Probe into how council handled allegations against teacher to be heard in private

The results of an independent probe into how Scottish Borders Council handled allegations of assault against vulnerable youngsters by one of its teachers are to be disclosed in a private session this week, it has emerged.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 4:04 pm
Andrew Webster QC.
Andrew Webster QC.

A special meeting of Scottish Borders Council, to be held via video link at 10am on Thursday, is expected to hear the verdict of Andrew Webster QC, who was tasked with leading the investigation in June last year.

The appointment was made after Linda McCall, of Earlston, was found guilty of assaulting five pupils aged five to seven at Tweeddale Support Unit in Peebles, between August 2016 and October 2017.

The independent inquiry had been tasked into assessing how the council dealt with concerns raised by parents at the time, with an in-house investigation having found no evidence of wrong-doing.

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This led to parents, who are now pursuing civil action, accusing the local authority of a cover-up.

It had been hoped results of the inquiry would be available in September last year, but it was delayed after “further lines of inquiry” were pursued.

All of Scottish Borders Council’s elected members have been invited to hear Mr Webster’s findings at Thursday’s special meeting but the public and press will be exempt “on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information”.

A total of 28 parents, current and former employees and other interested parties have been interviewed as part of the probe.

McCall was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in July last year after being found guilty of violently manhandling the pupils, dragging them across the floor, pushing them against walls and screaming in their faces.

One of the pupils’ parents said at the time: “When it started to come out there had been allegations made against a teacher, all of the parents had a meeting with the heads of education ... we were told she had not harmed a hair on their heads. The council investigation that followed found the accusations against her had all been a misunderstanding.

"They did everything they could to sweep this under the carpet. This had a lasting effect on my child and many of the others who went to that school."

It is not yet known when the findings of the inquiry will be made public.

Scottish Borders Council chief executive Netta Meadows said: “I received a copy of Andrew Webster QC’s report over the weekend, following the conclusion of his independent inquiry.

“The report was shared with elected members on Monday to allow them the opportunity to digest the report ahead of Mr Webster presenting his findings and recommendations to full council on Thursday, February 17 – the earliest date this meeting could take place.”