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Guilty without charge

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Yet another interview with Bill Colley (sorry!) to clarify the matter of his suspension.

Can you tell us once again why you were suspended?

Ostensibly it was because the Care Inspectorate had said that I failed to report a child protection matter, but that makes no sense because it was not a child protection matter and not my responsibility to do so. However, Angie had been subjected to incessant pressure from PKC and the CI who had both made false allegations against her over several months, so I took the hit on this occasion. I was pretty confident that is was all nonsense because the police had concluded that it was not a child protection matter and that we were right in the decisions we made regarding the note from the staff member. I think that the Board was just conned into thinking it was something important rather than “nothing to worry about” as the police had told us.

Did you report it to the Board?

I reported it to Howard Tennant of Witherslack who were ‘running the school at the time’, and he was dismissive and just said that we needed to get rid of that member of staff but couldn’t do so yet. It was a strange situation because I had no idea who I should be reporting to and whenever we asked who was actually in charge of the school, just got the answer, “that is a good question”! There was no guidance in place, or written protocols and I did not even have an employment contract or job specification.

Who made the decison?

I was told first that it was the Care Inspectorate, then that it was just the governors, but when I saw Phil Jones’ (Witherslack) letter to the board, it was clear that the regulators wanted me out of the way so they could proceed with forcing the school to close. It was all very obvious to me what was going on. They got me suspended so that they could then impose conditions, issue an improvement notice and bully the Board into closing the school because no-one had the guts, or the knowledge of the legal framework to challenge the enforcement action.

You were suspended for 2 1/2 weeks. Why so long for something that had already been shown to be untrue?

You would have to ask the Board. I am not sure that they were making very rational decisions at the time.

Was Angie at fault?

Absolutey not. We both read the letter and it was very clear that it was not a child protection matter. We even laughed at the idea that the Care Inspectorate might think so. Our own care inspector was not the sharpest tool in the box, so you can understand how she got it so badly wrong, but what we did not appreciate is how they would con the governors into thinking that there had been a failure to report and just how gullible the governors could be. That was our biggest mistake.

Angie is a supreme professional. One of the best in the business.

What happened next? In terms of any action against you?

Both Angie and I had to attend a disciplinary meeting which was bizarre because the Board had just claimed that they did not have the expertise to challenge the Witherslack report yet were now scrutinising our own actions. We were found not guilty of any offence but of “making a mistake” given that the school was under intolerable pressure from the regulators and should have passed on anything, even if it were not related to child protection - which makes no sense. We could not pass anything on because it was clear that no harm had come to children and we did not know who the staff member was trying to get into trouble. The Board did not appear to have any knowledge of child protection matters and I have since discovered that none had attended training for a number of years.

I was allowed to return to work once the school had closed because I was “no longer a risk to pupils” - and that is something my lawyers are now dealing with.

The suspension was the most ridiculous thing that has ever happened to me and I am pretty confident that it has never occurred anywhere else.

Have you had any support from the Board?

Zero. As you might expect, nothing at all. Not even when I was suspended and they had a duty of care. Just nothing.

That is what is infuriating staff at the moment, that not one word of support has been forthcoming since the closure. You have to remember that these are professionals who went through trauma in February 2017 and who battled so courageously to save the school. They feel very let down.

You said that you were taking legal action. What sort of action? Who are you suing?

Sorry. Can’t say.

Bill Colley