RRN responds to BBC Panorama Investigation showing abuse in special school

The Restraint Reduction Network is dismayed at actions uncovered in BBC Panorama’s latest expose of the degrading, abusive treatment of pupils, by staff, at an English independent school for children with additional needs. The abhorrent language used to talk to and about pupils, the violence and aggression directed at them, and the callous attitude of senior staff at Life Wirral school toward vulnerable young people in their care, speak to an unacceptable toxic internal culture.

The investigation comes just a month after the BBC’s investigation into overuse of restrictive practices at another school in England. It is unacceptable that children with learning disabilities and autistic children continue to be exposed to abuse and trauma in places of education.

Schools should be safe, welcoming environments that support children and young people to thrive. For most children, this will be the case. However, in schools where poor practices exist and toxic cultures prevail, children with additional needs can be left vulnerable to abuse, as this week’s Panorama investigation shows. The lack of positive leadership, lack of accountability for staff actions and poor culture within the school ultimately left the children at risk of further abuse.

Bild Group CEO Ben Higgins said,

“Panorama’s latest investigation shows the harm caused in schools where toxic cultures prevail and the threat this poses to vulnerable children’s fundamental human rights. The trauma inflicted in such settings is enormous.

“No child should be unsafe in school, or at risk of physical or emotional harm from those charged with caring for them. We must do more to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, and make sure such cultures and practices are never able to become embedded within schools.

“Key to this is the need for updated, and much overdue, statutory guidance to protect children from unacceptable use of force and inappropriate use of restrictive practices. Clear guidance will support teachers in their role while improving accountability and better protecting children. At a local level, schools must seek to embed positive right-respecting cultures, with relational working at the fore.”

While it is essential that individual instances of bad practice are addressed, embedded toxic cultures that enable unacceptable use of force and abuse of restrictive practices require a multifaceted, systemic approach to culture change so that positive, rights-respecting, practice can be embedded.

Individual initiatives such as policy or training alone will not change practice. However, each are essential components for positive change. The Six Core Strategies are a systemic approach to culture change and reducing restrictive practices, championed by Bild and the RRN, providing a framework that includes:

  1. Leadership – at both organisational and practice levels.
  2. Data collection and analysis – using evidence-based decision-making, and monitoring progress.
  3. Workforce development – training in preventative rather than reactive methods.
  4. Using prevention tools and strategies – with trauma-informed schools or Positive Behaviour Support.
  5. Involving children / people with lived experience – informing reduction strategies at all levels.
  6. Post incident support and debriefing – providing emotional support, and opportunities to reflect and learn.

Share This Post