Monday, 1 July 2013


One of the worst and most hateful,  terms of abuse I can think of  is "spastic, and  its derivatives  "spaz" or  "spazzer" . These word  strike terror into  thousands of disabled people across the country who are  daily tormented by bigots and bullies who think its OK to use words like this to intimidate and demean vulnerable people.

So what a surprise to learn that a Thanet school which  is supposed to be supporting and caring for disabled and vulnerable students, including 2 of my daughters,  thinks that it's perfectly OK to have a large prominently displayed sign in it's main entrance which uses what is now universally acknowledged to be a term of serious abuse,  the word Spastic.

OK the sign is old and commemorates a donation made to the school by the charitable organisation then know as the Spastic Society. But don't forget the fact that the Spastic Society was  forced to change its name to SCOPE almost 20 year ago (1994)  following years and years of mounting public pressure and criticism against it's appallingly offensive title. Here is an account of the Spastic Society  name change. I only wish the powers that be at  Foreland School  had read this and perhaps they would have removed this unacceptable sign years ago!

Over the past couple of years I have raised my concerns informally with the previous and current headteachers  of the Foreland School. They   both failed to take action. Their lack of action suggests to me that they are totally unconcerned about the impact  that the word spastic  has on thousands of  vulnerable people who find themselves at  the receiving end of verbal abuse and bullying and sometimes worse.  It suggests to me that as leaders of special schools who should be sensitive to these issues, they have lost their  moral compass. Because allowing this sign to remain in place for so long is, in my opinion, an unprofessional and uncaring act which brings shame to the Foreland School. 

I  have raised my concerns with  OFSTED who inspected the school two  weeks ago and will now  be submitting a formal complaint to the school.

I think the school should remove this inappropriate and unacceptable sign as quickly as possible and ask SCOPE to provide a new sign without the offensive words. There is no place in  21st century Britain for lending credibility to discredited, old-fashioned and offensive ideas and  attitudes. The Foreland headteacher should do the right thing. 


  1. I am of an age where I remember how much good the Spastics Society did. It was also the same time when we referred to people as being coloured. Neither the word Spastic or Coloured were used in a derogatory way or with racist intent.

    Why are we having to rewrite history all because a minority of people used a word in a different context. I wonder what word in 20 years time will have taken on a new meaning?

    1. Thanks Anon I remember those times too! The fact that we can and, thankfully, do review the words and attitudes we were brought up to accept as the norm, is the sign of a healthy democratic society. I am sure that you are right when you say in 20 years some of the things we say and do now will be looked on very differently - that's a good thing I think. I won't bore you too much but I have given up counting the times people have made nasty hurtful comments about my daughters including the spastic word. I am sure its great for their self esteem to hear this.

    2. Allan Mallinsdon1 July 2013 at 19:13

      The word spastic refers to the medical condition of spastic diplegia and is not in itself derogatory. It is the derivatives from it, like spaz, which become offensive or, indeed, the manner and circumstances under which it is used. Somehow I find suddenly becoming offended by an old school sign referring to the Spastic Society perhaps stretching PC considerations too far and the sooner the world gets more real and tolerant the better.

      Mind you, I would agree about changing definitions or usage and one could take the word 'gay' as a good example. Once meaning happy or frivolous, it became the term to describe homosexual men and is now used by teenagers to describe someone who is sad or not with it. At what point and in which context does one take offence.

    3. The resurrection and acceptance of derogatory language to describe people of difference is on the increase. Most reprehensible of all is that this campaign of hate against many different groups of people not powerful enough to fight back is being actively engineered by this Tory/Dem government and it's media.

      Worse still, and Cllr Driver you have been subjected to this, there are members of local government elected to responsible positions on the behalf of the community, who practice the use of hate language. Some have been found out, and some with pseudonyms believing that they have concealed their identities using proxy servers, will be too!

    4. Mr Mallinson if you care to read my post it is clear that I have not "suddenly" become offended. I raised my concerns with the previous headteacher over 2 years ago, when she left I raised my concerns with the new head about 8 months ago. I then raised the issue with an OFSTED inspector 3 weeks ago who told me that she also thought the sign was offensive. So this has been rumbling on for quite some time. Also the fact that a word might have medical/ scientific origins does not make it any less offensive if its major usage is to insult, bully or demean someone.

