Inquiry hears of serious concerns about approved schools in Scotland

An abuse inquiry has been told of serious concerns in the past surrounding a number of approved schools in Scotland.

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) heard that the potential for a mass walkout, heavy punishment regimes and a lack of psychological treatment facilities for “disturbed” youngsters were among the fears raised about the institutions in a report from the late 1960s.

The probe heard there was a concern that “something would happen” at one of the establishments that could “embarrass” ministers.

The details emerged as Professor Ian Levitt, emeritus professor of social policy at the University of Central Lancashire and an honorary professor at the University of West of Scotland, gave evidence to the SCAI on inspection regimes linked to children in care from 1968 to 1992.

He told how approved schools were “high on the agenda” following the introduction of new social work laws in 1968.

The witness referenced a report from a school inspector to the newly-in-post chief social work adviser from that year, setting out the issues at some approved schools.

According to the report, one school with 120 boys had seen “heavy absconding” and a “a mass walkout is a hazard not to be ruled out”.

Another wanted to move away from being a “barrack-style school”, the inquiry heard.

“There were serious concerns at a number of schools at the time,” Prof Levitt said.

He told how the report spoke of “major strains which could lead to a deterioration” at one institution, “disgruntlement” at another and “issues with the management of the school” at a third.

Other concerns raised elsewhere included a new headmaster who was keen on “maintaining a punishment regime to maintain discipline” and a “lack of psychological treatment facilities for disturbed girls” at another approved school.

Reading from the report, senior counsel to the inquiry Colin MacAulay QC, said: “Some of the situations are the breeding grounds of incidents which may result in publicity and end in inquiry.”

Prof Levitt told the hearing: “There was a concern that something would happen in Scotland which would result in embarrassment to the Secretary of State.”

The inquiry continues.

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