Child abuse inquiry to hear evidence on boarding schools
Establishments being investigated include Fettes College, Gordonstoun, Loretto School and Merchiston Castle School.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has announced that it will hold hearings into abuse allegations in boarding schools next year.
Chairwoman Lady Smith urged anyone with evidence to get in touch with the inquiry, even if they have already spoken to police or been involved in other investigations.
The inquiry is currently investigating seven boarding schools around Scotland, including Fettes College, Gordonstoun, Loretto School and Merchiston Castle School.
Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, and the former Keil School, Dumbarton, are also under investigation, as is Morrison’s Academy in Crieff during the period it was a boarding school.
Lady Smith said: “In 2020, we plan to progress to case study hearings in relation to our investigations into abuse in boarding schools.
“We are interested in hearing from anyone about their experiences in boarding schools, particularly people who may have more recent experiences of having attended one of the schools currently under wider investigation from the 1980s up to December 2014.
“I would encourage anyone who has evidence to offer in relation to any of the investigations listed on our website to get in touch. We want to hear from you.
“I know that some people have already made a report to the police or to other agencies/persons and may have been involved in other investigations. That does not matter – please also talk to us.”
The safety and welfare of children at school is of paramount importance, and schools have zero-tolerance towards staff who fail to live up to these values John Edward, SCIS
Boarding schools will be the sixth phase of the inquiry and is expected to start next summer.
John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, said in a statement: “The inquiry team has confirmed what was announced in 2015, that boarding schools would be looked at as part of the overall examination of school care accommodation.
“The schools have already worked with the inquiry team since the first announcement and have provided them with a substantial amount of detail.
“That full co-operation will continue through the hearings in 2020 and beyond.
“The safety and welfare of children at school is of paramount importance, and schools have zero-tolerance towards staff who fail to live up to these values.
“The independent sector is no different from any other part of the school system in continuing to champion the highest standards of child welfare.”
A step by step video to help familiarise witnesses with the SCAI hearings suite before they give evidence is now available on the SCAI website. It also explains how witnesses are assisted on the day: https://t.co/3wjlBWkasg— Scottish CA Inquiry (@ScottishCAI) July 12, 2019
A further phase investigating foster care has also been announced for late 2020.
A Loretto School spokesman said: “Loretto School, as one of many residential care institutions being investigated by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, has been made aware that some case study hearings in relation to boarding schools will take place in the summer of 2020.
“We are committed to co-operating fully with Lady Smith’s inquiry, the remit of which is to investigate the nature and extent of the abuse of children in care settings in Scotland within ‘the living memory of any who provides information about it, up to December 2014’.
“At Loretto School, the safety, well-being and protection of our children and young people are of utmost importance. With the introduction of the relevant provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and in the context of GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) every member of staff at Loretto School has a responsibility to do the right thing and work towards a unified approach in order to safeguard each child.
“Our staff members attend regular information and training sessions in child protection best practices, and recent inspections by Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate have confirmed that Loretto is fully compliant with its obligations.”
A spokeswoman for Gordonstoun added: “We are fully committed to helping the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in any way we can as part of this important Scotland-wide project to understand how children were looked after in the past and to learn lessons for the future.
“We hope the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry will make children safer in the future.
“For everyone at Gordonstoun today, making sure our students are happy, healthy and safe is at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for all our students.
“Our ongoing work in this area was recognised in our most recent independent Care Inspectorate Report which gave us a rating of 5 ‘very good’ for pupil Care and Support and noted the ‘comprehensive child protection procedures’ in place.”
The inquiry is examining historical allegations of the abuse of children in care and began taking statements from witnesses in the spring of 2016.
The current hearings, phase four, focus on childcare establishments run by male religious orders.
These hearings are expected to conclude by late this year and will be followed by an examination of the abuse of children who left Scotland through the child migration programme.
The inquiry’s witness support team can be contacted on 0800 0929 300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or via SCAI, PO Box 24085, Edinburgh EH7 9EA.