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The Wacky World of the Care Inspectorate

One of the many questions that we have about the actions of the Board of Governors concerns their failure to challenge the illegal enforcement action taken by the Care Inspectorate in November. It is all the more perplexing given that the board had made the decision to challenge the report written by the Care Inspectorate following the May inspection and were contemplating a judicial review.  This was abandoned when the Witherslack takeover was arranged.

So why challenge that but not the closure of the school?

The Head of School described the inspection findings as, “bizarre”.  He later stated that this was the point when he realised that the school was up against not only Perth & Kinross Council but the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland.

When announced to the Care Team, there was a mixture of anger and ridicule, and the findings were regarded as absurd.

The inspection took place just three weeks after Bill Colley had started as Head of School and at the same time that Karen Reid moved from being Head of the Care Inspectorate to Chief Executive Officer of Perth & Kinross Council. The inspection was prompted by the January complaint from Perth & Kinross Council which made a number of false allegations against the school, and which neither Inspectorate was prepared to discuss.

School staff believe that the Care Inspectorate and PKC were working together to close the school down following the February 2017 tragedy, and that the PKC complaint was used to provide an excuse for downgrading performance - even though it’s claims were untrue and have never been scrutinised.

School managers believe that the whole scheme was designed to fabricate safeguarding concerns at the school to distract attention from the PKC decision to deny funding to a young person who took his own life three days after being told. They describe being on a ‘war-footing’ because they knew from May 2018 that PKC and the Care Inspectorate were, “out to get us”.

We now know that this complaint was written to prompt inspections and cause reputational damage to the school.

Notes taken at a meeting in July 2018 prior to publication of that report reveal how strange and unsatisfactory the whole inspection process was.

Attending the meeting were:

Bill Colley                            (TNS)

Angie Gordon                    (TNS)

Sandra Wright                   (CI)

Lynne Ellison                      (CI)

Charlotte Wilson               (CI)

Alison Jamieson                (CI)

TNS        How is it possible for grades to drop so sharply across three care standards when the school addressed all the recommendations from the last inspection and has made significant improvements in the quality of recording and reporting, and staff supervision?

CI            The Care Inspectorate is always looking to raise the bar. The standards have been changed.

TNS        So what are the new standards?

CI            They haven’t been published yet

TNS        Where can we find out what they are?

CI            They will be published shortly

TNS        So the school has been judged against new set of standards which we were not warned about or given an opportunity to prepare for?

CI            Yes

TNS        So will parents and professionals be told that the drop in grades is nothing to do with care but is because there are different standards?

CI            No

TNS        But this is commercially sensitive information. Surely they should be told?

CI            The Care Inspectorate takes no interest in business matters

TNS You rated our child protection and safeguarding as very good in 2017. How can it have fallen so much in the space of 12 months.

CI We were not focusing on safeguarding in that inspection but we are in this

TNS But that inspection followed the tragic death of a pupil. You did not look at safeguaridng then?

CI This was an unannounced inspection called for by the Scottish Ministers and we are focusing on safeguarding this time

TNS        You said last year that our care plans were very good and easy to read. How can you now tell us that they are not if all that has happened is that they have been improved?

CI            There is too much paperwork and too many plans

TNS        But the school has only done what you have told it to in the past

CI            It’s too confusing. If an agency worker walks in, they need information immediately before they can work with the service users

TNS        But we never use agency staff. Our induction processes very thorough and new staff are not allowed to be with pupils until they have studied every single care plan and shadowed experienced members of staff. We would never use agency staff.

CI            (silence)

TNS        You have told us that we now need to have separate ICT risk assessments each pupil but you have also just said that we have too much paperwork

CI            It needs to be streamlined

TNS        You have criticised our child protection policy because it does not include a reference to child sexual exploitation or radicalisation which are national priorities. But we sent you a copy of the policy in March and asked you to review it

CI            We didn’t see it

TNS        Our link inspector has never made these recommendations

CI            This was an unannounced inspection

TNS        We wrote to you asking for advice on a number of issues around safeguarding and pupils with autism, developmental disorders, and learning disability. You did not respond or provide any advice. When we asked the NSPCC, they did not have the expertise to answer the questions and said that we should consult with you.

CI            (silence)

TNS        The NSPCC also said that we had done everything right in terms of using professional judgement when making decisions about reporting safeguarding matters.

CI            (silence)

TNS        You state the our pupils should have access to speech and language therapy, but they would not meet the eligibility criteria in local schools so they would not get access to the NHS. Does this mean that schools like ours have to fund privately and that you are insisting on it? How did you determine that they needed SALT?

CI            Okay. We will have a look at that.

TNS        You will change the report?

CI            We will look at it

[They did not change the report]

TNS        You have stated that we need a separate adult protection policy you have never told us this before. Why is this now a requirement?

CI            We are now recommending that all services have separate adult protection policies

[A freedom of information request has revealed that this is completely untrue. In the 12 months until July 2019, the only service in Scotland which had this requirement was TNS. No similar service has ever been required to have a separate policy]

TNS        So this must apply to all schools and not just residential schools because that would mean in our school for example, the day pupils have one set of requirements and residential pupils a different set?

CI            We think there should be a separate policy for everyone over the age of 16

TNS        But the tribunal system regards everyone in school, including those over the age of 18 as young people and not adults.

CI            The care Inspectorate regards them as adults if they are over the age of 16

TNS        You state in the report that additional support needs to be provided in terms of meeting the emotional needs of young people. How did you come to that conclusion when clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and other expert mental health professionals have not made that judgement? What assessment methods did you use?

CI            It’s just what we thought

TNS It is important to remember that TNS is a school and not a mental health facility or secure unit

CI (silence)

TNS        You have made some recommendations about medication. We liaise closely with pharmacy in Dunkeld and they have not made these recommendations. For example, you now tell us that we have to have records of what medication has been given by parents at home, and also a copy of the original prescription. Why have we not been instructed to do this before?

CI            These are just recommendations and not requirements

TNS You made a recommendation about the safe disposal of medication. But all that happened was an empty tube of antispectic cream had been left out ready to be thrown away.

CI It’s still medication

One of the strangest aspects of the inspection is that the Care Inspectorate did not consult parents or pupils. Presumably because their positive reports of the school would not help their determination to cause reputational damage.


Most care inspectors have never worked in residential establishments. Most have never held positions of responsibility in such services. Most are untrained in additional support needs, developmental disorders, mental health, etc etc

The care inspectors who inspected TNS would not have met the standards required to get a job there.

Bill Colley