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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK


Education

Special school shut in discipline probe



A special school in County Durham has been shut pending an investigation into the methods of restraint and punishment used there.


Doug Morris reports from Cleveland Constabulary headquarters
There have been allegations of emotional and physical abuse at Windlestone Hall school in Rushyford, Newton Aycliffe, near Durham, which has 101 pupils aged 10 to 16.

Three members of staff were suspended "without prejudice" on Friday.

A joint investigation team involving Durham County Council's social services department and Durham Police considered information collected over the weekend.

They recommended that the school be shut indefinitely from Monday so that more detailed inquries could be made.

Broken arm

A news conference was told that over the past two years there had been about a dozen allegations of injuries at the school.


[ image: The police and social services news conference talked of long-standing allegations]
The police and social services news conference talked of long-standing allegations
The most recent involved a boy who claimed he had been restrained in such a way that he fell and broke an arm. That resulted in a file being sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, but no further legal action was taken.


BBC North of England Correspondent Mike McKay with the details
However the joint police-social services inquiry was set up about three weeks ago to consider the allegations, and that has led to the school being shut.

The Acting Assistant Chief Constable of Durham Police, Alan Miller, said: "Teams of police and social services investigators have spoken over the last weekend to pupils who attend the school and as a result of what they have been told further inquiries are clearly necessary.

Unusual step

"We will be reinterviewing a number of children in greater depth as a result of what we have been told."

The Principal Education and Welfare Officer for Durham County Council, Russell Lee, said that two teachers and a member of the support staff had been suspended.

He said the unusual step to close the school had been taken because social services and police agreed that this was the most effective way of carrying out the investigation.

Windlestone Hall has been established for about 20 years. Some of the pupils are full-time boarders, others spend a few days a week there.

There are two telephone helplines for pupils or parents worried about what is happening: 0800 458 7399 and 0800 458 1239.





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