Crisis meeting held at troubled Abbey School

A CRISIS meeting of all staff was being held yesterday at a Rotherham special school hit by staffing problems which forced it to close last week.

Abbey School, which is run by neighbouring Winterhill secondary school, was closed to pupils on Monday of last week for staff training and partially shut for the rest of the week due to unfilled vacancies.

A meeting due to go ahead on Wednesday between Rotherham Borough Council education chief Dorothy Smith and the staff’s GMB union to discuss the concerns was cancelled. All staff were later told to attend a meeting with Ms Smith at 3.30pm yesterday.

Staff, who walked out on strike in June earlier over safety concerns, claim there have been a number of violent incidents, including a member of staff being headbutted by a pupil while Ofsted inspectors were on the premises. The Ofsted report has not yet been published.

Staff also claim classes have been cancelled and that parts of the school have been closed several times. They claim some supply workers are refusing to work there and some agencies are refusing to send supply staff to Abbey.

Parents of pupils in the upper school were told the school would be closed to their children for two days a week for the forseeable future but would close for two days a week but this was later rescinded.

“Pupils have been fighting staff, one was headbutted and taken to hospital,” one member of staff, who did not wish to be identified, told the Advertiser.

“There’s just no control, it’s being ignored, there’s no leadership.”

Headteacher Karen Halford confirmed a student was in emotional crisis and as support workers tried to calm him one was headbutted and taken to hospital. 

The police were informed of the assault. The student was dealt with through the school’s behaviour policy and legislation relating to his disability.

Lee Simpson of the GMB union said: “We’re very worried at the level of violence taking place in the school and we want something to be done about it.”

A spokesperson for the school said it had closed on Monday November 3 to allow the induction of newly recruited staff and general staff training

“The school will remain partially closed to some classes for the rest of the week due to the on-going staff vacancy situation,” he said.  

“We have continually communicated with parents and offered all parents the opportunity to come in to school and discuss the situation with the leadership team. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to parents and pupils and hope to have normal classes resumed as soon as possible.”  

Meanwhile, Winterhill headteacher and Abbey executive headteacher Roger Burman, who had been suspended for several months, is back in post. 

No reason was given but it was understood his suspension related to pupil behaviour. 

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