anxious pupils requiring ‘time-out’ during the school day

· Mr Tennant failed to provide school managers with the opportunity to correct errors and misunderstandings before submitting the report to the regulatory authorities – in this he has been negligent

· Mr Tennant has failed to acknowledge that 3 members of staff were absent during this review due to precautionary suspensions

· Mr Tennant has failed to indicate that during the period January 2018-November 2018, no harm has come to any child or young person and that they felt happy and safe in school

· Mr Tennant has failed to indicate that parents/carers of young people placed at the school are very happy with the quality of care provided

Prior to this, and shortly after the Head had been suspended, he wrote to his business manager stating that:

“Whilst all of this has been going on, and in previous weeks, I received very little communication from WG despite updating them on developments and that had begun to arouse some suspicions that they were getting cold feet as their negotiations with the Care Inspectorate regarding registration, were, or were not, progressing.

My interpretation of all of this is that safeguarding has become an excuse to withdraw from the deal now that they have seen how the Care Inspectorate and P&K have been trying to bring the school down over the last year, and how difficult it would be to resist this no matter how good the school might be. As Jude Jones told me on Friday 2nd November, “we are very scared”.

The Board and Witherslack now face the prospect of huge reputational damage when, as seems inevitable, the school is forced to close. The Directors will face criticism from their investors if there is any criticism of their failure to understand how malevolent P&K and the regulatory authorities have been towards the school, and that this has not been taken into account during the decision-making process.

I fear they will now turn on me, and possibly Angie as convenient scapegoats. I hope that, for once, I am proved wrong, and we have nothing to fear if the truth is ever allowed to come out, but recent experience has taught me that integrity for some only runs skin deep, and that when faced with situations like this, even decent people will try to deflect the blame.”

All of this appears to demonstrate just how naive and incompetent the Board of Governors was in protecting the school from the orchestrated campaign against it by PKC and the Care Inspectorate.

As one staff member put it to the Board, “You were played like a flute”.

As we also know:

  • No evidence of any safeguarding concerns has been produced by those who accused the school of failing

  • All members of staff have been cleared of any wrongdoing

  • Nothing happened

Bill Colley