St Mary’s School and Sixth Form College – which provides residential education for more than 100 teenagers with learning difficulties – has been heavily criticised during a recent inspection.
An Ofsted report published on November 27 rated the overall effectives of the Wrestwood Road school as inadequate.
The inspection team looked into four specific areas – with two falling below expected standards.
Residential pupils’ safety and leadership and management of residential provisions were labelled inadequate; while quality of residential provision and care and outcome for residential pupils were deemed adequate.
The report’s key findings raised a host of criticisms of the school, including concerns that: “Safety arrangements for residential pupils are inadequate.
“There are a number of minimum standards for residential special schools which are not met.
“Previously good leadership and management have not been sustained.
“Staff shortages are impacting on consistency of access to community-based activities.
“Areas of inequality for residential pupils, relating to standard of accommodation, weekend arrangements and the quality of individual pupils’ records. Other criticisms included a lack of consistent supervision and appraisal for residential staff, including senior appointments – with some workers going with an annual appraisal for a number of years.”
However, it was not all bad news for the school. The majority of residential pupils interviewed said they enjoy their boarding experience and were “very positive” about the residential staff team. There was also positive feedback from parents and the inspection team noted an “extremely positive” relationship between care staff and pupils.
In fact, among the quotes added to the report were comments from pupils which included, “it’s like home from home”, and “I am happy here”. The inspectors also praised the atmosphere within the various residential houses and said behaviour within those was good. The Ofsted team also highlighted the fact that diversity is well-celebrated throughout the school and that staff had acknowledged the need to improve in certain areas.
The school’s management has been set a number of targets to improve the areas deemed to be inadequate, including keeping records up to date; making sure any complaints are properly recorded and making sure residential pupils who move accommodation for weekend care carry out fire drills at reasonable intervals. The report highlighted the fact that residential pupils are already making good progress, taking steps towards independence – backed up by feedback from students.