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Why are they hiding the truth?

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“Don’t worry. It’s nothing to worry about”

The words of the police officer from the Perth & Kinross Child Protection Team who reluctantly investigated the spurious claims of a staff member of TNS who wrote a malicious note about two colleagues after herself being found guilty of poor working practices.

That was on Friday 26th October.

By Wednesday 31st October, he had concluded that:

  • “There are no child protection concerns”

  • “There were no allegations”

  • “Pupils feel happy and safe in the school”

  • “Pupils like the staff members”

  • “The incidents described by the staff member had not happened”

On Friday 2nd November, he contacted the school to onfirm that the investigation was over and that:

  • “Staff suspended pending the investigation should return to work

Within an hour, the Care Inspectorate had stepped in and instructed the school not to allow the staff to return to work, even though they are not allowed to do this. They then fabricated concerns about the school managers and briefed against them without telling either what they had been accused of or giving them an opportunity to respond.

The school was ordered to conduct an independent internal investigation and had to produce “convincing evidence” that the events had not happened. They refused to explain why the police investigation was unsatisfactory. They refused to explain what “convincing evidence” could be produced for something that had not happened.

The Care Inspectorate then stated that they were issuing an Improvement Notice, on the basis of something that had not happened. The requirements included a demand that the school ensures that no ‘conflicts of interest take place’ when there had been no conflicts of interest, and that ‘there is no inappropriate behaviour between staff and pupils’ when the investigation had already concluded that this was the case.

That same evening, Jude Jones of the Witherslack Group stated that she was,”very scared”.

On the Wednesday (7th November) the Head of School was suspended for, “failing to report a child protection matter” when it had already been shown that there was no child protection matter to report. Witherlack announced that they were withdrawing from the takeover agreement but would still have financial responsibilities unless they could find an excuse to pull-out that would release them from that commitment. Two weeks later, Howard Tennant of Witherslack produced his infamous report.

On Thursday 8th November, once the Head of School was out of the picture and powerless to save the school, the Care Inspectorate issued the Improvement Notice and John Swinney imposed conditions on the school via the Registrar of Independent Schools.

Neither action could be justified - so why did they do this?

Why did the Registrar of Independent Schools write to Sir Andrew Cubie stating that there had been “another failing in the school” and subsequently refuse to explain what either of the “two failings were”?

Why did Sir Andrew Cubie admit that there had been a failure to report when he already knew at that point that there had been no child protection matters to report?

Why did Sir Andrew Cubie tell parents that there had been a child protection matter at the school but not that the investigation had cleared the school of all wrongdoing and concluded that there were no child protection matters?

Why did he say that, “these things cannot be swept under the carpet”, when it was clear that the school had made no attempt to do so?

Why did he state to staff at their final meeting that, “the school has shot itself in the foot again”?

Sir Andrew informed school staff that the Board had been, “forced to close the school because if we did not, the Care Inspectorate would”.

He told parents that, “A gun was held to our heads”.

Why did John Swinney write to parents stating that there had been, “serious child protection concerns at the school”?

Why did the school close?

  • Perth & Kinross Council wanted the school closed and had been subjecting staff to huge pressure over the preceding 18 months following the tragic death of a pupil, just 3 days after they had told him that he would have to leave

  • The Care Inspectorate wanted the school closed because they were working alongside PKC

  • The Board were aware that they would suffer reputational damage if the Care Inspectorate forced closure but less so if they di this instead argued that it was for ‘financial reasons’. So the school was sacrificed.

By February of this year, it became clear that the whole issue was not going to die a death.

Suddenly, thanks to the questions our own investigation team were asking, John Swinney started to distance himself from the statements that he had made just a few weeks previously.

The whole ‘child protection’ story had become an albatross around the necks of PKC, the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Government. In an extraordinary statement to representatives of the staff and parent support groups, he claimed that, “the closure of the school was unconnected with either the Improvement Notice or the conditions that he himself had imposed”.

PKC tried to argue that there had been “financial irregularities” at the school.

The Care Inspectorate claimed that they had, “begged the governors to keep the school open”.

The lies kept coming, but this time there were getting more and more desperate because the story was beginning to fracture.

Haunting the authorities at the moment is the prospect of having to defend their own actions in court where they will, for the first time, be held to account.

And hanging over their heads is the knowledge that it is all going to come out when Treehouse release their documentary (‘We Are The News School’).

It is no exaggeration to say that when the truth does emerge, it could lead to the fall of a government minister, the abolition and replacement of the Care Inspectorate, mass resignations at Perth & Kinross Council, and a very hefty compensation bill to staff and TNS families who thus far have been the only ones who have paid the price for the failure of others.

That is why, for now, they are hiding the truth.

Bill Colley