Council says sorry for failings in probe into bullying at Borders school

Scottish Borders Council has apologised for its mishandling of a complaint about alleged bullying by school staff.
Scottish Borders Council has apologised for its mishandling of a complaint about alleged bullying by school staff.

Scottish Borders Council failed to properly investigate allegations that a child with additional support needs was being treated unfairly and bullied by primary school staff, a watchdog has ruled.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has upheld two complaints by the child’s parents against the local authority.

Before going to the watchdog, the couple had complained to the council over the alleged treatment their child had received from the Borders school’s headteacher and another teacher.

The school has not been named to protect the anonymity of the family, and the watchdog’s report into the affair refers only to the couple as Mr and Mrs C. Their child has been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the report says: “Mr and Mrs C were concerned this was not being properly taken into account by the school.”

It adds: “The council investigated but concluded there was no evidence to support their concerns about unfair treatment and bullying by staff.

“Mr and Mrs C said this investigation was not impartial and complained about how it had been carried out.

“The council did not respond to this complaint.

“During our consideration of these complaints, the council wrote to us and acknowledged a number of issues with their original investigation and their response to Mr and Mrs C’s complaints.

“They identified five recommendations they were taking forward as a result of their review of the case.

“The council also advised that Mr and Mrs C’s later complaint about how the council’s investigation had been carried out had not been responded to appropriately.

“We consider that the failings identified in the council’s investigation amounted to maladministration, and we upheld both of Mr and Mrs C’s complaints.”

The ombudsman has recommended that the council send a written apology to the couple and carry out checks at the school to ensure appropriate support strategy records are maintained for pupils with ADHD.

The watchdog also demands that staff are made aware of the importance of their “tone and use of language” in case notes and correspondence.

A spokesperson for the council said those recommendations had now been implemented and that an apology had been sent out.

With regard to five recommendations the council made to itself during the watchdog’s investigation, the spokesperson said three of had been acted on and the remaining two were “currently being addressed”.