A school on the centre of a misconduct and secrecy row has failed to satisfy good governance requirements, in accordance with nationwide auditors.
Audit Scotland checks discovered plenty of areas the place South Lanarkshire School (SLC) didn’t absolutely adjust to the Code of Good Governance for Schools.
This included the board not assembly for 5 months from June 2021, and the audit and danger committee not assembly for six months from Might 2021.
In November 2021, the board agreed to fee two impartial investigations into complaints and grievances on issues referring to its chair Andy Kerr, interim clerk to the board Brian Keegan, and Aileen McKechnie, the principal.
READ MORE: Misconduct row school accused of failing to behave on complaints
The board additionally agreed to droop the principal and interim clerk whereas these investigations continued. The board chair, who’s a former Labour minister, voluntarily stepped except for his position for a similar interval. The investigations are ongoing.
Earlier in 2021, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) commissioned an exterior evaluation into governance on the school. A redacted copy of this report was supplied to the South Lanarkshire board in October and its suggestions have been included in a governance enchancment plan ready by the school.
Nonetheless, the extent of redactions within the report meant the school’s impartial auditor couldn’t say whether or not the motion plan covers all of the SFC’s suggestions.
The newest considerations have been set out in a newly printed Audit Scotland report.
Auditor Common Stephen Boyle mentioned: “These governance points danger stopping scrutiny of how South Lanarkshire School operates on behalf of its college students, employees and the broader group.
“The development plan developed by the school is a vital step ahead. It’s important that the board and senior administration group now take possession of the plan and work collectively to make sure it’s delivered.”
His remarks come after The Herald revealed accusations that the school board had didn’t act meaningfully on complaints made in opposition to it.
4 whistleblowing claims – believed to contain points comparable to governance, conduct and the therapy of employees – have been obtained by SLC between September and November final yr.
School sources mentioned the allegations highlighted a spread of considerations. These embrace the exclusion of employees and pupil members from board conferences, the withholding of related data, bullying and intimidation.
The Herald has additionally been advised there have been a number of resignations from the board throughout 2021, and that the board and plenty of key committees have been inquorate for a time period.
SLC bosses mentioned the 4 whistleblowing complaints, along with formal complaints referring to Mr Kerr, Ms McKechnie and Mr Keegan, have been the topic of ongoing inquiries.
READ MORE: School in contemporary transparency row over ‘stalled’ report after misconduct claims
The 2021 allegations are on prime of plenty of complaints that have been obtained within the latter a part of 2020. These triggered the appointment of Azets – an organization that specialises in audit, accounting, tax and enterprise recommendation companies – and an inside investigation led by the school principal. It’s believed the complaints contained claims of fraud, theft and common malfeasance linked to the time earlier than Ms McKechnie’s tenure.
The probe resulted within the manufacturing of an audit report final yr that made “plenty of suggestions for enhancements to inside procedures”. School bosses mentioned that they had accepted “all of the suggestions in full”. Nonetheless, information of the suspension of Ms McKechnie and Mr Keegan emerged all of the sudden simply weeks later.
The school has now printed an motion plan that particulars the suggestions and progress up to now. Bosses have to this point refused to launch the audit report, however their replace suggests the investigation uncovered vital weaknesses and failings. It outlines how procedures are being, or have been, enhanced in areas comparable to procurement, stopping bribery, finishing up provider due diligence, accepting hospitality or items, HR, overseeing budgets and expenditure, inventory management, stock administration, and defending entry to storerooms and different areas which might be “prone to theft”.
Bosses have been additionally suggested to tighten processes for course and lecturer timetabling, the monitoring of pupil attendance, pupil withdrawals and reserving out school automobiles. The suggestions and replace comprise recurring references to SLC’s building school.
COMMENT: School governance questions nonetheless to be answered
Paul Hutchinson, performing chair of SLC’s board of administration, mentioned: “We’re conscious of the Part 22 audit report raised by the Auditor Common in relation to company governance on the school.
“The governance enchancment plan developed by the school is a vital step ahead in addressing the considerations raised inside the Part 22 report. The board and senior administration group collectively personal the plan and can work collectively to make sure it’s delivered.
“Steady monitoring of the plan might be carried out by the audit and danger committee. As well as, governance might be topic to evaluation as a part of the school’s agreed inside audit plan. Many of those actions have already been progressed and we are going to proceed to work with senior employees and key public our bodies to progress any excellent actions for enchancment.
“The main focus of the board stays on offering a high-quality studying expertise for its college students and assembly the wants of the communities which it serves.”