School praised for its swift recovery: Ofsted say St Mary’s is tackling problems

A previously failing residential school has been praised by Ofsted for turning a corner in its leadership, staff, and approach to children.

St Mary’s Special School and Sixth Form College, on Wrestwood Road, was slammed last year by an Ofsted report that levelled across-the-board criticism and deemed the school inadequate. This is the lowest available verdict for residential schools.

But a monitoring inspection carried out last month has found good progress in almost all areas, noting the school now meets national minimum standards.

A spokesman for the school praised the hard work of staff who have embraced the need for change.

She said: “St Mary’s is proud of the progress made and is ambitious about its future.

“With quality staff and systems and the support of parents and the local community it will continue to provide a positive experience for children with speech, language and communication needs.”

The report published in November 2013 noted several minimum standards around care of the 100-odd young students were not being met.

It criticised the senior leadership and safety standards, though also noted feedback from the pupils themselves was positive, and that there was an excellent atmosphere at the school.

The report published this week will boost confidence of parents and staff alike. It praises new policies around staff recruitment and training, supervision and safety of children, and the sleeping accommodation.

Comments included: “Staff now have clear actions to follow in order to reduce risks when caring for children.

“Children are now cared for by sufficient levels of competent staff.

“Children have safe levels of staff to care for them, both during the daytime and at night.”

Cllr Frances Winterborn, Lib Dem member for Old Town ward, including St Mary’s, welcomed news of the school’s progress.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted about this, it’s just excellent news. I heard about the report last winter, and at that time there were rumours flying around, but St Mary’s is a lovely school, and could never be closed.

“Anybody who wants to put a child there will know they can be trusted.

St Mary’s is a charitable school that offers education and therapy for children and young people aged 7– 19 who have severe speech, language and communication difficulties. It is part of the Talking Trust - itself a non-profit working to raise the profile of communications disabilities.