School for deaf and disabled children under threat

A leading residential school for deaf and disabled children is
under threat of closure, unless major improvements are made to its
“culture and ethos”, according to Stockport Council.

A year-long child protection investigation carried out by the
NSPCC for the council severely criticised the Royal Schools for the
Deaf Manchester over allegations of abuse between 1995 and 2000.
Four members of staff were suspended last year and police
investigations resulted in five cases being passed to the Crown
Prosecution Service. The CPS has rejected four of the cases.

The full NSPCC report is confidential, but the school has agreed
to implement a 21-point action plan published by the council.

Jean Daintith, Stockport’s director of social services and
area child protection committee chairperson, said: “The school
provides a valuable regional resource but its future existence is
likely to depend on the willingness of the trustees, governors and
staff to accept the need for change and translate it into

According to Daintith, the report found children’s
injuries were not reported to parents, carers and placing
authorities; poor recording of possible child protection matters;
procedures in place not being implemented; staffing and personnel
matters; inadequate supervision of children by staff; and concerns
over medical policies and practices.

“The major problem is the culture and ethos which means the
whole governance needs to be reviewed, with a clear separation of
the trustees from the governing body. The chief executive needs to
be able to lead on the changes that he agrees are needed,” added
Daintith. “At present there is poor integration of good management
and written policies in day-to-day practice.”

Under the action plan, RDSM must produce a weekly report for the
council on all pupil injuries; not employ staff with relevant
criminal convictions; effectively supervise all staff and train
them in suitable restraint procedures. In addition, the
school’s head of care should also receive formal weekly
supervision for six months from a professional with experience of
children with disabilities and residential care.

Ian MacLeary, RDSM’s chief executive, has welcomed the
plan, while development manager Dominic Tinner said the school had
received overwhelming support from parents, with no children being
withdrawn from the school.

“I’m not saying we’re spotless. There are
improvements we need to make,” he added. The school had appointed a
child protection and family liaison officer and parents’
representatives were now on the governing body, he said.

The National Deaf Children’s Society has set up an
emergency helpline (020 7250 0123) to respond to parents’
concerns. In view of the action plan, NDCS is not advising parents
to remove children from the school, but suggests they visit their
children “unannounced on random occasions and at different

“The report identifies there are some good staff at RSDM, and
there is some good practice. But this is not enough,” said a NDCS
spokesperson. “No-one is suggesting at this point that RSDM should
close immediately, but in order for it to continue to function,
there have to be a substantial number of changes.”





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