George Watson’s College fails to safeguard pupils against rife bullying

A pupil at George Watson's College has been left with "life-long injuries" due to bullying, Green MSP Andy Wightman has claimed.
A pupil at George Watson's College has been left with "life-long injuries" due to bullying, Green MSP Andy Wightman has claimed.
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A Lothian MSP has revealed that a private Edinburgh school is not properly safeguarding its pupils from bullying.

Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, used a Holyrood debate on bullying in schools today to allege that inspectors had warned that George Watson’s College in Merchiston was not adequately safeguarding pupil welfare.

Mr Wightman claimed an inspectors report filed in February this year had been particularly damning of the school’s lack of reponse to rife bullying involving a pupil.

Parents had been “scared to complain” about the issue, the MSP said.

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In the debate, Mr Wightman said: “After being elected, I was approached by constituents with a case involving a child who was the victim of serious bullying that ended up causing life-long injuries at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh.

“On 15 February 2017, a report of an Annual HMI Engagement Visit to the school reported that there were ‘no identified areas for development’ in relation to safeguarding.

“Yet by this time the school was aware of a catalogue of complaints of various forms of bullying against a pupil and knew that its parent liaison group had heard of bullying concerns by parents scared to complain.

“The school was also aware of potential regulatory action under consideration by Scottish Ministers.

“In September this year, a Special Inspection was conducted and three weeks ago Scottish Ministers wrote to the Merchant Company of Edinburgh to inform it that George Watsons College is at risk of becoming objectionable on the following ground – that the welfare of a pupil attending the school is not adequately safeguarded and promoted there.

“Anti-bullying measures, whether statutory or in the form of guidance, should apply equally to all schools, including private schools, as children’s human rights are universal and indivisible.

“It is self-evident that the welfare of children at the school is at risk, yet the letter intimating regulatory action and the HMI report have not been published.

“I plan to publish both documents this afternoon and would invite Ministers to reflect on the possibility that there are wider governance and safeguarding failings in the private sector and to investigate whether this is the case as a matter of urgency.”