Kerelaw inquiry urged to treat teachers fairly

 The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has today urged the Kerelaw Enquiry, established to examine the circumstances in which abuse occurred at the former Kerelaw residential school, to treat all teachers fairly during the enquiry process.

The EIS is concerned that some wholly innocent teachers are suffering damage to their reputations and to their careers due to past employment at Kerelaw. EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith said,

“No pupil should ever have to suffer abuse in school. It is right that an independent enquiry was established so that lessons can be learned to help prevent similar incidents in the future. However, caution must be exercised to ensure that innocent individuals – those teachers who played no part in, and had no knowledge of the abusive behaviour of others – can continue teaching without having their professional reputation tainted by their past association with Kerelaw. Innocence should always be presumed unless and until guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt.”

Alluding to other legal cases, as well as the recent media spotlight focussed on the first teacher to be struck off the teaching register on the grounds of incompetence, Mr Smith added,

“More and more, we are seeing teachers essentially ‘named and shamed’ before proper process has been carried out. In many legal cases, as well as in the case of the first ever GTCS competence case, the process is played out under an intense media glare with serious implications for the integrity of the process. While it is right that guilty individuals should be named and appropriately censured, public or media pre-judgement can make it impossible for those subsequently found to be innocent to recover their reputation afterwards.”

Mr Smith urged the Independent Inquiry, jointly set up by Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government, to pay particular attention to the findings of the employment tribunal that Jim Hunter, former Head of School, had been unfairly dismissed.

Moreover, Glasgow City Council had conceded in the case of two other teachers and the Tribunal accepted that these teachers had been unfairly dismissed too. Mr Smith said

“While we welcome this vindication of these three members, the outcome does not remove their suffering subsequent to their dismissals. Frankly, they should never have been dismissed.”

He continued …

“These Tribunal Findings show that Glasgow City Council got it spectacularly wrong. In their determination to scapegoat those who worked at Kerelaw, they set aside the normal standards for a fair investigation in favour of constructing a prejudicial report.”

Mr Smith added …

“Many EIS members who worked in Kerelaw have been tainted by the unfair internal Glasgow City Council report, which unjustifiably claimed that around 40 staff were involved in child abuse. By insinuation their professional reputations were damaged.”

Mr Smith concluded by saying …

“I do not envy the Committee Chairman Eddie Frizzell and his team their task. The remit of the Inquiry is both wide ranging and demanding. However, in any fair examination of the issue the Committee must consider the handling of internal disciplinary procedures by the Council. Certain individuals were effectively hung out to dry by the Council”.

Notes:

  1. Kerelaw School was a residential open and secure unit school, operating by Glasgow City Council. It was closed in 2006.
  2. Jim Hunter was awarded £62,680 by the Employment Tribunal (Scotland).
  3. The settlements of the two other teachers are confidential.

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