Board under "intolerable pressure" to close the school
The Board of Governors has admitted that the decision to close the school was taken as a result of “intolerable pressure” from the authorities and the Witherslack Group.
In a response to parents, they contradict the assertions made by John Swinney that there was no connection between the closure and the imposition of conditions and an improvement notice by his own department and the Care Inspectorate, and his new stance (‘child protection and safeguarding’ concerns seem like distant memories now) that it was simply a financial decision.
Former Head of School, Bill Colley, has confirmed with us that the Board’s statement is consistent with what he was told at the time, and what staff and parents were told in subsequent days.
Significantly, neither the Care Inspectorate nor the Registrar of Independent Schools have been able to justify the demands made of the school in November nor identify evidence that the school had failed in any way.
The Board response raises questions about Mr Swinney’s own involvement in the plan to close the school and in his ability to act impartially when considering the independent investigation that staff and parents affected by the whole fiasco now demand. If correct, the consensus that has emerged over recent months, that the inspectorates and Perth & Kinross Council collaborated to force the closure, raises serious questions about the professional competence and integrity of organisations charged with safeguarding children and promoting education in Scotland.
One parent has stated that, “This is making Scotland look like a third world country in terms of corruption and malpractice”.
Bill Colley also informed us that Witherslack pulled-out of the agreed management take-over BEFORE Howard Tennant of WG produced a highly critical safeguarding report which has been been savaged by former staff as “dishonest”, “laughably innaccurate”, and, “a clear attempt to smear the school and avoid the financial penalties associated with reneging on the agreement”. He was unable to explain why neither he nor other managers were shown a copy of the report before the Board announced the decision to close but did repeat what we now know to be true that the school was closed as a result of, “something that did not happen and was known not to have happened.”
Witherslack also announced that they were withdrawing from the takeover just days after the Care Inspectorate and Registrar of Independent schools had stated that they were going to impose conditions on the school, despite the fact that the school had been cleared of all wrongdoing by an independent investigation into a malicious complaint.
Mr Swinney’s claim that his actions had nothing to do with the closure of the school now look like a desperate bid to distance himself from the whole affair having tried and failed to suggest in correspondence with parents and the press that the school had been failing to safeguard children.
The former Head also confirmed that Witherslack had been involved with the school for several weeks prior to the Care Inspectorate involvement with “staff on the ground”, and that no concerns had been raised, no recommendations made, and no criticisms levelled at school staff during that time,
He also pointed-out that, if the Tennant report is in any way accurate, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland had clearly failed in their own inspections, for example in identifying a 130 year-old toilet window as a child protection matter. Apparently personnel from both organisations used that facility when conducting inspections!
Former staff at the school have maintained that for 18 months, since the tragic death of a pupil who took his own life just 3 days after being told by the council that he would have to leave the school that year because they would provide no further funding for him, the authority had bullied and intimidated school staff and undermined pupil placements.
The various threads of this complex story will be explored in a full-length documentary currently under production by Tree House Productions.
So, to date, the following have all called for a full independent investigation:
The Board of Governors
Perth & Kinross Council
The following have remained silent:
The Care Inspectorate
Registrar of Independent Schools
The Witherslack Group