Kent County Council makes back up plan to move children out of Bradstow School amid safety concerns

Bradstow School

Back up plans to move children out of Bradstow School in Broadstairs are being made by Kent County Council.

The school and residential home, for children aged between 5-19 years with severe intellectual disabilities who are on the autistic spectrum continuum, is maintained by the London Borough of Wandsworth but KCC also places some youngsters at the site.

The ‘parallel’ plans come on the heels of Ofsted inspections of social care provision at Bradstow School that initially resulted in a restriction of accommodation notice, preventing further children from being admitted to the home.

That restriction was lifted after a follow-up inspection last December but a rating of ‘requires improvement’ remains. This applies to the residential operations, the education provision at the school has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted.

The last Ofsted inspection for the social care provision said Bradstow provides care for up to 40 children with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities and associated conditions.

The home is on the same site as the organisation’s school and is comprised of separate houses so that children live in small groups. It accommodates children for short breaks and for placements of 38 weeks of the year. There were 37 children living in the home at the time of the last inspection.

Letter to parents/carers

In a letter sent to parents/carers towards the end of last month, KCC says an offer by the authority to complete a safeguarding review at Bradstow School was turned down with an “alternative review” set to take place this term.

But KCC has listed a number of ongoing concerns and reveals there is a social care and police investigation into medication errors at the school.

Other concerns are also outlined, including:

  • Medication management with practices that “are not effective” and have inconsistencies with information as well as avoidable mistakes made when administering medicine to children
  • Unexplained accidents and injuries to children who should be in 1-1 or 2-1 care with some youngsters needing hospital treatment
  • Incidents of children leaving the premises ‘undetected’
  • Children left alone for long periods without staff supervision
  • Police, social workers and parents not always being notified of significant incidents
  • Lack of staff and use of agency staff
  • Concerns over records not being available
  • Concerns over the condition of one of the bungalows

In the letter to parents KCC says: “KCC is not seeking to immediately move children. It is primarily focused on working with Bradstow School to promote (children’s) safety as KCC is motivated to avoid disruption and change if unnecessary.

“Given what KCC is aware of, KCC holds a statutory obligation to make decisions to promote (children’s) safety.

“With the evidence available it is best to parallel plan to identify alternative provisions so KCC is best prepared to make arrangements in case Bradstow School demonstrates it is unable to sufficiently address the concerns.”

The letter adds that if KCC needs to take ‘emergency measures’ then “children may need to return home until a suitable, alternative placement is identified.”

The letter also reveals that there is a financial dispute, with Bradstow School issuing “legal processes against KCC with respect to finances.”

Sources say this relates to a sum of some £2m withheld due to disagreement over how services should be delivered.

‘Rock bottom’ staffing ratios

A source said staffing ratios are “at rock bottom” with a lack of experienced staff, a toxic atmosphere, lack of accurate information over children’s injuries, a lack of first aiders and poor management.

Staff say there has been disciplinary action against members due to time off sick and parents have raised concerns over a number of issues including a lack of communication from management.

According to a survey of members at the school carried out by the GMB union 96% of respondents said they had witnessed a violent incident in the workplace and 92% said  they had been injured by a pupil.

All members felt the ratio of staff to pupils was insufficient to keep them safe, and 92% said they didn’t think management prioritised staff safety.

Some 92% of members said they would like to be balloted for strike action if health and safety concerns were not properly addressed.

A high turnover of staff and staff sickness were two of the central concerns during the Ofsted inspection in September last year although the follow up inspection in December said this was being addressed.

‘Asset disposal’

In February The Isle of Thanet News reported that an internal document drawn up by consultants and focusing on asset management at Wandsworth Council listed potential sale of several properties including Bradstow School.

The document was revealed by the South London Press  after it was discovered by Councillor Peter Graham, from Wandsworth council’s Conservative opposition.

Cllr Graham told the South London Press that despite the document being ‘internal’ it had taken more than a year to put together and cost some £22,000 in consultant fees.

In response Cllr Kate Stock, Cabinet Member for Children at Wandsworth Council, and school Principal Penny Doswell pledged  “continued commitment” to the school.

An asset management document published by the authority last year which examines viability of retaining, improving or disposing of properties lists Bradstow School as a “very high value site for alternate use” and notes there is high demand but “not by Wandsworth pupils/families.” The overall suggestion in the document is to “explore transferring (the school) to Kent County Council.” The property also appears in a column headed ‘Sell.’

