‘Deplorable’: Anger and tears at closure
BUTTERSTONE: Parents call for probe into New School’s demise
Parents were reduced to tears as the New School at Butterstone shut its doors for the final time yesterday.
The closure leaves 24 families with an uncertain future after the authorities failed to find alternative arrangements for the young people affected.
The special school – for children with conditions such as autism, ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome – is seen by many parents and carers as “the last chance” to keep the young people within education.
Campaigners launched a fightback against the closure yesterday, submitting a 6,000 signature petition to Scottish Government education secretary John Swinney.
They demanded an investigation into the role official bodies have played in the closure, with many believing the school has been subject to an unfair vendetta. But others have pointed to a number of serious incidents at the school in the years prior to the most recent investigations.
Parent Lee Archibald, 37, from Dundee, said: “There is an injustice being done. Our kids’ education is being sacrificed and it is utterly deplorable.”
Parents at an axed Perthshire school for children with special needs have accused government officials of deliberately “plotting the downfall” of the oncecelebrated institution.
They claim the suspension of staff at the New School at Butterstone, including head teacher Bill Colley, in the days prior to this week’s closure announcement was part of an orchestrated campaign to undermine staff.
Families were left with only four days to find alternative arrangements for the 24 children, with many still left in limbo.
Parents and carers – some in tears – gathered at the school yesterday to take their youngsters home for the last time.
The campaigners sent Education Secretary John Swinney a petition of almost 7,000 signatures on Thursday night asking the Scottish Government to save the school.
The Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland investigated the school near Dunkeld, which charges fees of between £50,000 and £70,000 a year, in the weeks leading up to the closure after a complaint “raised significant concerns about how children are protected from harm”.
The investigation resulted in staff suspensions and an order to complete certain “improvements and actions”.
The school’s board of governors said it was impossible to do so in the time frame given and emailed parents on Monday to say the school was now “financially unviable” and would shut.
A potential buyer for the school, the Witherslack Group, withdrew its interest following a period of “due diligence” while the investigations were ongoing.
Parent Lee Archibald, 37, from Dundee, said: “Our kids’ education is being sacrificed and it is utterly deplorable that the Care Inspectorate and Perth and Kinross Council have done this. Officials at the council have constantly made complaints about issues the parents didn’t want to complain about and have used the Care Inspectorate as a puppet to plot the downfall of the school.”
Susan Briggs, 40, from Stanley, who still has not found a new school for her son, said: “The local authority has insinuated that my child wasn’t safe at the school and I don’t think that is the case at all.
“You have got 24 children with complicated support needs who have had their education taken away today.”
Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney said: “Since the board took the decision to close the school, Education Scotland, the Care Inspectorate and all the relevant local authorities have been working with the school and with families to focus on the needs of each young person.”
A spokesperson for the Care Inspectorate said: “We remained committed to working with the school to ensure the care provided to children improved as we required, however, despite this, the school informed us of their decision to close.”
No one at Perth and Kinross Council was available for comment.
Distraught parents try to comfort each other outside the school yesterday just hours before it closed for good.
Parents and campaigners protest close to the New School at Butterstone.