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Investigation Launched After Special School Gave Pupil Razor Blades For ‘Safe Self Harming’

March 25, 2013

Teachers were ordered to hand razor blades to a vulnerable youngster as part of a controversial ‘controlled self-harm’ policy at a specialist school, it has emerged.

An investigation is underway after a child at Unsted Park School – which offers education to boys and girls aged between seven and 19 years who have Asperger’s Syndrome and higher-functioning autism – was given access to blade kits.

Staff were told to give the pupil access to the sterilised disposable razor and sterile wipes and escort the child to a bathroom where they would be allowed to self-harm in a ‘safe and controlled manner’.

The school’s principal and headteacher now face the possibility of being hauled before a Teaching Agency hearing

Teachers were ordered to wait outside the bathroom while the child was inside, checking on them every two minutes, before the wounds were dressed and cleaned by staff.

The policy was introduced and abandoned within six days at the school in Munstead Park, Godalming, Surrey, and is understood to have sparked protests from staff.

Principal Steve Dempsey and headteacher Laura Blair now face the possibility of being hauled before a Teaching Agency hearing over allegations of unacceptable professional conduct in connection with the policy.

Members of school staff are understood to have raised fears with Surrey County Council’s Local Authority Designated Officer over the procedure.

Following the Teaching Agency investigation, a panel from the regulator will decide whether any further action will be taken.

The regulator could decide to refer the case to a professional conduct panel.

A spokesman for the Priory Group, responsible for running the school, said: ‘We are always willing to review cases with the Teaching Agency.

‘This was a short-term, local procedure introduced by the headteacher and school principal who genuinely believed it was in the best interests of the pupil.

‘However, they accept that the procedure should not have been implemented without further approvals having been obtained from key stakeholders and senior management prior to its introduction.’

It is believed the pupil’s parents were aware of the policy.

Unsted School was ranked good with outstanding features in its last Ofsted inspection, published in February.

The report stated: ‘There are robust risk assessments and health and safety processes which protect young people from harm.

‘The behaviour management system at the school is outstanding. Boarders have individual behaviour plans which operate on a traffic light system and clearly identify triggers and strategies for addressing these.

‘They also include work with the boarders on them developing the skills to control their own behaviour.’

A spokesman for the Teaching Agency said they were unable to comment on ongoing investigations.

A Surrey Police spokesman said the force was made aware of the policy in January 2012 by Social Services.

The spokesman said: ‘A senior strategy meeting, which was attended by Surrey Police, was held on January 19, 2012, to ensure that safeguarding practices were put in place. This was done to ensure that the practice did not continue at the school and was not put into practice at any other school.

‘Surrey Police has thoroughly reviewed the matter and is satisfied that there are no criminal offences to investigate.’


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