Ministers demanded the immediate closure of the school at the centre of a major investigation by Scotland’s care watchdog. A damning report by education inspectors raised serious concerns about the wellbeing of children and “extreme and serious management failings”.
The report revealed an “outdated and punitive approach” to managing behaviour at Hamilton School in Aberdeen’s west end, and teachers complaining of an “endemic ethos of bullying and harassment” by owner and principal, Kathlyn Taylor.
Earlier this month, Ms Taylor, 65, and a 25-year-old female employee were charged with “criminal offences against children” and reported to the procurator-fiscal after a police investigation. It was launched after both the Care Inspectorate and Aberdeen City Council began looking into concerns raised over care at the private school and nursery, which caters for children aged from three months to 12 years.
Last Friday, the school, which has been operating for almost 40 years, was given less than a week to make urgent improvements or face closure after the Care Inspectorate served an improvement notice amid “serious” concerns relating to medication and nutrition.
The government yesterday said closure was ordered as inspectors were not confident pupils were “safe and well cared for”. Ministers ordered that it be removed from the Register of Independent Schools. Hamilton is Scotland’s only privately owned independent day school.
Alasdair Allan, minister for learning, said: “There is clear evidence from the HM inspectors’ report that there have been serious failings in the school. It is simply not safe for children to go there and we have no alternative but to order the school closed immediately.”
The Education Scotland report revealed that inspectors had to intervene in two lessons where “serious health and safety risks” were observed and also referred three child protection cases to Police Scotland.
It states: “HM inspectors found a range of significant and serious evidence that indicates Hamilton School is failing in its duty of care to children and staff.
“Overall, the school has an outdated and punitive approach to managing children’s behaviour. HM inspectors have serious concerns about relationships between some staff and the children in their care.”
It also reveals confidential information about children was being stored inappropriately and staff were being ordered by the owner and manager to “falsify and inflate” a pupil’s progress when dealing with parents.
It also reveals teaching staff complained about an “endemic ethos of bullying and harassment by the owner/manager, directors and senior managers”.
A Hamilton School spokesman said: “We are stunned by this and don’t believe it’s in the best interests of the children, their parents or the 85 staff employed here. An appeal is under active consideration.”