Schools watchdog Ofsted has admitted failings in its inspections at a Hampshire school criticised for its handling of a pupil’s rape claim.
A tribunal in January raised “grave concerns” about safeguarding at the independent Stanbridge Earls School. Last year Ofsted said the school was “outstanding”, but a review of the inspections has found they failed to get “underneath concerns”. The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has apologised.
Disciplinary action has been taken against a small number of staff, including dismissal.
The tribunal found the school, which caters for pupils aged 10 to 19 with special educational needs and charges up to £40,000-a-year, had failed to protect the “vulnerable” pupil. Her parents started legal action on discrimination grounds after she was excluded following her claim she had been raped twice by other students. The tribunal heard the school believed she had consented and excluded her for breaking rules by having sex on school grounds.
Three Ofsted inspections since the tribunal’s damning findings revealed serious concerns about safeguarding at the school.
The school is now to be closed, and a charity based mainly in Surrey is going to take it over and run a new school on the site.
Today’s apology is probably one of the most embarrassing for Ofsted that I can certainly remember (although I have only existed for just over 21 years, so that’s not saying a great deal). I find it staggering that every year since 2009, this school has been rated ‘outstanding’. Three of these inspections in the last three years identified no concerns, in fact the category concerning pupil safety was rated ‘outstanding’ every time. One of these reports said: “Overall management of behaviour is highly effective and results in a respectful and safe culture throughout the school.” Yeah really sounds like it …
Something clearly needs to be change to prevent catastrophic events like this one happening. Quite whether Ofsted can continue to exist as it is to be honest is questionable. If the regulators are this bad, it puts schools under the pressure of being inspected whilst not actually achieving anything credible, which is a waste of taxpayer’s money and government investment. Sir Wilshaw is planning on bringing in eight regional directors next year which he claims will make for “clearer lines of accountability” and improved technology will give inspectors “better access to joined-up information”. Great … more positions which don’t actually do much, and how much are they going to be paid? Certainly won’t be minimum wage will it?