BBC says Panorama investigation was ‘firmly in the public interest’ in response to Life Wirral statement

The BBC has responded to a statement issued by Life Wirral school in Wallasey that claimed that the BBC acted in a “highly irresponsible manner” while making the Panorama documentary about the school.

The spokesperson for Life Wirral said, “The BBC has acted in a highly irresponsible manner putting the interests of a television programme ahead of the interests of vulnerable children.

The school claimed that the undercover Panorama journalist “failed in her basic safeguarding duties” to report significant concerns about staff at the school.

The statement went on to say that the BBC “chose not to [report its concerns] because they [the BBC] had other priorities and the children’s welfare was not their primary concern.”

In response, a BBC spokesperson said, “The BBC takes issues of safeguarding and protection of vulnerable individuals extremely seriously and has strict editorial guidelines covering undercover investigations, secret recording, and investigations involving children.  

“Our investigation was firmly in the public interest and the welfare of the children concerned was our primary consideration. Our undercover reporter gathered evidence over a period of time so we could be confident that what she witnessed demonstrated a clear pattern of behaviour, involving multiple members of staff, and in line with the concerns that had been raised with us.

“Prior to our investigation, the local authority and the school were already aware of safeguarding concerns having previously been made by others, and despite the local authority investigating, this had not resulted in meaningful change.

“In contrast, when we told the local authority about the findings of our investigation, the placements at the school were suspended and new places are being found elsewhere for the children.”

Following the broadcast of the programme on 17 June, a spokesperson for Wirral Council said, “The nature of the allegations is truly shocking and far from the kind of care, support and education these young people deserve and should be receiving.

“We acted immediately in a safeguarding capacity to take all the students at this independent school out of the setting. Working alongside partners in health and social care, we have been providing practical and emotional support for the young people and their families, which includes identifying appropriate alternative educational provision.

“At all times, we have sought to exercise the powers we have to keep children safe and achieving their educational outcomes and that has included liaising with the Department for Education, as the regulator of independent schools, and Ofsted as the inspectorate.

“We are continuing to work closely with the police as they gather and assess evidence in this case and the Wirral Safeguarding Children Partnership will be commissioning an independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review in due course.”

People can seek legally-based, independent advice and guidance about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities through the Wirral SEND Partnership on 0151 522 7990 or email contact@wired.me.uk.

Wirral SEND Partnership (SEND IASS) provides free and confidential impartial information, advice and support to disabled children and young people, as well as people with SEN, and their parents.

Wirral Council is asking anyone who is concerned that a child or young person is suffering or at risk of harm should contact Wirral’s Integrated Front Door on 0151 606 2008. It is open 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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