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Council attacked in Furness School closure row

Mother Simone Banfield

Mother Simone Banfield

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»Parents claim pupils "ran riot" and described chaos when they collected their children from a school following its emergency closure.

Kent County Council (KCC) was accused of failing vulnerable youngsters after it shut Furness School in Rowhill Road until June 11 because of serious concerns for safety.

Describing the scene at the school on Wednesday last week – the day of the closure – mother Coral Croney, 42, from Dartford, said: “A teacher came into the classroom with half a paving slab in her hand which had been thrown through the window. She said ‘take your child, wrap him in your arms and run’.

During the disturbance Kent fire crews were called to a playing fields blaze that was believed to have been lit by pupils.

The school caters for 11 to 16 year-olds with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties.

It is the third time it has shut without notice this year. A three-day closure from February 1 was followed by partial closure on February 6 and 7.

Kept in dark

Former governor Mark Shay, who has a son at the school, said: “Parents have been kept absolutely in the dark about problems.

“They try to run it like a mainstream school. They exclude kids constantly for what they call persistent disruptive behaviour, but that is their disability.

“It’s like sending a child to a blind school then excluding him because he keeps bumping into things. These are very vulnerable children who are being 100 per cent failed by KCC. My heart bleeds for them.”

Mother Simone Banfield said pupils would regularly escape from the school building from a hole in the fence, climb on the roof.

KCC corporate director for education, Patrick Leeson, said: “We decided to close Furness School to address concerns about health and safety. KCC will review the management and teaching and put a team in place to ensure the school can operate effectively when it re-opens in June.”

An Ofsted spokesman said: “We have identified serious concerns which the local authority is now dealing with.”

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