TEACHERS must stop using 'excessive physical force' at a crisis-hit Bromsgrove special school which is otherwise taking the first steps to turn its failing fortunes around, say education chiefs.

Pupils' complaints about 'being hurt by staff' featured in an Ofsted monitoring visit to Hunters Hill College, which was placed in special measures due to 'serious and widespread failures' in the autumn 2019.

The school - which caters for around 134 boys aged 11-16 - also had its residential arm closed until further notice and, since then, the headteacher and assistant head have left, along with several governors.

Ofsted returned to the school, in Spirehouse Lane, Blackwell, for a monitoring visit last month and praised the impact of interim head Melanie Keating but says there is still a lot of work to be done.

Inspector Tim Hill was satisfied with the school's improvement plan but said he felt leaders and managers were not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.

The previous inspection had found the school's quality of education to be poor, pupils' literacy and numeracy skills weak, attendance was low and that staff were not meeting pupils' additional needs.

January's inspection, meanwhile, focused on safeguarding, behaviour and attendance as these were considered the most urgent areas that the school needs to address.

Mr Hill wrote: "Despite some improvements to leaders’ oversight of safeguarding, arrangements for safeguarding remain ineffective. Not all pupils feel safe while in school.

"Pupils worry about how some staff manage pupils’ behaviour. They say these staff use excessive physical force to control pupils. Pupils complain about being hurt by staff.

"Moreover, they believe that their concerns will not be taken seriously by some adults in school.

"Recently, senior leaders have been working hard to build better, trusting relationships between staff and pupils.

"Now, when it is discovered that a member of staff may have acted inappropriately, the headteacher takes swift, decisive action to protect pupils."

His report adds that while there are 'some green shoots' in improving behaviour of pupils, there is still a 'long way to go'.

"At times, when serious behaviour incidents occur, such as fighting, staff have had to use physical restraint to protect pupils," the report added.

"The interim headteacher has made it clear to staff that physical intervention should only be used as a last resort.

"Leaders have rightly placed an emphasis on encouraging staff to use de-escalation techniques and reduce the need for physical intervention."

The report identified interim head Ms Keating as a positive influence, adding: "Staff morale is improving because the new head, ably supported by other leaders, is keeping staff more informed of changes.

"Staff are generally positive about the direction of travel – one teacher’s comment summed up the views of many when they described recently appointed leaders as ‘a breath of fresh air’.

"The interim headteacher, while only in post for a matter of days, has a clear vision for the school’s future.

"This is underpinned by her steely determination to ensure that pupils are safe and experience an appropriate curriculum."