Following an inspection of The Hamilton School which concludes inspectors are not confident that the children are “safe and well cared for”, Scottish Ministers have instructed that the school should be removed from the Register of Independent Schools.
As a result, the independent, fee-paying school in Aberdeen can no longer operate as a school, as of February 22.
The decision comes after parents’ and former staff complaints about the nursery led to a police investigation and two members of staff being charged on 6 February with criminal offences against children.
In light of the seriousness of these charges and of complaints relating to the school, on 7 February Ministers ordered an immediate inspection of the school by HM Inspectors. The Care Inspectorate also undertook an inspection of the nursery. The HM Inspection report, which was also published last week, was received by Scottish Ministers last Thursday 20th February and found:
HM Inspectors were obliged to intervene in two lessons where serious health and safety risks were observed.
HM Inspectors were also obliged to refer three child protection cases to Police Scotland.
These and other detailed issues identified during the inspection led HM Inspectors to conclude that they are not confident that children attending The Hamilton School are safe.
HM Inspectors further concluded The Hamilton School is failing in its duty of care to its children and staff.
A team of HM Inspectors together with inspectors from the Care Inspectorate have been at the school since this morning to ensure the safety of the children.
Parents have been informed in writing of the decision to close the school and HM Inspectors are available at the school to speak to parents with any immediate concerns.
Education Scotland, the Scottish Government and Aberdeen City Council are working together to ensure information on alternative education options for children is available. The Council is confident they can accommodate all the school children and have provided a telephone helpline and offered meetings this weekend with parents and carers to discuss appropriate next steps for their children.
The legislation covering nurseries is separate from that relating to school inspections. As a result of the Care Inspectorate findings at their inspection on February 7, the HM Inspectors’ Report and the action taken today to close the school, the Care Inspectorate have attended the nursery to assess whether the nursery can still provide a safe environment and to ensure the health, wellbeing and protection of children in the nursery. That is being taken forward as a matter of urgency today. Further communications with parents of children at the nursery will follow.
Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said:
“The safety, wellbeing and education of children is our absolute priority. There is clear evidence from the HM Inspectors report that there have been serious failings in the school. They have said it is simply not safe for children to go there and so we have had no alternative but to order the school closed immediately.
“HM Inspectors have been at the school…. to ensure the safety of the children and remain available to answer questions from parents.
“The Council is confident they can accommodate all the school children if that is parents’ wish. As the statutory Education Authority with a duty of care to all children living in Aberdeen, they have provided a telephone advice line and are offering meetings over this weekend with parents to discuss the best option for their children.
“This is a difficult day for the parents and, most importantly, for the pupils of The Hamilton School. The Scottish Government, Aberdeen Council, the Care Inspectorate and HM Inspectors are working closely together to provide the information and support parents need. We will do everything we can to minimise disruption and distress.”