Freedom To Speak Up
If you want to whistleblow, will it fall on deaf ears?
Whistleblowing in the NHS is well set up.
They have something called Freedom To Speak Up, set up by Sir Robert Francis QC.
But what about in education? If you want to blow the whistle on something or someone in schools, who do you turn to?
The Government say this on their dedicated page,
Every school maintained by the local authority should have a whistleblowing procedure. Whistleblowing procedures protect staff members who report colleagues they believe are doing something wrong or illegal, or who are neglecting their duties.
But do schools have an open and honest reporting culture when it comes to the disclosure of information?
Are people too afraid to take the appropriate step forward and stick their neck out? Staff should feel able to express their concerns without fear of harassment or victimisation.
This is where things get murky because not everywhere follows the same processes and there is no equivalent of the Francis report.
Every school should have a Whistle Blowing Policy. It will detail the types of concern about wrongdoing as:
‘the disclosure by an employee or professional of confidential information which relates to some danger, fraud or other
illegal or unethical conduct connected with the work place, be it of the employee or his/her fellow employees’
(Public Concern at Work Guidelines 1997).
- criminal activity and unlawful conduct;
- miscarriages of justice in the conduct of statutory or other processes;
- danger to health and safety;
- action that has caused or is likely to cause danger to the environment
- failure to comply with any legal or professional obligation or regulatory requirements;
- financial fraud, mismanagement or corruption;
- breach of our internal policies and procedures;
- conduct likely to damage our reputation;
- unauthorised disclosure of confidential information;
- public examination fraud;
- action that has caused or is likely to cause physical danger to any person or risk serious damage to school property
- sexual, physical or emotional abuse of members of staff or pupils
- unfair discrimination or favouritism
- racist incidents or acts, or racial harassment
- maladministration, misconduct or malpractice
- health and safety issues including risks to the public as well as risks to pupils and members of staff
- abuse of authority
- unauthorised use of public or other funds
- mistreatment of any person
- the deliberate concealment of any of the above matters and any attempt to prevent disclosure of any of the issues listed.
Schools will say in their window-dressing statement things like:
Our school is:
- a safe, supportive stimulating learning environment;
- a team of respectful, tolerant, open minded citizens;
- a community where everyone aspires to be the very best they can be;
- a community of resilient lifelong learners;
- a centre of excellence where all achieve success.
Unfortunately you will see some of the wrongdoings listed in schools you work at. I have seen them in every school. The crucial thing is not to ignore them and not assume someone else is blowing the whistle.
What are the protocols and processes for getting heard and without everyone knowing? Teachers are more likely to blow the whistle internally if there is a proper communication channel in their organisation for reporting wrongdoings.
It’s far from easy and is fraught with dangers if you are doing this internally and reporting to your immediate manager or your manager’s superior – sometimes SLTs will stick together like glue. Not even the Governing Body can protect your identity.
You might feel that internal mechanisms are not well set up to protect your confidentiality so seeking external help would be the way to go, e.g.
- ‘Public Concern at Work’; this is a registered charity that employees can contact for advice to assist them in raising concerns about poor practice at work. The charity also provides advice to employers as to the possible ways to address these concerns.
- Recognised Trade Union;
- Senior LA Officer;
- External Auditor;
- Relevant professional bodies or regulatory organisations;
- Health and Safety Executive;
If you do blow the whistle then share your concerns with as few people as possible and keep things watertight for your own peace of mind.
See my article When Teachers Behave Badly and Lions Led By Donkeys.