Councils say no new placement

Two local authorities say they will not send any more children to failing special needs school St Mary’s which is now in special measures.

Both East Sussex and Surrey County Councils have decided not to make new placements at the independent school and Surrey has also offered to help families who want to take youngsters out. This comes in response to the publication of St Mary’s damning Ofsted report.

Inspectors found that St Mary’s was failing in every category they examined such as safeguarding and leadership.

Surrey has placed 16 youngsters and its Area Education Officer Team contacted parents to warn if improvements are not made, the school will be forced to close, and that “given the seriousness of this situation” the council would not make any new placements.

Parents were told: “We are aware that this situation is very worrying and unsatisfactory.” The letter admitted that any change of school can be “disruptive” but offered parents help “to review your child’s placement with a view for an alternative school to be identified as a matter of urgency.”

A SCC spokesman further confirmed this position and said: “We are aware of this Ofsted judgement and have taken the decision that no new placements will be made. We have written to our parents who have children at St Mary’s to offer a meeting to discuss their child’s placement.”

ESCC has also announced no new placements: “We have responsibility for 19 young people placed at St Mary’s School. We have representation on the improvement board and are participating in developing a strong action plan following the recent Ofsted findings. We are committed to raising the standards of achievement and care for the children at St Mary’s and we give the highest priority to the wellbeing of our young people.

“This includes working pro-actively with the school with regard to the safeguarding concerns identified in the inspection. We will continue to carefully monitor the progress the school is making and make decisions accordingly. A decision has been made that we won’t be sending any new pupils to St Mary’s for the foreseeable future.”

St Mary’s responded: “St Mary’s and 6th Form College are working closely with parents and Local Authorities whilst the improvements are being made. Indeed, we have had a very constructive meeting with Surrey this week. Any change of school placement for a child with a Statement or an Education, Health Care Plan has to adhere to the processes in the Code of Practice and relevant legislation. Parents and their child’s voice is particularly strong in the Code and they can air their preference for any school.

“St Mary’s is still being approached for new placement of pupils. We are aware of the East Sussex County Council statement on the BBC news item, but have yet to receive any formal notification ourselves.”