The moon stood still, on Deuchary Hill
Witherslack signed a takeover agreement in mid-August 2018 and were due to complete the handover at the end of December. Their directors met John Swinney at the school and discussed their proposals with him, and with representatives of the parent council.
“We are a very ethical organisation” they said.
Their marketing department had already produced a new website and branding with the adopted name of Deuchary Hill School.
By late September, staff had already received training in the use of a much-needed management information system, and school data transferred to their system.
Their safeguarding team had made several extended visits to scrutinise the school’s paperwork and endorsed what the care team were doing. Angie had visited some of their services in England.
Their estates team had team had identified key priorities for developing the school site, including;
Installation of a brand new ICT system
Installation of fibre optic broadband for the school and the village
The construction of a multi-purpose all-weather pitch
Renovation of the Lodge for residential accommodation
A new parking area to remove vehicles from the immediate vicinity of the classrooms and main building
A new child protection policy had been written to bring the school into line with English requirements (“Scotland is 10-15 years behind England”).
The Directors had informed senior TNS managers that, “You have money now” and urged them to recruit a new science teacher and support staff. Up to that point, the Head of School was dipping into his own pocket to finance the new enterprise initiative whereby pupils would be paid a modest wage for undertaking certain hospitality duties as part of the re-designed curriculum.
TNS was to be the Scottish HQ for an ambitious expansion of their services into this part of the UK.
So why did it all go wrong?
In September 2018, the school advertised for a science teacher and 2 support assistants. Surprisingly, a very well-qualified teacher applied for the post, but school managers delayed a response.
Something did not feel right. Communication with Witherslack had gone quiet.
We suspect that their negotiations with the Care Inspectorate were already becoming difficult. PKC did not want Witherslack on their doorstep and so the Care Inspectorate were doing all they could to scupper the takeover on PKC’s behalf. This was confirmed when Phil Jones wrote to the Board on 5th November, withdrawing from the agreement.
It has become clear that the fake child protection controversy was simply an excuse to back down from their commitment to the school in order to save face, and substantial sums of money.
They knew fine well that there had been no failings in the school because their staff had been present throughout and reacted with horror when the Board of Governors took the absurd decision to suspend the Head so soon after he and Angie had been shown to have acted correctly. The WG staff on the ground were completely oblivious to the decision by the dirctors to abandon their takeover. Their stand-in Head even commented that the whole ‘child protection’ affair was a very “minor matter”, and remember that the policeman reluctantly leading the investigation because of pressure from the Care Inspectorate and PKC had said that it was, “nothing to worry about”.
The Board then made the extraordinary decision to allow WG to conduct a ‘safeguarding’ review in the absence of the Head in which they invented a range of concerns that had never been put forward during all the time they their staff had been in the school. The Head had told them not to, because he feared the worst. It was an act of treachery that destroyed the lives of 24 pupils and 51 members of staff.
The Board then made an even more extraordinary decision to show the report to the regulators and PKC before school managers, so that lies and errors could not be corrected or challenged. They even stated that they themselves did not have the expertise to comment on it - despite the fact that their own responsibilities are enshrined in law.
In August 2018, Witherslack brought hope to the school.
They then destroyed it with extraordinary inhumanity.
And with it the lives of 24 vulnerable young people and their families.
See also: ‘The Witherslack Betrayal’