Government silent on latest school abuse concerns


The government has again refused to consider calls for a national inquiry into the abuse of disabled pupils, despite allegations emerging from yet another school.

In the last month, Disability News Service (DNS) has reported on alleged abuse in schools in Wigan, Dundee and Salford.

In each case, the local authority was accused of failing to act over the allegations.

DNS has also reported on five other special and mainstream schools where there have been concerns over the use of so-called “safe spaces”, otherwise known as quiet rooms, calm rooms, safe rooms or chill-out rooms, which are often used to punish disabled children, particularly those with autism.

Both Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) have refused to investigate the widespread use of such facilities.

Now concerns have been raised about Brompton-Westbrook, a mainstream primary school in Gillingham, Kent.

Medway council investigated allegations that up to eight pupils – although it is not known how many of them were disabled – had been locked in a tiny room at the school, sometimes for hours at a time.

It concluded that four members of staff had cases to answer for gross misconduct.

But when Brompton-Westbrook became a self-governing academy, the council passed responsibility for the investigation to the school, which commissioned its own “independent investigation”.

This week, that investigation – into “allegations of improper use of isolation and internal exclusion techniques” – was completed, but the school refused to publish its report.

A school spokeswoman said: “Trustees have full confidence in all staff of the school to continue their outstanding work.”

She added: “When dealing with children whose behaviour is extreme, the school has always acted within the remit of the [Department for Education] guidance and the Education Act 1996.

“In doing so, the school has actually prevented a number of children from being permanently excluded from school and helped them reach the appropriate standard in their learning for their age.

“We are also very lucky that parents with children at Brompton-Westbrook understand the need for us to use internal exclusion and other techniques.

“Parents are kept informed about the variety of methods used in seeking to get the best academic results for their children and the majority of them are supportive.”

But the school refused to reveal the conclusions of the report, and whether it found that the council was correct to state that four members of staff had “cases to answer” for gross misconduct.

It also refused to say whether the exclusion space was still in use and whether the door was ever locked when pupils were in the room.

A Medway council spokesman said: “As soon as a complaint was made to Ofsted, Medway council’s children’s services department carried out a thorough investigation.

“Following this, we have made recommendations to the school about the course of action to take as a result of our findings.

“As the school is an academy – and not within local authority control – it is now for the school’s own trustees to decide what to do next.”

DfE has refused to comment on the latest claims, or on the need for a national inquiry.

27 November 2014