This Review has been carried out during a period of our lives when every news report and article talks about unprecedented times. Our schools, offices and shops have been closed and services severely pulled back in response to the spread of Coronavirus.
However, these rapid school and service closures, and the aftermath with little to replace them, is similar to the situation that the young people, parents and carers who attended The New School Butterstone experienced when it closed with very little notice on 23 November 2018.
I have undertaken this Review with an open mind to how the roles and responsibilities of all concerned were met, but with a fresh perspective on how closures of this type can impact on families. I'd like to thank all the parents, carers, pupils, the Children and Young People's Commissioner and those that provide advocacy support, for their time in pulling together submissions and also for our meetings and conversations, all of which have helped clarify my overall understanding of the School community.
The Terms of Reference are clear that this is a lessons learned Review, focusing on the procedures followed by the Board of the New School Butterstone, the Care Inspectorate, Her Majesty's Inspectors (HM Inspectors working within Education Scotland), the Registrar of Independent Schools, all relevant local authorities and the Scottish Government.
My thanks go to the teams within these organisations, and their Boards, who have helped contribute to over 900 individual items of correspondence, reports and minutes that have made this Review possible. This was not an independent inquiry, with the powers that go with that, therefore all of these submissions have been willingly provided, alongside meetings and discussions, ensuring the factual accuracy of the information within this report.
Clearly a critical part of this Review has been the information gathered from the Board of Governors and the senior staff, who were the backbone of the School.
I have been appreciative of their honesty and time, alongside their willingness to reflect on circumstances in a balanced way. Alongside this significant participation, other organisations have also offered their support, for example the Witherslack Group, Police Scotland and the Scottish Council of Independent Schools.
I am also grateful to John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, who instigated the Review and provided the funding and resources to carry it out, without seeking to intervene or influence the substance of my work.
I am confident that this collective approach has been effective in bringing together a full picture of the events leading up to the School closure. Hopefully, this Review will enable the Relevant Bodies, former staff and other organisations, to reflect on ways that their practice might be improved for the future.