Police probe sexual offence claims at deaf school

Donaldson's School, in Linlithgow. Picture: Joey Kelly

Donaldson's School, in Linlithgow. Picture: Joey Kelly

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POLICE are investigating claims that sexual offences were carried out at Donaldson’s School in Linlithgow, the national school for deaf children, according to ­reports.

Police Scotland are said to be assessing allegations related to serious sexual offences and how staff at the school responded to them. It is understood that some of the allegations are historical in nature.

Donaldson’s School was last week served with an improvement notice by the Scottish Government and given seven days to make immediate changes to the way the establishment is run.

Last night, the school said it was unable to comment and a spokesperson said: “This is a sensitive matter and with internal investigations ongoing, we are unable to comment on the names, job titles or any other specifics of this case”.

The Scottish Government said a preliminary notice was served on the school after concerns were raised by inspectors from Education Scotland.

It added: “Immediate steps have been taken, and will continue to be taken, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of pupils.

“A team of inspectors and key partners returned to the school on Monday to continue working with the school to secure improvements. This has included meeting with the board of governors, the parents of pupils and liaising with Police ­Scotland.”

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Donaldson’s, which moved to West Lothian in 2008 following the sale of its huge Victorian premises in Edinburgh’s West End, has been beset with problems in recent times.

Last year, an inspection of Donaldson’s – a grant-aided special school supported by the Scottish Government – noted concerns about the school’s performance. Earlier this year, William Docherty, 42, a communications support worker at the school, was convicted of ­indecently assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 2009.

The school was heavily criticised by Sheriff Derek O’Carroll for not suspending Docherty until almost four years after the assault – despite receiving a ­report from the victim’s mother at the time.

Staff at the school also complained of a “toxic” culture of ­endemic bullying, lack of transparency and incompetence,

Local MP Michael Connarty said the ongoing difficulties at the school meant it was time for it to be taken into local authority control.

He said: “There needs to be a real clear light shone into how the school is run or we will continue to see it struggle from crisis to crisis.

“I think it’s an amazing facility and I’m really worried that it might go because I think it’s unique.

“I have been concerned about the way things are going for a while. It should be taken over and given to the local authority, making it accountable in the same way as any other local ­authority school.”

Laura Battles, the school’s principal, said: “As the new principal of Donaldon’s School I received allegations against a member of staff within the school who was immediately suspended.

“Our first priority is always the safety and wellbeing of pupils and we are working with Education Scotland, the Care ­Inspectorate and others to ­ensure this. It would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment while this process, ­including Police Scotland’s assessment of the concerns raised, is ongoing.”

A police spokeswoman said officers were undertaking an initial assessment”.

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