In response KCC said: “Kent continues to work closely with Wandsworth to consider a range of different options. Nothing is decided at the current time.”

‘Improvements’

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said: “We know the provision needs sustained improvement and we are determined to deliver those improvements for our children and their parents.

“We are working tirelessly with staff, partner agencies and our regulators to achieve this goal.”

‘Legal duty’

A Kent County Council (KCC) spokesperson said: “The leadership and management of Bradstow School is the responsibility of Wandsworth Borough Council and is regulated by Ofsted.

“KCC places some Kent children at the school, so we have been working proactively with partners to support improvements.

“While KCC is not seeking to immediately move children, we have a legal duty to work with parents to make parallel plans should we need to consider the sustainability of children’s placements.

“Our priority remains to ensure all children can access education in safe and secure environments.”

‘Continued commitment’ pledged for Bradstow residential school despite appearance on asset ‘sale’ list

11 Comments

  1. This is incredibly sad, and my sympathy is with the children and their families for the uncertainty will bring.
    I’m sure most (if not all) of the staff have been doing their best in trying circumstances.
    It’s really important to put this in the context of the dreadful cuts the government (via local authorities) have made to SEND funding over the last 14 years.
    SEN schools are running on fumes and this is the result.

    • B H fully agree with what you say the makes everything much harder for children and adults in these care homes – schools etc for autism and associated Disabilities and with this election in less than a month only one of the parties leaders really understands the situation that is faced day in day out for those who try their very best be it management careers and those children who are going to take a backwards step in their learning etc which is not good for them.

  2. It’s hard work for those who care for children and adults with learning disabilities including autism and associated Disabilities. Both of my daughters work in those fields one with children and the other in adult care both have been injured doing their jobs youngest who works with adults has had black eye hair pulled out in a clump and been sexualy assaulted but she loves her work as hard and as difficult it is as does my other daughter. And my step daughter nurse has been attacked twice once leading to a few weeks (not sure how long but more than two) off work with her injuries. Not enough is done really to give proper protection for everyone who works in care all types of care be it in the community homes schools hostels and hospitals, yes it is hard to provide protection as they work in close proximity to the cared for person or treatment as nurses doctors dentists etc as know one person knows when or what is going to trigger an attack, I and my wife are proud of the girls and what they do every day but we do worry if one day one of them is seriously injured it’s been close on two occasions I don’t dare think of what could happen.

    • Injuries to staff increased at this school around 10 years ago when a new head teacher took over and introduced “gentle teach” its been going downhill on ever since.

  3. KCC must provide information as to what alternatives in Thanet it will provide for these very vulnerable children and indeed for their staff

  4. Not really shocked Kathy.
    Safeguarding is paramount
    It was when I first saw all the maladministration left undeterred by Ofsted for over 3 months when I whistle blew the other school.
    I worked there for 3 months and saw the poor management at Bradstow. The low moral of staff. The constant recruiting. I built up a good professional rapport always with safeguarding as top priority.
    I was called ‘favourite lady’. I let a 9 year old paint my face. I spent time and cared always in a professional way. Seeing faces light up when I entered the room.

  5. Oh dear, more evidence of lack of funding by this monstrous government. There isn’t a sector that has been stripped to the bone by the Conservatives but poor old Rishi grew up unable to have sky tv, says it all, please don’t be complacent and fall for the ‘ they’re all the same ‘ nonsense get out and vote these dinosaurs out.

  6. After years of the toxic managerial atmosphere at Bradstow impacting on the ability for staff to care effectively for the children in the homes and the school, I’m very glad to see that something may FINALLY be done about it all. There was always too many ‘created’ jobs there with upper school staff hiding behind closed office doors and never helping to fully support the children or care staff during difficult transition times.

  7. The management attitude towards the care and education of children is pathetic the school used to have an approach to gentle teaching which was spoken highly of, now the attitude is towards Maslow hiarchy of needs and being on track for education that every child is taught with the same education at the same time as anyone who knows autistic children each and every child is individual and cannot be educated the same as 60 other children. Until the attitude of the management changes the children will never progress, the children at Bradstow have so much to offer and a pleasure to be with, staff do not have the opportunity to enhance the children potential and yes ratio is usually 3-1 unmanageable there are so many dedicated staff management are toxic

    • A judge in a case connected with Bradstow School compared the culture of gentle teach from top management being like a cult.

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