Dismissed for challenging the abuse of children with SEND

by Marie Hirst

Dismissed for challenging the abuse of children with SEND

by Marie Hirst
Marie Hirst
Case Owner
My name is Marie Hirst, I am a qualified teacher who has been bullied out of my job for challenging the abuse of children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) including my own daughter
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Marie Hirst
Case Owner
My name is Marie Hirst, I am a qualified teacher who has been bullied out of my job for challenging the abuse of children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) including my own daughter
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Latest: May 18, 2022

Stop abuse of children with Special Educational Needs

Good morning

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments, messages of support and encouragement. It has been a very harrowing experience for Sophie.and myself.

We believe that wining the case will …

Read more

Bullied for challenging the abuse of children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) including my own daughter!

I am holding Hampshire County Council to account for constructive and unfair dismissal for being a whistleblower and disability discrimination after I was bullied, harassed, and discriminated against by the staff at the Clere School after reporting abuse of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) including having to witness my own daughter (who has Down’s syndrome) being bullied in front of me.

Please help me stop the abuse of children with SEND and make a real stand towards the development of relevant and inclusive educational programmes and specialist educators to support children and young adults with SEND.


My Story

My name is Marie Hirst, I am a qualified teacher with 20 years’ experience including training and expertise in teaching children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND). I am co-founder of Breakthrough Learning a charity that provides intervention for children with Special Education Needs. I have four children including Sophie who is 13 years old. Sophie has Down’s Syndrome, multiple learning needs and is partially deaf.

Sophie started at The Clere, a mainstream secondary school in Hampshire in September 2020 and on 2 November 2020 I excitedly started working at the Clere School as a Learning Support Assistant as part of the SEND Team and provided interventions to 5 students with whom I established a great relationship. I enjoyed and felt privileged using my passion, skills, and experience to help better the learning of children with complex SEND.

Very sadly, I was forced to leave my job in April 2021 after the SEND staff and some administrative staff had been bullying, demeaning, threatening, and harassing me for 6 months.


Abuse of children with SEND

As soon as I started working at the Clere school it was obvious that the SEND staff had very little experience or training to work with children with SEND (despite many promises that they were) and they didn’t actually want to work with the children and often moaned about it. I witnessed and overheard multiple members of staff making derogatory, degrading, and humiliating statements and comments about students with learning disabilities and sometimes making them directly to the students themselves. These included:

  •  alleging children of violent behaviour which was proven not to be true.
  • calling children “silly”
  • saying “I hope I’m not stuck with you all day!”
  • “we’ve never had children with such low levels”
  • telling children “You’ll never be able to do that!”
  • having no confidence in their abilities
  • “These girls are disruptive, could you take them out of the classroom!”
  • swearing in front of the children
  • shouting “This can’t carry on! They need to be sent home!”
  • overreacting to minor behaviour challenges and threatening the children with inappropriate consequences (calling parents or sending them home)
  • “… these children shouldn’t be here!”

The SEND staff also failed to supervise the children and on at least four occasions children were left to roam around the school on their own including the outside car park. The SEND staff also wanted to put a 16-year-old young man with SEND and going through puberty with young vulnerable girls of 12 years old.

Parents have alleged that this mistreatment of children with SEND has been going on for at least 5 years with the Council being aware of it and Parents have advised there have been further recent incidents of children being left unattended.

I reported this horrible treatment of the children and other Health & Safety issues to the management of the Clere school on multiple occasions and they did nothing about it. They hired me as a Learning Support Assistant, but I was given the duties and responsibilities of an SEND teacher.


My treatment

I tried to support the SEND staff by providing my teaching materials and bought over £1,000 of resources in 6 months, as they had very few and no planning in place.The SEND staff had decided from my first day at The Clere that they “didn’t want me spying on them” as reported by other professionals and parents.  On 18 November 2020, in the presence of several members of the SEND staff I told a student who their teacher would be for that week. As a result, and to my total incomprehension as to why, I was shouted at and reprimanded publicly. I was told to change my tone and that I was not allowed to give information to students about their timetables. When I tried to explain my point, I was shouted at to leave the school by a Learning Support Assistant.

I was subsequently bullied, harassed, treated less favourably and subjected to detriment by most of the SEND staff.  They collectively ignored me, refused to greet me, avoided eye-contact and excluded me from their conversations when I entered the SEND room. They constantly put me down, raising their voices to me or using a condescending tone for very trivial things such as using the wrong shelf or allowing a student with sensory processing needs to have a carrot snack. I was also excluded from meetings and conversations and openly and publicly criticised in a demeaning manner. with reprimanding comments such as “it’s not your place to do that” or “you can’t look in your daughter’s bag”, “you can’t tell them that” “you can’t give her a carrot for snack” “you can’t have Sellotape”, “don’t let them know what’s happening”. On a few occasions I wasn’t told about SEND staff meetings, and then reprimanded by management for not attending them. I often heard them mocking or criticising parents.

