What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is a process that allows employees to make a disclosure about suspected wrongdoing, risk or malpractice that affects others. Such disclosures are made where the individual believes they may be exposed to victimisation or other unfair treatment as a result of raising their concern directly through a procedure.

Examples of whistleblowing disclosures include:

  • a criminal offence (such as fraud)
  • a breach of a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • danger to the health or safety of any individual
  • damage to the environment
  • deliberate covering up of wrongdoing in the above categories

The difference between whistleblowing and a grievance

Personal grievances (for example bullying, harassment, discrimination) are not covered by whistleblowing law, unless the disclosure is in the public interest.

It is important to understand the difference between a whistleblowing disclosure and a grievance so that the appropriate procedure can be followed. NGA GOLD members can seek independent advice on this matter through the GOLDline advice service.

The governing board's role

The Governance handbook states that governing boards are responsible for agreeing and establishing a whistleblowing procedure that protects staff who disclose wrongdoing.

In practice, it is the senior leadership team in the school/trust who are responsible for writing and implementing the procedure. In a multi academy trust (MAT), the procedure is likely to be trust-wide and approved and reviewed at trust board level.

In local authority (LA) maintained schools, the whistleblowing procedure should be based on the LA’s procedure.

Boards should ensure that all staff know:

  • what protection is available to them if they make a disclosure
  • what areas of malpractice or wrongdoing are covered in your whistleblowing procedure
  • the different routes available for making a disclosure

Whistleblowing procedure

Your procedure should be published on the school/trust website and readily accessible for all staff. All whistleblowing procedures should contain:

  • a definition of whistleblowing
  • who staff should report concerns to – at least one governor/trustee and one member of staff as well as the secretary of state (in academy trusts) and an LA contact (in maintained schools) should be named
  • external agencies that may need to be informed of a disclosure, such as local authority designated officers (LADO) for safeguarding concerns
  • how disclosures are dealt with (including maintaining confidentiality and making requests for further information)
  • steps to take if the member of staff is not satisfied that the issue has been resolved

Further reading


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