Parents pull children out of school and claim it's 'like prison'

Parents have pulled their children out of a school amid a row over what they say are excessively strict behaviour rules.

The ECHO has spoken to parents with pupils at Dixons Academy in Fazakerley, which previously made headlines after pupils were told truants were more likely to have "early sex" and to use alcohol and drugs.

Now the school is in the spotlight for its approach towards pupils, with claims from two separate families that their children have suffered mental health issues because of punishments handed out at the school. Schools bosses say they set "high standards" and "make no apologies for ensuring that students are able to learn in a calm, respectful environment so they can reach their full potential."

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One concerned dad, who did not want to be named, has a 14-year-old daughter at the Fazakerley school and said he removed her after she was placed in isolation every day for 10 days and given detentions for what he said were bizarre reasons.

He said: "When the kids go in, they are made to lift their equipment in the air. My daughter had to spend an hour in detention because she didn't hold her hands up high enough.

"Another time, she walked into class and her friend gave her a hug. She got an hour in detention for that as well. She also got held behind because her foot was out of line when queuing for class.

"My daughter has been put in isolation every day for 10 days, it is seriously affecting her mental health.

"It is really getting her down. She comes home and just goes to her room. It is making her depressed. The school has been putting her into a state of depression."

The dad said he recently pulled his daughter out of the school because she had been put into isolation for another day and was struggling mentally.

He added: "I had to get her out of there because she couldn't cope being in there again. I don't know what we are supposed to do now. I am stuck, but I had to do it because of her mental health.

"It is like they are trying to use military discipline on the kids, it is too much. It is like a prison. It is like borstal."

Another parent who the ECHO spoke to was Christine Passey, who lives in Fazakerley and has a daughter in year 8.

She said: "The issues started as soon as my daughter was in the school. It doesn't matter how small the thing is that the kids have done wrong, they get sent to isolation, with sheets to copy from and a teacher patrolling. They are not allowed to have breaks with other children.

"My daughter gets to school bang on 8.30 every day. If she is ever there at just one minute after, she gets detention."

Christine explained that her daughter is a young carer as she herself has epilepsy and needs regular support.

She added: "She has to have her phone on in case I am not well and she gets sent an alert. When this happened and her phone went off, she was given detention.

"It is like a prison in that place, it is mental torture for the kids. This has all had a really bad impact on my daughter, she is so anxious."

Christine says she also felt forced to take her daughter out of the school for a period last year. She added: "I didn't know what to do, she was at the bottom of the stairs crying. She didn't want to go in. It was heartbreaking."

She added: "It is not a learning environment, it is like they are in jail."

In response to the complaints, a spokesperson for the school told the ECHO: "We have high standards in all areas of school life and that includes behaviour. We are proud of the excellent way that the vast majority of our students behave, and are grateful to families for supporting their children in doing so. We make no apologies for ensuring that students are able to learn in a calm, respectful environment so they can reach their full potential.

“We never discuss individual children so that they are protected. Our policy is clear that when students misbehave or disrupt the education of others, there will be fair and reasonable sanctions, which all families agree to when they choose the school for their child.

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“Families are able to visit the school throughout the year and their feedback is always really positive about how calm and focused lessons are. This is about enabling teachers to teach and students to learn in a calm, effective environment.”

Dixons Academy in Fazakerley is one of 17 schools managed by the Dixons Academy Trust, which was established from the original City Academy in Bradford.

Back in August 2020, it was confirmed Dixons would take control of the then struggling Fazakerley High School and Broadgreen International School. Both were in special measures after damning Ofsted inspections in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The trust has also since taken control of the former De La Salle school in Croxteth.

Two years later the trust was under fire over an "offensive" worksheet handed out to students in isolation at the Fazakerley school which stated that "young people who truant are more likely to use alcohol or drugs.”

The statements were among 10 made on a worksheet given to children who being held in the academy’s isolation unit known as Mountain Support.

Despite complaints from parents at the time, the trust defended the worksheets. A spokesperson said: "Safeguarding all of our school community is our main priority, part of ensuring that children are kept safe is to help them to be aware of the risks they could face in the wider world."

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