Today, Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, asked a question of the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt MP, setting out concerns she had about the lack of accountability of Multi Academy Trust leaders.
Within her question, Ms Maskell mentioned the harm caused by punitive, disciplinary policies in schools, particularly on neurodiverse children and those with mental health challenges, referencing the South Bank MAT in York where, she says, “children are experiencing significant harm, school refusal, and an escalation in their own mental wellbeing”.
This question follows the significant concerns raised by a large number of parents with children attending schools within the South Bank Multi Academy Trust, as well as others in the community.
The Leader of the House was clearly concerned as a result of the question, and said that she would raise the matter directly with the Education Secretary.
Speaking about the issue, Ms Maskell said:
“For over a year now, I have had many concerned parents writing to me to share their deeply worrying stories about the impact on their children’s health, wellbeing and education, through the decisions being made by the leadership of the South Bank Multi Academy Trust. I have heard about the impact the newly imposed punitive and disciplinary policies have had on children’s day to day lives in school; I have been told of how the cuts and subsequent loss of trusted Teaching Assistants at the schools has impacted on neurodivergent children; it is clear that something urgently needs to change.
“I have previously raised my concerns with the Trust leadership directly, and will continue to engage with them on this. I asked my question today as it is clear that not enough is being done to alleviate the concerns of children and parents in the community, and they feel nothing can be done to hold those responsible to account for the harm caused. “I know there are fantastic staff in the South Bank MAT schools who continue to do all they can to support the children there. The Trust leadership needs to understand that children are suffering, parents are worried, and the community has lost trust in the Trust.
“Such is the extent of my concern for the children and young people within the South Bank MAT, the wellbeing of staff and the lack of accountability, not least following the resignation of the Governing Body at one of the schools as a result of the conduct of the Leadership of the MAT, that I will be taking this matter further in Parliament until children are safe.”
The full text of Ms Maskell’s question reads:“Punitive, disciplinary policies within schools are having a significant level of harm on children’s mental health, and also particularly on neurodiverse children.
“It seems that Multi Academy Trust leaders are not accountable for their actions and are impossible to hold to acocunt, not least at South Bank MAT where children are experiencing significant harm, school refusal, and an escalation in their own mental wellbeing.
“Can we have an urgent debate around calling leadership of Multi Academy Trusts to account, and to ensure that the governance structures are fit for purpose?”