Parents hail improvements at troubled special school near Mansfield

Parents of children at a troubled special school near Mansfield have hailed ‘improvements’ after it was taken over by another trust.

Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 5:50 pm

The Evolve Trust-run The Harlow Academy shut for a week from January 20 amid ‘staffing issues’ and parents’ concerns over safeguarding.

The closure followed a two-day inspection by staff from education watchdog Ofsted on January 18 and 19 – with their report due to be published in the coming weeks.

The South Yorkshire-based Nexus Multi Academy Trust stepped in to keep the school running, bringing in Luci Windle as executive headteacher for the rest of the school year.

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The Harlow Academy, Nottingham Road, Harlow Wood.

And parents say the school has ‘definitely improved’ under the new regime.

Kerrie Kirkpatrick’s nine-year-old son Aaron attends the school. He uses a wheelchair, has congenital myotonic dystrophy, is non-verbal, autistic and has a feeding tube.

Kerrie, aged 45, from Ollerton, said: "Us parents were raising safeguarding and staffing issues for months, since Evolve took over.”

Luci Windle.

Evolve took over the running of the school – formerly known as Fountaindale School – from Nottnghamshire Council in April 2021.

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Kerrie said: “It was awful for the children and staff, they were leaving in their droves; some parents took their children out.

“Our children weren’t getting what they needed, they were left in chairs, not getting enough one-to-one support, some were coming home with soiled diapers.

“Things are so much better since Luci took over, they’ve definitely improved.

“I know Aaron’s not stuck in his chair now, he is safe, we can go into school anytime, sit through lessons with him, although he still doesn’t do a full week.

“Luci held coffee mornings for parents, she’s open and transparent, but we worry about what happens when she goes at the end of the summer term.

“We are all waiting with bated breath for the Ofsted report. It’ll make interesting reading.”

Two more parents told the BBC how they removed their daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy from the school at Christmas.

They said she had become anxious and started having regular seizures.

They said the school’s changes were a ‘massive relief’ and ‘like a breath of fresh air around the place’.

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