Lessons to be learned – Parents furious after special needs kids are moved out of class while Oftsed inspectors visit
Outraged parents have condemned ‘callous’ school bosses who tried to “hide away” special needs children by taking them out of lessons for a critical Ofsted visit to get a better report.
Martin Gillingham, 46, was furious when his dyslexic son Jamie, 15, was taken out of mainstream class and put in a special two-day mechanics lesson at Matravers School.
Jamie and three others were apparently told it was to stop them causing “disruption” in front of the inspectors and were “hidden away” with other ‘troublesome or autistic’ pupils.
Ex-soldier Martin claims the school in Westbury, Wilts, initially said the timing was “purely coincidental” because they wanted to showcase the mechanics programme.
But now a school governor has admitted some children were pulled from class “because you don’t know what they are going to do” in order to “get a good Ofsted report”.
Married father-of-five Martin said: “To extract him from normal lessons because it is perceived there is a risk he will cause disruption is beyond me.
“It would appear the school have tried to hide away or keep out of vision any child that poses a possible risk of causing disruption.
“They have said their actions were in the best interests of the children. How can it be in the best interests to have a false Ofsted report? Any Ofsted report now holds no weight.”
Martin’s son Jamie usually spends all day Wednesday in mechanics lessons due to his talent for the subject, and his difficulties with other lessons.
But teachers called on Wednesday night last week to tell his parents he would be spending an extra two days out of conventional lessons – a move Martin immediately objected.
He phoned to complain only to be told the timing was “purely coincidental” and the two days of extra mechanics work was pre-planned before the inspection announcement.
Martin took to Facebook to complain only for another teacher to call again to claim it was to showcase the school’s mechanics programme.
House husband Martin said: “I don’t believe them. My son was told that it was because they didn’t want him or others causing disruption in class during the Ofsted visit.
“It’s unfair. To me the Ofsted visit is to see how they cope with discipline and disruption, so what’s the purpose of the Ofsted visit?
“They are obviously scared they are doing something wrong.”
It is alleged that other children with more extreme behaviour were also told to keep their children at home for the entire inspection visit.
School governor and Wiltshire councillor Russell Hawker, in defending the school’s actions, admitted ‘troublesome pupils were removed.
He said: “Two types of students have been involved in this, one of which was those who are very autistic children whose parents or carers were contacted by the school because of the Ofsted visit and because of the change in routine they would be kept at the Link Centre [a support unit for special needs children].
“The second group were children who had a history of being disruptive in class, that’s my understanding.
“I’m very sure that no staff would try to tell children to stay at home.
“There was a very small handful where some people with a track record of causing disruption were taken out of class because you don’t know what they are going to do.
“My belief is the school did what was in the best interest of the whole school and their objective is to get a good Ofsted report.”
The row comes after the school was graded “requires improvement” during the last inspection in February 2013 and told to do more to help children with extra needs.
The report also said: “Low attainers, students eligible for pupil premium support and most of those identified as disabled or with special educational needs are not making as much progress as their peers.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “When Ofsted visits a school, inspectors gather evidence about how well individual pupils and particular groups of pupils, such as those with special educational needs, are learning, gaining knowledge, and making progress.
“Ofsted cannot comment on individual complaints.”
A spokesperson for the school said: “Matravers School is proud to be a fully inclusive school that successfully accommodates students with a wide variety of educational needs.
“We encourage parents who have any concerns to contact the school so we can respond to their individual queries sensitively and constructively.
“We thank the vast majority of parents who have supported us through this period. All of our students have represented the school with pride.”