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Aberdeenshire teachers sent ‘abusive and degrading’ WhatsApp messages about pupils with additional support needs

Aberdeenshire Council said the WhatsApp messages were "inappropriate and unprofessional". Photo by Andrew Fosker/Shutterstock
Aberdeenshire Council said the WhatsApp messages were "inappropriate and unprofessional". Photo by Andrew Fosker/Shutterstock

Several teachers at Aberdeenshire schools have reportedly exchanged messages on Whatsapp with “degrading” references to primary school pupils with additional support needs.

The staff faced an internal investigation following the messages.

However the affected pupils’ parents were not made aware of the investigation or the situation.

Aberdeenshire Council, who launched the investigation, said the messages were “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

‘Unprofessional, abusive and degrading’ messages

In an investigation by the BBC, Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner raised concerns about the incident in recent months saying parents should be informed.

Concerns were raised about the WhatsApp group in a letter in November last year to Aberdeenshire Council.

The messages were sent between staff at Aberdeenshire schools on a group chat on WhatsApp.

The commissioner said the messages held “unprofessional, abusive and degrading” references to children who attended schools in Aberdeenshire with additional support needs.

It added: “The conduct of the professionals involved is a serious concern in relation to any child, but particularly so where vulnerable disabled children are involved.”

Children were at no ‘risk of harm’

While Aberdeenshire Council said it took “proportionate measures” following the investigation, it did not tell parents or carers about the incident or what the messages contained.

The council said they commissioned an independent review on how they approached the incident and that the review had concluded it had been dealt with appropriately.

A council spokeswoman told the BBC the messages related to disputes between staff and their behaviour towards each other.

She added: “Any child protection concern raised is always properly reviewed by social work colleagues and investigated alongside appropriate partner organisations where necessary. The WhatsApp group messages were no different.

“Education, human resources and children’s services colleagues reviewed matters before ensuring staff received additional training, including appropriate guidance about use of online platforms.

“At no point were any children considered to be at risk of harm – that is why no contact was made with parents.

“After the matter was raised by the Commissioner, we commissioned an independent review of our approach which has concluded this concern was dealt with appropriately and no further action is necessary. We await a final report being sent to us.”

This case comes after many parents believe some schools in the area have been left “out of sight” after not being inspected for 18 years.

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