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TNS staff awarded compensation

News has come to us that staff have been awarded a measure of compensation for the failure of the Board of Governors to follow proper procedures when closing the school in December. We do not have the full details but if correct would suggest that the poor decision-making that led to the shock announcement in November continued in the aftermath and that alternatives to closure were not explored.

School managers had little difficulty in securing a new provider but questions must now be asked about the lack of any proper planning during the crisis which emerged when the Board stated that they had come under “intolerable pressure fromthe regulators” and indeed why that pressure existed in the first place.

“That is where there has been a big scandal”

One staff member has reported that when he/she engaged recently with a legal firm, the lawyer concerned stated openly that he knew that the school had closed as the result of corruption and not for financial reasons. It is heartening to know that there are some who recognise that the statements issued by PKC, John Swinney and the Care Inspectorate were untue, and that there are very strong grounds for an independent investigation.

Most pupils now back in school

Nichola Sturgeon implied in January that most TNS pupils had been offered places following closure but it is only recently that her statement can be regarded as accurate. It has taken months for former pupils to be placed and some have still not received an education since November 2018. Education Scotland blocked moves to continue the old school and must take responsibility for the trauma suffered by children and families in the intervening period.

The catastrophic failure of PKC to provide alternative placements has been the exception rather than the rule with most authorities stepping-up to the challenge and offering support packages or educational provisions.

According to FOI documentation, TNS was projected to have a deficit of just £90,000 for the year to August 2019 but that did not take into account new placements between November and the end of the school year. 8 places had been offered and the school was processing around 50 enquiries. The Head of School had projected a final school roll for 2019/2020 of 35.

John Swinney subsequently provided PKC with £150,000 for their 13 displaced pupils and there are rumours from PKC sources that more has been given since then. This raises questions about the financial decision-making at the time and the degree to which the taxpayer has had to subsidise PKC failings. Only 1 pupil attended the PKC provision at Forteviot and that was for 2 hours per day on a temporary basis until the school re-opened.

Moore House now use the Butterstone site as a day service and are looking to open a residential service as soon as possible.

Head of School writing account of the closure

The former Head of School has agreed to write an autobiogrpahical account of the brief period he was in charge of the school and the desperate attempt to save TNS in the face of insurmountable opposition from PKC, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. Entitled ‘The Fairy Cake Massacre’, the book will cover the period from January 2018 until closure in November of that year, and the legacy he faced when he took charge in April. The title is derived from a complaint made by Rodger Hill (PKC) to the Registrar of Independent Schools in January 2018 that the school allowed a pupil to eat a fairy cake, and which precipitated the unannounced inspections in May of that year.

Anniversary

The 23rd September marks the first anniversary of the note written by a disgruntled staff member which sparked the whole closure of the school. The events that followed have been documented elsewhere but questions remain about the actions of the regulators following what was just an ordinary grievance. We are very clear that it should never have led to a police investigation, to enforcement action or to the suspension of the Head and closure of the school.

Whatever happens in terms of an independent investigation, we will ensure that an archive remains of what happened to prevent such a tragedy every occurring again.

Bill Colley