Blowing the Whistle in Schools
About the research
New research from Protect shows too many whistleblowers working in schools are ignored and victimised for raising public interest concerns.
Our schools should be safe places for children to learn, play and thrive, and inspiring places for all school staff to work. All workplaces come across risks, malpractice or wrongdoing and will need effective arrangements in place to ensure that genuine concerns can be raised and issues addressed appropriately.
However, Protect’s report reveals that whistleblowing in educational settings has not been given the priority it deserves. Rather than being thanked for pointing out potential harms, many school staff experience detriment or even dismissal when they try to blow the whistle.
Examining 457 cases from our Advice Line over a 2-year period between 2020-2022, we found the following trends:
From FOI requests, Ofsted reported receiving 1,543 contacts from staff working in schools, 338 were considered a ‘qualifying complaint’ for which Ofsted could investigate over a two year period. Despite this volume of whistleblowing disclosure Ofsted are not recognised as a regulatory body for education (known as a prescribed person) under the whistleblowing protection law.
About Protect, the UK's whistleblowing charity
“Not listening to whistleblowers can cause damage to individuals, schools, and reputations” quote from Blowing the Whistle in Schools
- Ofsted’s role is too limited for school whistleblowers and so should be Prescribed Person for education under the whistleblowing protection law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). Being a prescribed person would give extra legal protection for those whistleblowers blowing the whistle, and Ofsted would need to publish data on the number, type of concerns raised and any regulatory action they have taken from the whistleblowing on an annual basis.
- Their should be a requirement on schools to acknowledge, investigate and provide feedback to whistleblowers. This process should be overseen at board or governor level by a governor appointed whistleblowing champion.
- Ofsted should inspect schools on the effectiveness of their whistleblowing arrangements.
- School governors and volunteers should be protected from detriment, but whistleblowing law does not currently apply to them.
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