It horrifies me to read that things like this are still going on these days. “An investigation has been launched into “organised abuse” at a special school in London after CCTV was discovered of pupils being physically assaulted and neglected…. The videos, found by staff, show pupils being mistreated in padded seclusion rooms between 2014 and 2017.”
Now, as I’ve said on here before, I grew up going to a special school, and I have to say I never saw any hint of such abuse. Educationally, of course, things there weren’t really up to speed, and we weren’t pushed as hard as our able-bodied peers might have been. We were entered in for five basic C to F GCSEs, but nothing higher.* Yet that was due to a variety of factors, not least the fact that most of my class of about eight pupils knew they weren’t going to live past their twenties – if that – and didn’t see learning as a priority. It’s pretty pointless trying to write essays when you can barely lift a pen. Nonetheless, the fact that staff at school were more concerned with making sure pupils there were happy and comfortable than pushing us to achieve academically does not constitute the kind of abuse being reported in this article.
I never witnessed any hint of what is being reported: kids being actively mistreated, shut away in ‘seclusion rooms’. Of course, the crucial difference is, whereas I and my classmates had physical disabilities such as CP, Muscular Dystrophy and Spina Bifida, the conditions these abused students have are more likely to be neurological or behavioural. If we screwed up, we probably just needed a good telling off, but that doesn’t always work with kids with things like severe autism. I know from my voluntary work at Charlton Park Academy that these kids often need time and space to calm down, so seclusion is sometimes necessary: when some of these young people get over-stressed and over-stimulated, they sometimes become violent and dangerous.
It would seem, however, that at some schools, such calming methods are being over used and lapsing into abuse, and that’s the problem. Not being an expert by any means, of course, I can’t offer a solution. Some so-called activists might use this story and those like it as another reason to argue for the closure of all special schools, but I fear that would make things worse: there is no way a child with severe autism could cope in a comprehensive. Some kids need the support they can only get at a special school. The problem is, at such secluded, quiet, out of the way places, catering for young people who often can’t speak out for themselves, abuse can go unreported all too easily.
*I did higher level GCSE english, going to lessons in a comprehensive school next door.