Castlebrae ‘cover-up’ over claims against teacher

Castlebrae Community High. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Castlebrae Community High. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A VULNERABLE student’s complaint about improper behaviour by one of her teachers was effectively ignored for four months, according to allegations being investigated by the city council.

City chief executive Sue Bruce has ordered a probe into the handling of the complaint by a student at Castlebrae Community High. The investigation will also examine the systems that the council has for dealing with complaints to see if they are robust enough.

The student is understood to have first raised her complaint with senior staff members in January last year.

But two months later – when nothing appeared to have been done – she turned to another staff member for help. That employee is understood to have contacted education director Gillian Tee to highlight the student’s initial complaint and concerns about the lack of action.

Five weeks later, in frustration at what they believed to be a lack of action and urgency, the staff member turned to the city’s new whistle-blowing service. It was only at this stage, it is alleged, that the investigation was escalated and the student interviewed by police.

A senior source close to the investigation told the Evening News: “It was a cover-up. [Management at the school] wanted to shut it down. I do not think [the education department] treated it with any seriousness. I do not think they followed proper procedure.”

The investigation was today welcomed by councillors who said there were serious 
concerns about the way in which the school and local authority had handled a complaint from a student.

Councillor Cameron Rose, the city’s Conservative leader, said: “There is clearly a need for a review of complaints handling at the council in response to this episode.”

Councillor Michael Bridgman, SNP member for Portobello and Craigmillar, added: “I welcome the review [and] I believe it is long overdue because the handling of this particular complaint has fallen well short of the mark.”

Derek Curran, 54, who left his post as headteacher at Castlebrae High last year, has been charged with attacking his estranged wife and another woman over a 15-year period from 1999 until last year.

Another charge accuses Curran of behaving in a threatening or abusive 
manner at the Sick Kids Hospital in January last year.

Curran was at Castlebrae for a large chunk of the 1980s, before becoming headteacher at Forrester High for six years. He was then parachuted into Castlebrae again in 2013 to reverse its fortunes as it faced closure amid poor exam results and falling rolls.

He introduced a raft of measures, including ensuring pupils were the first in Edinburgh to be given mini iPads on a whole school basis.

A council spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on complaints made to the whistle-blowing hotline as they are confidential. A report on these matters will be discussed in private at committee this week.”