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"It's not what you know, it's who you know"

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Within days of TNS closing in November, distraught parents were beginning to smell a very big rat.

The longer and louder the regulators and PKC argued that there were safeguarding concerns at the school, the more visible school managers and staff became to destroy the lies that abounded. This did not make sense. Surely they should be hiding away in shame rather than publically stating with pride that they would take responsibility for everything that happened in the school and challenge any of the invented ‘failings’ of which they had been wrongly accused?

Strangely, on all other occasions when a school or residential service has been forced to close in such circumstances, an inquiry is called immediately by the authorities to determine what mistakes have been made and what lessons could be learned, but with TNS, it is staff and parents who are fighting for this to take place and the government that is dragging its feet.

Then things became a little clearer when parents discovered that;

  • The Chief Executive of PKC at the time of the 2 suicides had just joined the Care Inspectorate as a board member.

  • The new CE of PKC had just arrived at PKC from her post as Head of the Care Inspectorate.

  • The Head of Children’s Services at PKC had formerly been the head of inspections at the Care Inspectorate

  • The former depute CE of PKC was now on the board of Education Scotland

So far from being independent of PKC and the authority’s determination to close the school to save cash and cover-up their own involvement in the 2 tragedies, the regulators were firmly aligned with the council and willing and able to assist with the final assassination.

Then our own investigations team uncovered the fact that it was John Swinney who imposed conditions on TNS via the Registrar of Independent Schools despite knowing full well that not only had staff been completely cleared of any wrongdoing, but that the events described by a disgruntled employee had not occurred. I.e. nothing had happened.

This fact could go a long way to explaining why no investigation has been called. If it could be shown that the regulators, PKC, and the government itself had coordinated the closure, as the school had been forecasting months in advance, the likely outcome would be huge reputational damage to some high level officers in all those organisations and demands for the resignation of Swinney himself.

It will fall to Mr Swinney to determine whether or not that investigation takes place. We are not confident that he has either the strength of character to do that, or the financial resources to compensate staff and families for the damage that he and others have done if it can be shown that his department was responsible for what happened.

This is no conspiracy theory. The closure and the manner of the closure were predicted by the Head of School even when things appeared to be going swimmingly well with the arrival of Witherslack in June and the signing of a management takeover in August.

The poor old Board of Governors was caught in the headlights. Befuddled and confused, they did everything the regulators told them to do and thus abandoned the one responsibility that they had, which was to safeguard the welfare of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. They could have challenged the improvement notice but did not do so. They could have rejected calls to suspend the Head, but chose not to do so. They could have insisted that decisons made about the school were based on evidence and not Chinese whispers, but they chose not to do so.

Within hours of the closure announcement, it was parents themselves who began to question why the board chose to do this within 5 days when it made no financial sense. Fees from the authorities had already been collected and substantial sums would now have to be returned, thus depriving staff of the notice pay to which they were entitled.

And most important of all, the abrupt closure meant that proper transitions could not take place for our vulnerable children. Many were traumatised by the sudden decision and the awfulness that ensued in the final four days of term.

And, strangely for public figures who like to hog the limelight when things are going well, they have become invisible and silent.

It all seems to confirm that staff, pupils and families were regarded as mere ‘collateral damage’ in a determination by the authorities to rid Scotland of an expensive but essential educational provision.

Bill Colley