A SPECIAL needs school kept children with behaviour problems locked inside padded rooms.

Whitefield School, in Macdonald Road, Walthamstow, was given the lowest rating of inadequate by education watchdog Ofsted in its latest report.

Concerns centred on the use of three “calming rooms”, where children were seen to be demonstrating behavioural issues were locked up for “long periods of time.”

But after Ofsted ordered the school, which was previously rated outstanding, to review the use of its rooms, it stopped using them.

Inspectors, who visited the school in January, wrote: “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.”

There were no measures in place to prevent a “small number” of children from being repeatedly locked away.

Inspectors, who visited the school in January, also found staff were unable to prove parents were 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.”

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

The report found teachers and other staff supported the needs of most pupils well and many youngsters were making “outstanding” progress.

The 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.

Academy bosses told the Guardian policies had been reviewed since the inspection and “calming rooms” were no longer being used.

Whitefield chair of governors, Caroline Sheppard, said: “Safeguarding is of paramount importance to our school and we have already put actions in place to address the issue identified.

“The report confirms that in all other areas of safeguarding, leaders can demonstrate strong systems and procedures, as well as identifying the school’s many strengths.

“We are confident that when Ofsted next inspect our overall outstanding grade will be reinstated.”