Ofsted slams Plymouth school after 'restrained pupils were hurt'

-Credit: (Image: Google)
-Credit: (Image: Google)

A Plymouth primary school has been criticised after staff injured children by physically restraining them. Ofsted has classed Courtlands School as “inadequate” following an inspection.

It said the special school, in Crownhill, put children at “serious risk of harm”, because of “inappropriate and inaccurate" use of physical restraint. The report said: "Staff apply physical restraint to pupils excessively, resulting in injury to pupils". Pupils were also persistently absent.

Ofsted’s newly-released report rated the school as inadequate for the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management and early years provision. Courtlands School is a special school for primary age pupils with severe and moderate learning difficulties and social and emotional mental health difficulties.


Part of the Transforming Futures Trust, it had previously been rated as “good”. The new report, following a two-day inspection in March, called for staff training, changes to the curriculum and management practices and recommended it didn’t employ inexperienced staff.

The Transforming Futures Trust said changes had been made during the past year and stressed the school is “a safe place for children” and called the Ofsted report “inaccurate”. It said the report was “not supported by evidence” and has raised this directly with Ofsted.

It called the report “a very disappointing and challenging outcome for the school” and a worrying time for parents “who will understandably have their concerns and questions”. It admitted the school needs improvement but stressed it had been working with Plymouth City Council to address underlying issues, implement improvement plans and make substantial progress.

It said that following the inspection the school had intensified the improvement plans to ensure rapid and sustainable changes and brought in a new leadership team, under new executive headteacher Mark Ruffett. It said the future of the school is positive.

Dr Clive Grace, chair of Transforming Futures Multi Academy Trust, said: “There are three key points to address. Firstly, Courtlands needs improvement, and has done for some time.

“Secondly, we have made notable progress on that over the past year. We are determined to get the school to a good and better standard, and we have the team in place to achieve that.

“Lastly, whilst not agreeing with the judgement of the report, which we believe is not supported by the evidence, we will be relentlessly focussing on driving further improvements”.

Lisa Linscott, Plymouth City Council’s service director for education, participation and skills, has written to parents. The letter said: “We recognise the seriousness of the concerns outlined within the report and will work closely with the Transforming Futures Trust to ensure all the issues raised are addressed.

“Trust leaders have implemented an action plan which we are confident will secure rapid improvement at the school so children who attend get the very best education. We appreciate how concerning this report will be for parents and families and can reassure you that Plymouth City Council’s education team will be closely monitoring progress against the plan on a regular basis. We are confident new leaders within the school have the strength and vision to take the school forward.”

In the report, Ofsted said many pupils’ social and emotional wellbeing was not well supported and some pupils become “very distressed and can become physically and verbally aggressive”. It said staff were not trained effectively in how to de-escalate and support pupils and routinely used physical restraint to manage pupils when they were in emotional crisis.

It said many members of staff used physical restraint inappropriately and inaccurately, resulting in injury to staff and to physical and emotional harm to pupils. The report said arrangements for safeguarding were not effective and added: “As staff do not manage pupils’ behaviour effectively, this escalates and has resulted in staff being hurt. Many members of staff and some parents raised their concerns with the lead inspector about the use of restraint.”

The report further said that some pupils’ sensory needs are not addressed effectively, resulting in them experiencing prolonged distress. It noted a high turnover of staff and lots temporary agency staff, and that the curriculum had not been well developed and staff not trained to support the learning needs of pupils successfully.

It said children do not learn about fundamental British values, such as democracy, and are not prepared to be "responsible, respectful, kind citizens of the world beyond school." But Matt Sambrook, trust chief executive, said: “Courtlands school has a new leadership team, a clear plan, and the full support of both the trust and the local authority in the work they are doing to ensure that all identified issues are fully addressed.”

Mr Ruffett said: “We have a skilled and passionate staff team who are committed to providing the best possible offer to all pupils. Improvements to provision have already been made and we have a clear plan to ensure this continues.”

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