LIVES are at risk in a Poole special school housing some of the county’s most vulnerable young people, according to its own head teacher.

Unsuitable buildings mean 75 children with severe, complex and profound needs are at risk every day and staff are off work for an average of one month a year, mainly due to injuries and illnesses sustained at work.

Montacute School was originally earmarked for a £10million total rebuild under the government’s Building Schools for the Future project but the cash was withdrawn.

Now head teacher Andrew Mears said something must be done to protect all those who learn and work there.

The school’s most recent government inspection rated it outstanding – the highest level possible – in every category, with the only concern expressed about the standard of the school buildings.

“The most vulnerable children in the borough languish in the most unsuitable accommodation” said Mr Mears. “I am not interested in where the fault lies, I am only interested in getting proper facilities for the young people in our care.”

Mr Mears said accommodation at the Canford Heath Road school is too small, leading to tension between pupils and difficulties for staff.

“In order to protect students and meet their needs, our staff continually put themselves in harm’s way” he added.

Mr Mears said inadequate storage space means corridors are cluttered, posing problems for wheelchair users, and poor insulation means the building is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.

“In mainstream schools such issues may affect children’s life chances but here it may affect their chances of life.

“There are many children with complicated health needs and issues such as being too hot can be life-threatening.

“Our staff sometimes have to spray children with water in an attempt to keep their temperature down.”

Faded play equipment at the school is surrounded by rusty fencing and rotting windows which also pose a hazard, added Mr Mears.

Representatives from the Department for Education have recently visited the school, following pressure from local MP Annette Brooke and Mr Mears himself.

A report of the visit has yet to be published but Mr Mears said he is not confident any cash will be forthcoming and added: “Montacute has never quite made it to the top of the list.”

Anne Newton, Strategic Director for Children’s Services, Borough of Poole, said: “Montacute is an outstanding school and pupils make excellent progress in their learning.

“This was confirmed by Ofsted’s most recent inspection report, published last year.

“Indeed, Ofsted inspectors highlighted the safe and welcoming environment offered by the school.

“The council has always recognised Montacute’s case for improving the school premises.

“We were deeply disappointed by the Government’s decision last year to end the Building Schools for the Future programme which would have provided significant investment to improve both Montacute and Winchelsea Schools in Poole.

“The council continues to support both schools and has written to central government to make the strongest possible case for additional funding for Poole.

“The Department of Education has agreed to review Poole’s case and the council is currently waiting to hear the outcome.”

Comments about the school

• “When one sees how the day to day practical issues of running the school should be made harder still by the inadequacies of the existing facilities, one wonders how anyone would not support immediate and long overdue action to remedy this situation” – Alex Barry, architect, Stride Treglown Limited.

• “They are in desperate need of new premises specifically designed to suit the needs of the students who attend the school” – L Draper, design manager, Keir.

• “The existing building is inadequate for its use and cannot realistically be made fit for purpose by refurbishment or alteration” – David Evans, Royal institute of British Architects.

• “Space is limited within the school and the resources are currently too restricted to meet all these complex needs” – Ofsted report 2010.

• “We noticed that the school does need some big changes to make the building better so that you, and the new children joining your school, can continue to benefit from the high standard of care you already receive and continue to learn really well” – Ofsted letter to students 2010.