How well are we doing?
In a complex operation such as this, it is important every once in a while, to review what progress has been made, what lessons may be learned, and what adjustments may be necessary to achieve our objectives.
What we have done well:
· Kept the story alive
· Secured considerable support from 3rd parties (i.e. those with no direct school connections)
· Ensured that narrative surrounding the closure is accurate and based on facts and not innuendo. No-one believes that there were child protection failings at the school, nor that it closed for financial reasons.
· Highlighted serious failings in the actions of the regulators
· Established an organisation infrastructure to ensure that staff and parents remain connected
· Established an investigative unit to uncover through FOI documentation, formal complaints, and direct questioning, the true story of what happened
· Raised funding for the production of a full-length documentary into the school closure and its impact on staff/families
· Maintained political pressure at local and national level to ensure that the needs of most pupils displaced by closure are now being met
Set against our original objectives, our progress has been encouraging.
1. To ensure that all TNS pupils are attending school/college
When TNS closed, 24 pupils lost their safe and supportive learning environment. A small number of all the pupils (3) progressed successfully to college. The majority were left without learning provision for several months.
The contrast between local authorities could not be sharper. Some were excellent and tried everything they could replace what been in place at Butterstone. PKC were given £150,000 of taxpayers money to set up their own specialist service for the 13 young people who were now their responsibility. Not only did they fail, but they did so spectacularly.
The pressure of this failure, together with the incessant and unflagging determination of the support groups and the Children’s Commissioner led to the registration of a new service at Butterstone for the pupils, despite hostility from Education Scotland and the council.
13 TNS pupils with two others who had been offered places are currently attending that brand-new school. Without this, they would be stuck at home.
In time, we hope that the residential service will also resume to meet the needs of several young people who have been out of school for the last nine months.
We have thus been partially successful in achieving this objective.
2. To ensure that a full investigation takes place into the circumstances leading to the closure of TNS.
The investigation has not yet taken place. It is now 8 months since the request was first made, and 3 months since the staff and parent support groups wrote to John Swinney.
However, it is now very clear that the grounds for refusing an inquiry are almost non-existent and that the very serious concerns about the political independence, competence and professional integrity of the regulators must be examined, as must decision-making by the Board of Governors, and the actions of the Witherslack Group.
If an investigation is refused, direct action will be taken to ensure that the TNS story receives UK-wide attention.
3. To clear the names of those wrongly accused of ‘failings’. Bill Colley has heard nothing from the GTCS in relation to the complaint lodged by Sandra Wright of the Care Inspectorate shortly after it had been demonstrated that there had been no child protection matter to report. He has requested a full hearing and invited journalists to be present.
The Care Inspectorate have refused to provide the information needed by the SSSC to investigate and clear an identical complaint against Angie, despite pleas from the union and from MSPs.
We will not change the culture in PKC, Education Scotland or the Care Inspectorate without a full inquiry, and without this other services and dedicated professionals are currently at risk.
What happened to TNS will remain in the public eye for years to come and will form part of the historical record of how Scotland’s educational system has addressed the needs of pupils with ASN.
In addition to our original aims, we now want to establish an archive to serve as a permanent reminder of what happened, and to include in this;
· the key documentation associated with the closure
· oral and video testimonies from those affected
· the story of our own campaign
· the outcome of any investigation that takes place
· independent expert evaluations of what happened
In short, much has been achieved but there is much more to do.