Mum distressed to discover child, 8, is seated in a corner facing the wall at Milton Keynes school

The child's self esteem and mental health are suffering, she says

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 5:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 5:53 pm

A concerned mum has spoken out about her distress in discovering her small child has been encouraged to sit alone in the corner of the classroom facing a wall over the past six weeks at a Milton Keynes school.

The very bright eight-year-old already has special needs funding and is currently being assessed for autism. But the "draconian" technique is harming the child's self-esteem and making the pupil give up on wanting to learn, says the mum.

The youngster has told the concerned mum that they are sat alone in the corner permanently during lessons, but the school insists it an "option" for when the pupil is experiencing 'sensory overload'.

Orchard Academy is part of the East Midlands Education Trust

The mum was unaware of her child's unusual placement until this week, when she was invited into the classroom during a parents' event at the Orchard Academy on Springfield.

"The classroom was laid out with tables and chairs in friendly little groups so the children can work together. I asked my child to show me where they sat but they kept changing the subject," she said.

"Eventually (the child) looked sad and embarrassed and pointed to this little table that was shoved right in a corner, with the chair facing the wall.

"(The child) said they had been sitting there since returning to school after the summer holidays. I was horrified."

Apart from the stigma involved in the pupil having their back to their peers and the teacher, the position would make it impossible to see the blackboard, which is just four feet away, said the mum.

The mum took a picture of her child at the corner desk which she shared with the MK Citizen.

She is convinced the move is responsible for her child's change of attitude and mood over the past few weeks.

"My child has always been easily distracted and lively and is not the easiest of children. That's why we have SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) funding. But (the child) is a bright little (pupil) who loves reading books and writes amazing stories. Lately it seems (my child) hasn't been trying - and I'm sure this segregation is the reason why. (My child) is ashamed and embarrassed about it."

The child has also been reluctant to go in to school on many occasions this term and will cling to mum and cry, she said.

The paediatric team at MK Hospital is currently completing an assessment for autism for the child.

"The hospital has been great and the people we saw there were really lovely. They're preparing the diagnosis at the moment but they've said something is obviously wrong and my (child) needs some support in the classroom," said the mum.

"But how can sticking (my child) in a naughty corner facing the wall be helping?"

At the pupil's previous school, teacher's gave glowing reports, said the child's mum.

"As soon as (my child) had to move up to Orchard, the reports started saying (my child) wasn't trying. Now I know why," she said.

The MK Citizen contacted East Midlands Education Trust and the school for a comment.

A spokesman for Orchard Academy told us: “This is not a permanent seating arrangement but rather an option that can be chosen when a pupil is experiencing feelings of sensory overload, which is not uncommon in pupils with special educational needs. At other times they can sit with friends and in a group.

"This is not a new arrangement and is just one of a variety of techniques that are used in schools to help pupils with special educational needs.

“We have met with the pupil’s mother today to discuss the concerns raised this morning, with a view to ensuring the best way forward is agreed for her (child).”

Meanwhile the mum has complained to the school and also the council's central SEND team. Surprisingly, she says, the latter did not seem concerned.

The team leader stated in a email to her: "What this looks like is they are implementing a workstation for your (child). These are introduced if a child can find it difficult to focus and they can use their workstation for personalised learning."

The email adds: "I think it would be helpful for your (child) to know that this is something in place to help them and they shouldn't be embarrassed if it helps (your child's) learning."

They suggested the parent meet with the school's SENCO (Special education needs coordinator) to work on the child's wellbeing and "how they feel" about the workstation.

The mum replied angrily: "It's good to know it's seen as acceptable for a child to be segregated in a corner all day as this is a 'workstation'. I'm sure prisons have better workstations not facing corners and being judged by a whole room."