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Staff and children attacked at pupil referral unit

By Richard Guttridge | Stafford | Education | Published:

Police had to intervene when teachers and pupils were assaulted at a crisis-hit referral unit.

The Hollies

The Stafford Pupil Referral Unit, also known as The Hollies, descended into chaos in the months after it was rated inadequate by Ofsted, a new report has revealed.

Unruly children ran amok after an "ill-advised" decision to return all pupils who were there on a part-time basis permanently.

The education watchdog said the reintroduction of so many children led to a rapid deterioration in behaviour, including assaults on staff, other pupils and "serious damage to property". Some attacks on staff and pupils were so serious police had to be called.

The building itself, on Newport Road, was also said to be "not fit for purpose" and "generally in a poor state of repair because of intentional damage to property caused by pupils". More children are continuing to be brought in despite concerns over behaviour, the watchdog said.

Staffordshire County Council was criticised for not doing enough to halt the chaos at the unit, which takes pupils who have been either permanently excluded by a mainstream school or are at the risk of exclusion.

Concerns were raised in July last year when The Hollies was rated "inadequate" due to "serious weaknesses". Inspectors returned last month to see if progress had been made.

But Ofsted said it had seen little in the way of improvement.

The report said: "At the beginning of the autumn term 2018, leaders made a hasty, ill-advised decision to immediately return all pupils on part-time timetables to The Hollies on a full-time basis.

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"However, with no carefully planned reintegration of pupils, the effect of this sudden change was detrimental both to staff and to pupils. Consequently, during the first three months of the autumn term, pupils’ behaviour deteriorated rapidly.

"At this time, school records showed that serious damage to property, assaults on members of staff and pupils – some requiring police intervention – and significant disruption to pupils’ learning were commonplace."

Philip White, head of learning at the county council, said: “We have been working closely with the leaders of the pupil referral unit (PRU) to ensure improvements are made. This includes helping them put together improvement plans, strengthening their management committee, commissioning a wide range of support and help through our school services provider Entrust, and linking them to other successful schools in the area.

“We have regular meetings with the PRU to check on their progress, and feel confident that with continued work, the school will be able to bring about the improvements needed.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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