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Police and government to investigate claim of child abuse at Brethren school

Trustees of Wilton Park school near Salisbury, run by a charity, deny allegation that at least one child suffered mentally and physically after being disciplined for setting up a Facebook page

Wilton Park
Wilton Park

A charitable school run by the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church is under investigation by the local council, the Department for Education and the police after allegations of cruelty to children were made.

Wilton Park, an independent secondary school near Salisbury, Wiltshire, is one of a small number of schools affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren and run by the Wessex Schools Trust, a registered charity.

The investigation comes after the council and other bodies were sent a document compiled by an anonymous source who claimed to be a teacher at the school. The document says that several pupils were punished for setting up Facebook pages.

Use of the internet is severely limited under the church’s doctrine of separation, which also prohibits Brethren from eating, drinking and socialising with non-Brethren, and from watching television or listening to the radio.

The document, seen by Third Sector, alleges that the school used a punishment known as "shutting up", which involves isolation from the community, and that at least one pupil "suffered both mentally and physically" as a result.

A spokesman for Wiltshire County Council said it had received a letter raising concerns about Wilton Park school. "We take all allegations of child abuse extremely seriously and we will always investigate these matters," he said.

Spokeswomen for the Wiltshire Police and the DfE both said they had received information about the school and would be investigating the allegations.

A statement from the trustees of Wilton Park School, released on the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church website, said they have received "no notification or advice of any impending investigation by Wiltshire County Council, the Department of Education, the police or any other agency". It said the pupil mentioned had never been "shut up".

"The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church congregation in her parish have never taken any action restricting her activities," the statement said. "The girl’s father was going through a difficult time and the girl’s agreed wish was to stay at home with her mother in support of the household."

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