Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Head leaves after special school fails inspection

A HEADTEACHER is believed to have resigned from a school in Sonning Common after it failed its Ofsted inspection for being “unsafe” for pupils.

Bishopswood Special School in Grove Road was rated “inadequate” by the education watchdog.

Headteacher Janet Kellett was joined by seven governors in quitting.

She was not present during the inspection in November and acting headteacher Sharon Hickles was dealing with the day-to-day running of the school.

Inspectors Kathryn Moles and Lucy English found that school leaders did not do enough to ensure that pupils were safe.

This was due to problems with record keeping, a lack of staff and a lack of collective ownership.

They also found that the leader and governors were not effective in their roles, failing to spot and address weaknesses, and that pupils were unable to reach long-term goals due to curriculum issues.

The school has been placed in a category of concern for either having serious weaknesses or requiring special measures.

As it is a special school, the Education Secretary will not issue an order enabling the school to be converted into an academy but instead Bishopswood will be monitored.

The main issue found by the inspectors was “ineffective” safeguarding arrangements.

In her report, lead inspector Ms Moles said: “Staff, leaders and governors do not take sufficient collective ownership of safeguarding in the school [and] do not understand their collective and individual responsibilities well enough. They are too reliant on others taking action when potential risks to pupils are identified. Adults are too quick to relinquish their ownership of concerns that may arise about pupils.

“Some staff say that pupils are not safe because, at times, there are too few adults available to look after them.

“There are weaknesses in the school’s safeguarding culture, actions and record-keeping. Records do not clearly and routinely identify what actions leaders have taken.”

Ms Moles found that staff were not alert to patterns in pupils’ behaviour and attendance, saying they were reactive rather than proactive.

She said: “This prevents [staff] from identifying what may be causing pockets of unsettled behaviour and therefore from taking action.

“The same is true for leaders’ monitoring of pupils’ attendance and punctuality.”

Ms Moles said that governors had failed to identify the issues with safeguarding and that some statutory obligations had not been met, such as the publication of an accessibility plan and arrangements for relationships and sex education.

She said: “Governors do not check carefully enough that safeguarding work is suitably robust. All of this increases the potential risk to pupils.

“Leaders and governors are not sufficiently aware of the school’s weaknesses. They rely too heavily on support, such as from the local authority, to identify priorities for improvement. Governors do not understand their collective role well enough. They have not ensured that all of their legal duties are met.

“Over time, they have not held leaders to account for standards in the school.”

The inspectors were also concerned about pupils being unable to move through the intended curriculum due to staff focusing too much on short-term goals.

Ms Moles said staff were “aspirational” about what they wanted pupils to achieve but the ambition became “diluted”.

She said: “While leaders and teachers plan learning that builds on what pupils know and can do, they do not routinely take account of what they want pupils to achieve by the end of year 11.

“Consequently, curriculum planning is not ambitious enough for some groups of pupils.

“Leaders want pupils to do their best and plans for the intended curriculum set out an appropriate path towards achieving these goals.

“However, these plans are not sufficiently established in practice. Day-to-day work is overly focused on pupils’ short-term development rather than having suitably ambitious end goals in mind.

“Consequently, over time, some pupils do not move through the intended curriculum as rapidly as they could.”

Despite their concerns, the inspectors found that pupils were well cared for and that staff understood pupils’ individual special educational needs.

Ms Moles said: “Staff work well with pupils, treating them with care and respect. Their work is kind and thoughtful. Pupils trust the adults who care for them. Relationships are positive. Learning about recognising and managing emotions and about interacting with others is integral to pupils’ daily work. This helps pupils learn to be kind and tolerant towards each other.

“Leaders want pupils to do their best. They provide opportunities for pupils to improve their communication skills, physical development and problem-solving ability.

“However, these plans are not sufficiently established in practice.”

Ms Moles said that language and communication were promoted well through the school and the atmosphere was “warm and nurturing”.

Kevin Moyes, chairman of the school’s interim board of governors, said: “Bishopswood is committed to providing high-quality education to every child it teaches. We are therefore disappointed that the school received this ‘inadequate’ rating.

“We are acting with speed on the recommendations made by Ofsted. We take what has been said very seriously and are absolutely determined that when inspectors next visit they will see significant improvements in each of the areas they have highlighted.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, said: “We are aware of the Ofsted report at Bishopswood School and the council will work with the school as regards the task of acting swiftly upon all of the concerns raised by inspectors.”

The school, which opened in 2002, was rated “good” by the education watchdog at its last full inspection in November 2016 and again at a shorter inspection the following year. It currently has 73 pupils aged from five to 16.

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