Councils continue sending pupils

The Guardian, London/July 9, 1993
By Ian Katz, Tom Sharratt and David Ward

Local councils in Britain are continuing to send children with severe emotional and behavioural problems to a school in Norfolk despite warnings issued by the then Department of Education and Science three years ago.

DES officials wrote to social services departments to express concern about safety, health, hygiene and pupil supervision. Red House, at Buxton, near Norwich, and Winestead Hall, near Hull, are both owned by Tvind.

Red House wrote to all placing authorities to reply to the complaints, and reduced pupil numbers. In 1991 a report by school inspectors found that there had been significant improvement and progress, but stressed that more time needed to be devoted to developing the curriculum.

Although Red House and Winestead Hall are both registered with the Department for Education, neither is on its approved list. Fees charged are £40,000 per pupil per year. The 1989 balance sheet shows that Red House wade a profit of more than £390,000. Most teachers return their earnings into a "common economy."

Mikala Gottlob, a founder member of Tvind who now works at the Norfolk school, said yesterday profits had been used to establish the school on Humberside. She said about half of Red House's 45 pupils had been referred by at least 12 London boroughs. The rest came from local councils south of a line from Birmingham to the Wash.

Winestead Hall, which opened in 1989 and specialises in adventure trips on its own brigantine, is no longer used by Humberside county council. "Over four years, we have had two brief placements at Winestead Hall," said Robert Lake, the county's director of social services. "It is not my intention to make any more."

Neighbouring Lincolnshire does not send pupils to Winestead Hall. The school has recently been inspected by Humberside and is likely to be formally registered with the county, despite reservations about staffing ratios and long hours worked, the absence of domestic staff, the lack of a telephone for pupils' use, and arrangements for the independent visitors required by the Children Act.

Ms Gottlob said staff had one night off per week and one weekend off per month: "We don't believe in shift work when dealing with children."

A 40-page booklet which lays out detailed guidelines for the treatment of pupils at both schools repeatedly refers to "the programme". One of the schools' four main rules is that students "must take an active part in the programme."

The booklet also specifies which sanctions and rewards may be used. Pupils caught damaging property are made to repair the item themselves or pay. Pupils who carry out extra tasks may be rewarded with items such as chocolate, or may be taken out for dinner with a member of staff:

All students and teachers at the schools traditionally go skiing during the Christmas holiday, staying in a hotel In Norway owned by the organisation.

Red House's own survey Indicates that of 111 pupils who passed through the school in seven years, 52 per cent are "doing well." Lee Pearson, who worked for a year as a £55-a-month volunteer at Winestead Hall said yesterday: "They take the kids no one else will take and try to help them."

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