IAIN Duncan Smith has defended a special needs school which kept children with behaviour problems locked inside padded rooms.

The senior Tory today said Whitefield School, in Walthamstow, is “one of the best special needs schools in the whole country”.

This comes after education watchdog Ofsted gave the school its lowest rating of inadequate in its March report.

Inspectors severely criticised the school’s use of three “calming rooms”, where children showing behavioural issues were locked up for “long periods of time”.

After ordering the school to review its use of the rooms, it stopped using them.

The report said: “The school’s behaviour policy refers to the use of “calming rooms”, which is not an accurate description of the three secure, padded and bare spaces that are used.

“Two of the three rooms have no natural light and occupants are unable to see outside or hear clearly.

“All the rooms are poorly ventilated and have doors which are unable to be opened from the inside.”

Inspectors, who visited the school in January, found no measures in place to prevent a “small number” of children from being repeatedly locked away.

Staff were reportedly unable to prove parents had been notified when their child was placed in one of the secure units.

The report added: “There is little evidence to demonstrate that the rooms are having a positive effect on the behaviour of pupils.

“In a significant number of cases, pupils are placed in the rooms more frequently or for longer periods of time, as their behaviour worsens.”

Mr Duncan Smith, who still faces criticism for introducing benefit cuts to disabled people while Work and Pensions Secretary, recently visited the school.

He said: “I am privileged to be a trustee of Whitefield school having supported it throughout my time as MP here in Chingford and Woodford Green.

“There is no question that Whitefield school is one of the best special needs schools in the whole country.

“It has consistently achieved the very best results for Ofsted inspections and many parents both past and present believe it does an outstanding job.”

“During my visit I met a number of members of staff and continued to be hugely impressed by their dedication and commitment to working with some of the most vulnerable children in our society.

Despite severe criticism over the school’s “calming rooms”, inspectors praised its performance in a number of areas.

Teachers and other staff reportedly supported the needs of most pupils well and many youngsters were making “outstanding” progress.

Quality of teaching was judged to be 'good', with relationships between teachers and pupils described as 'very positive'.

Outcomes of pupils was 'outstanding', as teachers set aspirational targets. The early years provision was also outstanding.

The school, which has 350 special needs pupils between the ages of two and 19, has been run by the Whitefield Academy Trust since April 2014.

The trust also operates Joseph Clarke School in Highams Park, which specialises in teaching visually-impaired children.