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‘Abusive’ team shut down special school, new dossier claims

Temporary managers at the school called the police on the final day.
Temporary managers at the school called the police on the final day.

Claims that a special Perthshire school was shut down after a council-led vendetta have been bolstered by a new dossier drawing on interviews from more than 20 school staff.

The 33-page document details the controversial final days at the New School at Butterstone, describing how a team of more than 15 external education and care officials set up an office in the science lab to manage the closure.

Closed primary school reopened for Butterstone pupils

Perth and Kinross Council is responsible for around 13 of the school’s 24 pupils.

The folio, which names the external officials, has been sent to education secretary John Swinney and opposition MSPs as staff and parents continue to push for a public inquiry.

It comes around one month after families were given only four days to find alternative arrangements for pupils. 

Officials maintain the school’s board of governors took the decision to close the school after it had become “financially unviable.”

Families were distraught as the school closed for the final time

But the dossier records in detail how the final days at the school were managed by the external team, with at least one request from Butterstone staff turned down because “PKC [Perth and Kinross Council] don’t want it to happen.”

Parents, pupils and staff are demanding answers as to why the school was shut with only four days’ notice, and why so many external staff were sent to the site in the final week.

One teacher said the external team instructed staff “in minute detail” as to how they were to conduct the closure of the school.

“The majority of them were utterly at odds with our professional judgement as to what was best at this crucial and difficult time for the students we knew so well, and they not at all,” the teacher said.

Many of these edicts were, frankly, abusive, and the reactions of the traumatised students were painful to witness.”

A sign at the now-closed school

Pupils are described to have been in “shock, disbelief and fear” when given news of the closure. Many of them were left in tears, staff claim.

The document says school managers were so concerned by media coverage of the closure in the final week – and the potential for parents to give interviews – that pupils were told to leave early on the final day and police were called to patrol the grounds.

A Perth and Kinross spokesperson acknowledged it had “sent a small multi-disciplinary team… to carry out appropriate assessment and planning for all the young people from Perth and Kinross who were displaced by this difficult situation.”

She said it was “entirely misguided” to blame the authority for the “unexpected” decision taken by the board of governors to close the school.

She said she would also welcome a public inquiry into “the serious deficiencies found at the school in relation to child protection and safeguarding.”

The Care Inspectorate told the school to improve after identifying “significant concerns about how children are protected from harm” in the weeks before the closure.

A separate police investigation found there was no evidence of criminal activity at the school.

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