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The aims of this policy are:
- To encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate.
- To provide staff with guidance as to how to raise those concerns about potential wrongdoing in or by the School.
- To set clear procedures for how the School will respond to such concerns.
- To assure staff that they are able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals through the steps set out in the policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken (though vexatious or malicious concerns may be considered a disciplinary issue)
- This policy covers and/or applies to all employees, Governors, consultants, contractors, volunteers and agency workers.
- This policy does not form part of any employee’s contract of employment and the School may amend it at any time.
Roles and responsibilities
The Governing Body
- The Governing Body has overall responsibility for this policy, and for reviewing the effectiveness of actions taken in response to concerns raised under this policy.
- The Headteacher will respond to all individuals who raise any genuine concerns that they may have about the conduct of others in the School which are in the public interest as defined by the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1998.
- The Headteacher may act as an Investigator in relation to this policy.
The Whistleblowing Officer
- The Whistleblowing Officer has day-to-day operational responsibility for this policy.
- The Whistleblowing Officer must ensure that all staff who deal with concerns or investigations under this policy receive regular and appropriate training.
- The Whistleblowing Officer, in conjunction with the School Governors should review this policy from a legal and operational perspective at least once a year.
- All staff are responsible for the success of this policy and should ensure that they use it to disclose any suspected danger or wrongdoing.
- Staff are expected to uphold the Staff Code of Conduct and report any fraud, misconduct or wrongdoing by other members of staff and Governors.
What is Whistleblowing?
- Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information which relates to suspected wrongdoing or dangers at work that are 'in the public interest'. This may include, but is not limited to:
- criminal activity;
- failure to comply with any legal or professional obligation;
- failure to comply with any statutory requirement;
- miscarriages of justice
- dangers to health and safety;
- damage to the environment;
- bribery under our Gifts, Hospitality and Sponsorship policy;
- facilitating tax evasion;
- financial fraud or mismanagement;
- breach of our internal policies and procedures;
- conduct likely to damage the School’s reputation or financial wellbeing;
- unauthorised disclosure of confidential information;
- the deliberate concealment of any of the above matters, or any other wrongdoing in the public interest.
- A Whistleblower is an individual who raises a genuine concern relating to any of the above. If there are any genuine concerns related to suspected wrongdoing or danger affecting any of the School’s activities (a whistleblowing concern) it should be reported under this policy.
- This policy is for disclosures relating to matters other than a breach of an employee’s own contract of employment, in these circumstances, consult the Grievance Policy.
- If there is uncertainty regarding whether something is within the scope of this policy, seek advice from the Whistleblowing Officer.
- Any matter raised under this procedure will be investigated thoroughly, promptly and confidentially, and the outcome of the investigation reported back to the individual who raised the issue.
- Individuals will not be victimised for raising concerns under this procedure. This means that the continued employment and opportunities for future promotion or training of the individual will not be prejudiced because they have raised a legitimate concern.
- Victimisation of an individual for raising a qualified disclosure will be a disciplinary offence.
- If misconduct is discovered as a result of any investigation under this procedure the matter will be considered under the disciplinary procedure, in addition to any appropriate external measures.
- Maliciously making a false allegation is a disciplinary offence.
- An instruction to cover up wrongdoing is in itself a disciplinary offence. If told not to raise or pursue any concern, even by an person in authority, individuals should not agree to remain silent.
Procedure: Raising a concern
- Individuals should consider the examples in section 3 when deciding whether their concern is of a whistle-blowing nature.
- Individuals should consider whether the incident(s) was illegal, breached statutory or School procedures, put people in danger or was an attempt to cover any such activity up.
- When raising a concern, the Individual raising concerns should have reasonable belief that the information they have is accurate, not rumour or gossip.
- Where a concern is raised with a colleague, the individual raising concerns should be redirected to the Whistleblowing Officer or the Headteacher.
- In the first instance, reports should be made to the Whistleblowing Officer or Headteacher.
- Concerns should be raised in writing, wherever possible.
- Reports of wrong doing should include names of those committing wrongdoing, dates, places and as much evidence and context as possible.
- Staff raising concerns should also include any details of personal interest in the matter.
- Where it is deemed the Headteacher themselves is involved in the wrongdoing, the report should be made to the Chair of Governors.
