Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Inadequate school could be shut down

CHILTERN Edge School in Sonning Common could be closed after being rated “inadequate”.

The secondary school in Reades Lane has been put into special measures following a damning inspection report by Ofsted.

The education watchdog said some of the school’s 506 pupils used derogatory language towards disabled children and there was poor progress in the core subjects of maths, English and science and a lack of support for disadvantaged students.

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, has begun a consultation to find solutions, which include the school closing or being turned into an academy.

The council will appoint an interim executive board to replace the governors, which will make decisions on the leadership of the school, subject to approval from the regional schools commissioner.

Chiltern Edge was judged “good” in all areas after its last inspection in 2012.

But standards were found to have fallen when the school was visited by team of inspectors led by Caroline Walshe on March 7 and 8.

The Ofsted report says: “Her Majesty’s chief inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.”

The inspectors rated the school “inadequate”, the lowest possible rating, in three out of four categories, effectiveness of leadership and management, quality of teaching, learning and assessment and outcomes for pupils.

For the personal development, behaviour and welfare category, the school was given a “requires improvement” rating, the second lowest rating.

Teachers were criticised for their low expectations of their pupils, not checking work closely and not challenging students effectively.

The report says: “Since the previous inspection, leaders have not done enough to improve the quality of teaching.

“Pupils do not make the progress they are capable of and do not achieve the standards expected for their age.

“Senior leaders and subject leaders do not check regularly the progress that pupils make in lessons. This means that leaders’ evaluation of the quality of teaching is overly generous.

“Leaders have correctly identified some of the priorities for improvement in the school. However, they have been too slow to implement their plans. Leaders have not evaluated the impact of their actions on pupils’ learning and progress.

“As a result, too many pupils make insufficient progress in English, mathematics and science subjects.

“The quality of teaching has significantly declined since the previous inspection. Teachers do not use the school’s assessment information effectively to plan lessons.

“This means that learning activities are often too easy and do not match pupils’ starting points. As a result, pupils lose interest and their work is often poorly presented and unfinished.”

Governors were considered to be too accepting of information on school performance and had not challenged the leadership.

The report says: “Governors do not have a clear enough picture of standards and progress in the school and have accepted the information provided by leaders too readily.

“Consequently, governors do not sufficiently challenge school leaders and do not hold them to account for the standards that pupils achieve. Governors are not monitoring the school’s use of additional funding closely enough.

“Historically, leaders have struggled to recruit strong subject specialists in English, mathematics and science. This has led to a number of temporary appointments which have affected continuity of learning. As a result, pupils’ progress in these subjects is too slow.”

The inspectors also criticise the behaviour of pupils.

The report says: “Poor behaviour in class often occurs in lessons where there have been many changes in staffing and pupils are dissatisfied by the quality of teaching.

“These incidents are not always recorded on the school’s behaviour management system. As a result, they are not dealt with consistently effectively.”

The report says most pupils are respectful to one and other and recognise what constitutes bullying but some pupils were identified as causing problems.

It says: “There are too many incidents where pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities are exposed to derogatory language.

“These incidents are not being addressed quickly enough by staff and this is affecting the self-esteem of this vulnerable group of pupils.

“Pupils understand that using homophobic language is wrong and leaders have recently introduced a new process to eliminate this in school. However, this system is yet to be embedded and some pupils regularly use inappropriate, homophobic language.”

The report says that the school’s use of the pupil premium, central funding provided for disadvantaged children, is not effective and these pupils make inadequate progress in English, mathematics and science.

Disadvantaged pupils and those with special education needs or disabilities are making slower progress than their peers.

The report adds: “Work to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils is ineffective.”

The inspectors say that more generally pupils, particularly boys, make less than progress than they should.

The report says: “Pupils do not achieve as well as they should by the time they leave school. Too often, pupils, particularly those who are disadvantaged or who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, make poor progress from their starting points.

“In 2016, pupils completing Year 11, including the disadvantaged, made less progress in English and mathematics than others nationally with similar starting points.

“Boys made slower progress than girls in English, mathematics, science and languages. Current pupils are not making sufficient progress in English, mathematics and science. This is particularly the case for disadvantaged pupils and boys.

“School information indicates that boys in Year 10 and 11 continue to make less progress than girls in English. Pupils’ work seen during the inspection supports this view.

“Although leaders recognise this, work to raise standards for boys is not making a difference.”

The inspectors did find safeguarding was effective. They also commended recent work to improve attendance of disadvantaged pupils and identified most children conduct themselves well around the school.

The quality of teaching was found to be better in 3D design, dance, physical education and geography with pupils achieving better in these subjects.

The report says: “Teachers have high expectations of their pupils and plan exciting lessons to ensure that pupils surpass their targets.

“Strong teaching in these subjects means that pupils respond well to challenges and consequently pupils make more rapid progress.”

Pastoral staff were praised for their support of pupils, including monitoring attendance, building positive relationships between staff and pupils and keeping records of behaviour incidents.

Pauline Conway, acting chairwoman of governors, wrote to parents this week, saying everything possible would be done to safeguard the education of the students.

She said: “The Ofsted inspection framework gives great weight to examination results, student progress over time and the progress of specific groups of students.

“We have faced a number of challenges that, combined with a fall in the key stage four examination results of 2016, have led to the Ofsted decision to place the school in special measures.

“It is extremely disappointing that despite the best efforts of staff, students and parents the inspectors have reached this conclusion.

“However, when a school has been judged as inadequate, the local authority is required to consider the closure of a school as one of the two reorganisation options, the other being opening Chiltern Edge as a sponsored academy.

“Inevitably this is a time of great concern and uncertainty for everyone but I assure you that everything possible will be done to safeguard the education and progress of our students.”

Lucy Butler, director for children’s services at the county council, said: “There are a number of serious issues raised by the Ofsted report and the council’s priority is ultimately to ensure good educational opportunities are available to local families.

“It’s important to stress at this stage that no decisions have been taken and that the school would not close without appropriate transfer arrangements in place for every child to attend a better-performing school.

“We would encourage everyone with an interest in the provision of good quality education for children in the local area to take part in the consultation.”

A meeting will take place at the school on Wednesday from 7pm when representatives from the school and council will answer questions.

To respond to the consultation, visit

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