Chelfham Mill School in Barnstaple has been closed temporarily whilst Devon and Cornwall Police investigate claims of physical abuse at the school.
Chelfham Mill is a privately run school, which provides residential and day care for boys aged 7-18 who suffer with emotional and behavioural problems. Ofsted, who are responsible for the regulation of care for children and young people together with services providing education and skills for learners of all ages, have suspended Chelfham Mill’s registration to operate, pending further inquiries.
The latest report prepared by Ofsted, in February 2015, held that pupils at the school were not being adequately safeguarded and the school had “declined in effectiveness”. They also held that “The senior leadership team are not successfully managing this home,”
The school’s principal, Katy Roberts, said: “The school has been closed for an initial period of six weeks pending investigation by an external agency, but I can assure you I am committed to supporting the investigation process.”
BBC news reported that Alistair Dewhirst, Devon county councillor for Teignbridge South, had asked the chief executive of the council for an urgent report about the “scandal” at the school and had previously raised safeguarding issues with the authority.
He has raised further questions, asking how many children are affected by the closure and sought assurances that “they are now in a safe location”. Devon County Council has released a statement advising that “Senior officers are preparing a reply to Mr Dewhirst’s questions.”
The school’s “mission statement” is to “provide a secure, caring environment in which each boy can realise his full educational and social capabilities and become a better adjusted individual ready to cope successfully with life’s demands”.
David Gibbs, Chartered Legal Executive at Jordans Solicitors, said “At this moment in time, the allegations of physical abuse at Chelfham Mill have not been made public. It is in the wider public interest and certainly the interest of those pupils at Chelfham and their families, that these allegations are thoroughly investigated.