Scotland's vulnerable children deserve better than this
Both former Heads of TNS call for the abolition and replacement of the Care Inspectorate following their disastrous involvement in the school, and the harm done to vulnerable young people and their families during the final few days of its operation when parents and staff described their decisions are, “deliberately cruel”, and, “sick”.
Amongst allegations they make in their filmed interviews for the forthcoming documentary, ‘Mud Sticks’, they accuse care inspectors of;
· issuing an improvement notice (which led to the closure of the school) on the basis of non-existent evidence
· dishonestly representing the outcome of a child protection investigation to the Registrar of Independent Schools
· forcing the Board of Governors to close the school abruptly when this was not in the best interests of the children and young people
· later denying that they had forced the school to close
· making false statements to the press to cause reputational damage to the school and its staff
· failing to follow national guidance on the transition of vulnerable children and young people
· failing to protect young people from harm during the final week of operation
· failing to protect children’s rights during the final week of operation
· briefing against the Head of School and causing his suspension without informing him or providing him with an opportunity to respond (thus denying him natural justice)
· making defamatory remarks about both the Head of School and Head of Care without justifiable cause, and without providing them with the opportunity to defend themselves
· repeatedly failing to respond to emails, phone messages, and requests for support
· failing to respond to a request that they review the school’s child protection guidelines in March 2018
· lacking the qualifications, training, experience, and understanding, to objectively assess the performance of the school
· downgrading inspection ratings in May 2018 without providing any evidence or justification for doing so
· failing to consult with parents during the May 2018 inspection about the quality of care provided by the school
· conspiring to ensure that the Head of Care was removed from a vital meeting when the future of the school was being decided
· accusing the Head of Care of failing to follow the school’s child protection guidelines when there had been no failure
· lacking professional judgement and common sense
The actions of the Care Inspectorate caused the closure of the school and serious harm to 24 children/young people.
Of the 24 pupils who lost their places, only one is currently attending school on a full-time basis.
Both former Heads argue that there are systemic failings in the organisation, low professional standards, and an arbitrary system of school care accommodation inspection. They state that care inspectors are, “incapable of understanding, let alone measuring care standards”, and that it is low-calibre staff who make decisions that can have a serious impact on vital services aimed at supporting vulnerable young people.
Shortly after being informed that a note of concern written by a staff member undergoing a disciplinary process was not a child protection matter, Sandra Wright of the CI reported the Head of School to the GTCS and the Head of Care to the SSSC. This action was supported and insisted upon by Sheena Devlin, Executive Director of Education at Perth & Kinross Council. The Parent Support Group has organised a petition in support of both managers and this can be accessed here.
School managers note that care inspectors are less well qualified than care staff in supporting young people with learning difficulties, have often had no experience working in the services they inspect, and have no experience working as managers. The link inspector for TNS would not have been employed by the school for those very reasons.
Following the tragic closure of the school, managers received messages of support from across the independent residential schools sector, with many voicing concerns about the professionalism of CI staff. When parents and staff spoke to MSPs about this at the Scottish Parliament, several indicated that they knew that the Care Inspectorate was badly-run, tended to focus on paperwork rather than care, and could not be relied upon to provide accurate inspection reports.
The care inspectors involved in the school prior to closure were: