Support group calls for full public investigation into closure of specialist Perthshire school

© DC ThomsonButterstone is set to reopen next week.
Butterstone is set to reopen next week.

A support group for parents and staff of a former specialist school in Perthshire have called for a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding its closure in November last year “as a matter of urgency”.

The TNS Support Group has written to Education Secretary John Swinney demanding the Scottish Government open an independent probe into the closure of the New School at Butterstone after parents were given just four days notice of the shutdown.

It said: “We are writing on behalf of the 24 young people and their families affected by the abrupt closure of The New School, Butterstone in November 2018, and the 51 member of staff who lost their jobs.

“We are requesting that, as a matter of urgency, the Scottish Government now commissions a full independent inquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding the closure of the school.

“Over the last six months we have taken every step we can to determine why the school was closed but have been unsuccessful in obtaining credible answers.”

The independent school at Dunkeld shut in November last year, with bosses citing financial difficulties.

It later emerged an internal report commissioned by the board of governors had recommended immediate closure due to failures around child safeguarding processes.

Former staff strongly deny those allegations and many parents insisted their children were well looked after.

The school was reopened earlier this month, under the leadership of the Moore House Group, with 12 pupils initially attending.

Mr Swinney said the request for an investigation would be considered.

He said: “I was pleased to approve the recent registration of Butterstone House School and I am glad that the Moore House Group have come forward to establish this much needed school.

“My priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of all the former pupils of the New School Butterstone.

“The Board of Governors made a business decision to close the school, and HM Inspectors and the Care Inspectorate fulfilled their statutory functions.

“The Scottish Government will consider the request for an inquiry and respond accordingly.”

Perth and Kinross Council has said it will fully support a independent  investigation and will seek to commission its own inquiry if the Scottish Government refuses.

A council spokesperson said: “It has always been the position of Perth and Kinross Council that a full independent enquiry into the circumstances that led to the closure of the school in 2018 takes place; and our stance on this has not changed.

“If the decision is made that a full enquiry will not happen, then we will seek to commission an independent review to determine what circumstances led to the sudden closure of the school.”