Procedure: Investigating a concern
- Any investigation will be conducted in accordance with the principles set out above.
- When a concern is received by the Headteacher, Whistleblowing Officer or Chair of Governors - referred to from here as the ‘recipient’ - they will:
- Meet with the individual raising the concern within a reasonable time, which as a guideline will be within 2 working weeks of the concern being raised. The Individual raising the concern may be joined by a Trade Union or professional association representative.
- Obtain as much detail as possible about the concern at this meeting, and record the information. If it becomes apparent the concern is not of a whistle-blowing nature, the recipient should handle the concern in line with the appropriate policy/procedure.
- Reiterate, at this meeting, that they are protected from any unfair treatment or risk of dismissal as a result of raising the concern. If the concern is found to be malicious or vexatious, disciplinary action may be taken (see section 10 of this policy)
- Establish whether there is sufficient cause for concern to warrant further investigation. If there is:
- The recipient should then arrange a further investigation into the matter, involving the Headteacher, Chair of Governors or Whistleblowing Officer where appropriate. In some cases, they may need to bring in an external, independent body to investigate. In other cases, they may need to report the matter to the police.
- The Indivdual who raised the concern should be informed of how the matter is being investigated and an estimated timeframe for when they will be informed of the next steps.
Procedure: Outcome of the investigation
- Once the investigation – whether this was just the initial investigation of the concern, or whether further investigation was needed – is complete, the investigating person(s) will prepare a report detailing the findings and confirming whether or not any wrongdoing has occurred. To include:
- any recommendations and details on how the matter can be rectified
- whether or not a referral is required to an external organisation, such as the local authority or police.
- The investigating person(s) will inform the individual who raised the concern of the outcome of the investigation, though certain details may need to be restricted due to confidentiality.
- Beyond the immediate actions, the Headteacher, the Governing Body and other staff if necessary will review the relevant policies and procedures to prevent future occurrences of the same wrongdoing.
- The School cannot guarantee the outcome sought, however will try to deal with concerns fairly and in an appropriate way.
Confidentiality and information sharing
- Individuals should be confident to raise a whistleblowing concern with anonymity.
- In these cases, individuals should report the matter to the Whistleblowing Officer in order for appropriate measures to be taken to preserve confidentiality.
- In some cases, it may be necessary during the investigation, for an Investigator to be aware of the identity of the Individual raising concerns. Where this is the case, breaking confidentiality will be discussed with the Individual raising concerns.
- Individuals raising concerns can also seek confidential advice from an independent Whistleblowing charity called Protect. To visit their website, click here
- The Investigator will keep the individual raising concerns informed of the progress of the investigation.
- Any information that is shared by an Investigator with the Individual raising concerns during the investigation should be treated with confidentiality.
- Confidentiality may prevent the sharing of specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action that has been taken as a result of the Whistleblowing.
Escalating raised concerns
- The School encourages staff to raise their concerns internally, but recognises that staff may feel the need to report concerns to an external body.
- It is strongly advised that confidential independent advice is sought before reporting a concern externally. The independent whistleblowing charity, Protect, operates a confidential helpline which can be used for this purpose. They also have a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern. They can be contacted here: https://protect-advice.org.uk/contact-protect-advice-line/ or by telephone 020 3117 2520.
- Whistleblowing concerns may sometimes relate to the actions of a third party, such as a supplier or service provider.
- In some circumstances the law will protect you if you raise the matter with the third party directly. However, internal reporting of concerns is encouraged first.
Malicious or vexatious allegations
- Individuals are encouraged to raise concerns when they believe there to potentially be an issue. If an allegation is made in good faith, but the investigation finds no wrongdoing, there will be no disciplinary action against the individual who raised the concern.
- If, however, an allegation is shown to be deliberately invented or malicious, the School will consider whether any disciplinary action is appropriate against the individual making the allegation.
- Whistleblowing Officer: Karen Lawrence
- Headteacher: Alastair Anderson, via Karen Lawrence
- Chair of Governors: Ian Mears, via Nikki Smith
- Independent Whistleblowing Charity: Protect, call on 020 3117 2520, or visit their website by clicking here.
Ownership and Date of the next review
- Policy owned by: Curriculum and Personnel committee
- Last Reviewed and Approved on: 2 February 2022
- Next Review due: February 2024