  2. Richard Card says:

    Cerebral palsy comedian Dr Laurence Clark

    Section 13 Review being made by Attorney General

    No one knows how many cerebral palsy and other disabled Hackney Social Services kids in care here died between 1966 and 1972

    Lord Clinton Davis phoned me a couple of years ago re the McGILL case see above. In the case file I have two Coroners records for 1972 Beeches deaths. There were three deaths in 3 incidents from Dec 71 to April 72. Only one got an inquest the others were nodded through on GP certification. No one knows how many deaths occurred 66 to 72 overall

    The problem was that the HM Coroner who sits is the Coroner where death is certified. For example locally the 1995 custody death of Phillip SEED at Margate Police station. There was no 24 hour A and E in Thanet then but police could arrange for A and E to stay open. they did this in SEED Decd and hence got the Thanet Coroner and not the perhaps more formidable Canterbury Coroner. In that case the charity "Inquest" sent a free barrister. It ended up with me reporting the inquest procedure to Attorney General and a new inquest being heard by the Dover HM Coroner.

    The Shipman Inquiry stage that looked at how death certification could be tightened up took legal advice which was to rule the Regional Crime Squad inquiry of 1972 into GP death certification malpractice in Leonard Cheshire Homes as beyond their terms of reference. The thing is that a local HM Coroner does not necessarily get an overview of a pattern of deaths on his patch.

    When Hackney Council had a retrospective inquiry into their residential staff (By Director Cambridge Social Services) the six years of deaths at the Beeches Ixworth were ruled beyond his terms of reference.

    We, as a society, are poised to make saints of Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder. In fact the McGILL case file has letters from Sue Ryder's solicitor 1972. Her care home was registered only in the lowest category available under Section 37 National Assistance Act 1948. In effect a boarding house. With no registration requirement to employ qualified staff there she was drawing DHSS benefits for each inmate and taking in serious nursing support and even hospice cases.

  3. Thanet was an area bulging with private Section 37 care homes. Fred King, principal civil servant at DHSS for the area, would boast how none of them actually got their full entitlement to inmate fees from benefits.

    So Thanet care industry was underpaid from benefits. The Sue Ryder charity, for example, had charity income PLUS its full amount of benefits and still failed to deliver proper standards of care. So what chance Thanet ?

    In 1975/76 Panorama exposed Thanet's care industry. Their exemplary character, Edwin Baars, had been discharged from a mental hospital in another county. He had been given a simpering Hospital social worker letter and a single rail ticket to Margate where he arrived homeless. Eventually to be put in one of the area's Section 37 private care homes.

    The care home he got kicked its inmates out after breakfast and Panorama shew a line of their inamtes walking aimlessly on the beach or sheltering in Margate library.

    A local chap (me actually) for a while faced charges under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly being Panorama source. The govt wanted to keep quiet about dumping mental patients homeless into resorts like Margate.

    When some years later I was vetted for MOD I received a commendation message from a General. The encounter with OSA had flagged up on my vetting.

    "If it is not the purpose of the British Army to defend our most vulnerable citizens I would not be in this Army."

    And you think a word on a plaque is a red hot care issue ?

    Would you eradicate the wording over the gates of Auschwitz ?

    Sometimes it is important to preserve history and to trust the judgment of those who view it.

  4. As a child I was teased for being fat and also for having ginger hair which really did upset me. However, I wouldn't want the words fat or ginger banned for being used no matter how much distress they caused me over the years. It isn't the words that are at fault but a small minority who use these words with the intention of causing distress.

    Please, please, let us continue free speech.

    1. As a big fat bald headed man from ooopp Norf I wish I could agree, but sadly this case is very different. Spastic, spaz, spazzer are words which are now almost exclusively used as terms of abuse and hatred. Police statistics and learned research shows that hate crime and abuse against disabled people is rapidly increasing. To allow offensive words which form part of this abuse to be prominently displayed in the entrance to a school for disabled student is in my opinion an unforgivable mistake which demeans the students and suggested that the school leadership doesn't care about the discrimination, bullying and hatred faced by the young people they should be supporting. This is precisely why I have raised this issue.

  5. Why have you changed the message at the top of the page? Have you been a naughty boy?

  6. I am never naughty only cautious. Virtually all blogsites carry a disclaimer similar to mine. I stand by all the comments I have made in this post and am highly likely to be making more comments about this unacceptable situation unless of course the school does the right thing and removes the sign.

  7. I'm curious. Do you masturbate to press pictures of yourself or is it enough to recall the feeling at the time you stand there putting the world to rights?