New School Butterstone

Independent Review published.

An Independent Review into the closure of a residential school for children with additional support needs has been published.

The New School Butterstone in Dunkeld, Perthshire closed in November 2018. The Independent Review by James Martin CBE, appointed by the Scottish Government, considered the procedures followed by the school’s Board and a range of public bodies in advance of the decision to close.

The Review makes a number of recommendations for the public bodies involved, including HM Inspectors of Education, the Care Inspectorate, the Registrar of Independent Schools and Perth and Kinross Council, and the Boards of independent schools.

The recommendations include:

  • guidance should be produced for independent schools, parents and carers on the roles and responsibilities of the Care Inspectorate, HM Inspectors of Education, local authorities and the Registrar of independent schools
  • guidance should be produced encouraging Boards of independent schools to consider the level of scrutiny expected and accountability applied to those reporting directly to them
  • where the closure of schools similar to New School Butterstone occurs, Boards should ensure sufficient notice is given to enable relevant bodies and organisations to plan for the best outcome for the associated young people, carers, parents and local authorities

Education Secretary John Swinney said:

“The school’s abrupt closure was deeply regrettable and had a significant impact on pupils, families and staff.

“The Review finds that child protection policies at the school were not enforced, the Board’s understanding of their role was insufficient and that concerns around safeguarding were not properly investigated, which was compounded by poor working relationships.

“There are a number of recommendations for the public bodies involved which I would urge those organisations to reflect upon. These include the production of new guidance for independent schools and parents, as well as the importance of Boards giving families and pupils sufficient notice when a school has to unavoidably close.

“We will work closely with all the relevant public bodies to consider carefully how to implement these actions and enhance future practice. I hope this report provides important and helpful clarity to all those affected by the closure of the New School Butterstone.”

Mr Martin said:

“Thank you to the organisations, parents, carers and former pupils for their time in pulling together evidence, and also for our meetings and conversations.

“By assessing the facts of what took place, and how situations and processes were handled, I am confident that this collective approach has been effective in bringing together a full picture of the events leading up to the School’s closure. It is clear that the School, which had been in a difficult financial position for some time, closed because in the view of the Board the Charitable Trust should be wound up.

“My findings call for more clarity on the roles, responsibilities and processes of the regulatory bodies, that can be understood more clearly in an autonomous independent School setting. I also encourage those involved to review their actions in light of my findings, and reflect on their own lessons learned.”


The New School Butterstone was a small independent special school in Perthshire which closed at short notice in November 2018. The closure had a significant impact on the pupils, their families, and staff at the school. 

In November 2019, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills announced that James Martin CBE would undertake an independent review into the procedures and circumstances that led to the closure. The Review was established as a ‘lessons learnt’ independent review into the circumstances and procedures around the closure.

The full independent review can be read here:


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