Cerebral palsy centre criticised

Scotland's national centre for children with cerebral palsy has been criticised by inspectors for its poor leadership, low staff morale, and narrow curriculum.

The Scottish Centre for Children with Motor Impairments, at Craighalbert in Cumbernauld, which caters for 30 primary and nursery pupils, had been "performing below its potential for a number of years", HMIE concluded. Inspectors described its self-evaluation as unsatisfactory and found weaknesses in improvements in performance, the engagement of staff in the life and work of the school, the development of people and partnerships, and the leadership of improvement and change.

While some aspects of the nursery were "outstanding" and staff interacted "very skilfully" with children, providing a stimulating range of experiences, this good practice was not adopted across the school "resulting in a lack of continuity of experience".

Primary pupils did enjoy good quality learning experiences, but overall the primary curriculum had "too narrow a focus", said the report.

The school was even criticised for failing to evaluate the long-term impact of its key approach to delivering the curriculum - conductive education, a system of education designed to help children with motor impairments become more independent through active learning. "As a result, the extent of improvement was inconsistent across the centre," said the report.

More active and independent play needed to be encouraged, and pupils had too few opportunities to use the local community for learning. Further, appropriate sensory approaches had not yet been developed for children with more complex needs, they said, and opportunities to use ICT were deemed "inconsistent".

A wider range of ICT would have supported pupils' language and communication and engaged their interest, inspectors felt. The school also needed to make better use of signing, photos, objects or pictures, to allow pupils to "make their needs known", they added. A lack of adequate support from speech and language therapists was highlighted and led to pupils' communication needs not always being "fully addressed".

In the main, staff had a "positive relationship" with pupils and inspectors commented on the fact that pupils were "treated with dignity" and "valued as individuals".

Most staff did not think the centre was well led and were "negative about many aspects of the centre".

Pat Salter, the director, who was absent at the time of the inspection in June, had been in post for 16 months and had started to introduce new systems and structures. However, he had "failed to win the hearts and minds of staff" who felt ill-informed about developments and reasons for change. "At the time of inspection, staff morale was very low and most staff felt undervalued."

Responding to the report, Professor Salter and the board of governors said the points raised were being actively considered and they were "looking forward to the further progress this will enable in the organisation".

The school was pleased to note, they said, the satisfaction of parents and their high degree of trust and confidence in the centre.

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