After I raised my concerns with the school management the SEND staff treated me even worse. They publicly shouted at me, shut the door on me and stormed out of classrooms. They reprimanded me for no reason. They withheld important information from me about the students I was responsible for, including Occupational and Speech and Language Therapy interventions and plans, to prevent me from doing my job.


Bullying my daughter in front of me

The final straw was when the SEND staff bullied my own daughter in front of me by telling her off for doing her daily Occupational Therapy saying that ‘she was disturbing the class’ (of only three students at the time). Later on, the class teacher promised Sophie that she could have time on the computer for the last lesson of the day if she worked well for the rest of the day. When Sophie was about to receive her reward, an LSA, who was not even working with Sophie, told Sophie in a nasty tone “there is no computer for you and the school hasn’t got enough computers for you!” even though she had earned her reward. When I told the LSA in question that it was unfair and not helpful she left the room leaving the student she was working with on his own.

I was made to feel unwelcome at my place of work, was excluded from meetings, socially shunned, and ignored for six months.  I was publicly undermined by my peers in front of colleagues and the students.  Such a hostile environment left me feeling anxious, humiliated, and degraded. This became so unbearable that I was constructively dismissed on 26 April 2021.

Those events deeply affected me and have had a profound impact on my emotional wellbeing. I absolutely loved supporting children and young adults and helping them learn how to learn. I treasure the relationships we formed and am devastated that this was robbed of me.

I have often been complimented for my understanding, insight, and enthusiasm for working with children with special needs. It puzzles me that the Clere school and Hampshire County Council missed the opportunity to employ a fully qualified and passionate teacher with training in special education needs at the rate of a Learning Support Assistant and prefer to employ uninspired and despondent babysitters whose impact is detrimental to the children in their care.

 

 

The Legal Matter          

I have sought legal advice and support from Irwin Mitchell LLP as a whistle-blower and parent of a child with a learning disability. Concerns raised about SEND staff verbally, psychologically and emotionally mistreating SEND children, together with Safeguarding and Health & Safety issues are protected disclosures.

The bullying, harassment, and demeaning treatment I received from the SEND staff was reported to the school management on many occasions and they did nothing about it.

The SEND staff mistreated and discriminated against me due to Sophie’s disabilities, trying to force her and the other children with SEND out of the school.

We are claiming disability discrimination, harassment, whistleblowing, detriment, and Automatic Unfair dismissal for being a whistle-blower.

 

My Case

I am standing up against Hampshire County Council by claiming unfair dismissal, whistleblowing, detriment and disability discrimination because they ignored the mistreatment of children with SEND and then allowed SEND staff to bully and harass me, and my daughter, until I had no choice but to leave my job.

This left me without a job I loved doing and forced me to home school my daughter, also preventing her from attending the school with her friends where her three brothers had attended.

 

The Importance of the Case

The case is important because it will bring to light the systematic failures by the Council and Ofsted in allowing bullying and harassment of teachers who report and stand-up to mistreatment of children with SEND, by the very people who should support them.

It will also force the Council to consider its procedures for dealing with whistleblowing and who it employs to teach children with SEND ensuring they have the appropriate qualifications, experience, and resources in place to support them.


What are we trying to achieve?

Your support will assist in the payment for expert lawyers to prove that I was Constructively Dismissed, subjected to various detriments because of my protected disclosures and discriminated against because of my daughter’s disability. The case will be heard by an impartial Employment Tribunal.

We need your help by raising £20,000 to cover the legal fees of this stage of bringing the case to the Employment Tribunal for unfair and constructive dismissal.

All money that you donate will go towards the case and ultimately protects children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Please contribute now to help us fund this legal effort, stop the abuse of children with SEND and make a real stand towards the development of relevant and inclusive educational programmes and specialist educators to support children and young adults with Special Educational Needs.

Kindly share this page on social media to help get the word out.

Thank you for your support

Marie (and Sophie)

Update 1

Marie Hirst

May 18, 2022

Stop abuse of children with Special Educational Needs

Good morning

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments, messages of support and encouragement. It has been a very harrowing experience for Sophie.and myself.

We believe that wining the case will bring about real change and protection for children with Special Educational Needs.

Please support by pledging via the link https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-abuse-sen-kids .  If you could also please share the link with your network it would be much appreciated.

Kindest regards

Marie


#education #inclusiveeducation #downsyndrome #whistleblowing #bullying #discriminationlaw #disability #disabilityinclusion #workplacebullying

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