Headteacher hits back at Ofsted’s ‘catastrophic’ decision - The Evesham Observer

Headteacher hits back at Ofsted’s ‘catastrophic’ decision

Evesham Editorial 24th Jan, 2020   0

AN ANGRY Evesham headteacher has slammed Ofsted inspectors for their ‘catastrophic’ decision to judge his school as inadequate, a move he claimed could have a devastating impact for staff and students.

Guy Nichols spoke to the Observer a week after The De Montfort School was given the rating following a series of failings (see below), all of which were described by the school chief as ‘highly contentious’.

The respected headteacher pulled no punches in his attack on inspectors and said the ‘battle’ over the report and the inspection itself had left him feeling like a criminal.

The De Montfort School was downgraded from its previous ‘requires improvement’ grade down to the lower rating following an inspection at the start of this year.

“I wouldn’t have been angry with ‘requires improvement’. I would have been unhappy all our efforts to improve attendance and other areas hadn’t been recognised but I would have taken it on the chin that we need to improve,” he said.

“I’m not looking for excuses, I’m looking for justice. The mistakes identified were mistakes any school could have made, we didn’t make them maliciously, we acted in good faith, we put right those things immediately. Why weren’t we allowed to carry on?”

The school’s policies on keeping children safe will be examined by specialist county council staff at the start of next month

Mr Nichols revealed he had offered to stand down from the job in a meeting with parents on Tuesday (January 21) but said the support from them, staff and governors had been overwhelming. He also praised Evesham’s MP Nigel Huddleston for his recent help and support.

He claimed ‘huge’ amounts of praise made during the visit was left out of the report because of word limits, according to the lead inspector.

“We don’t want a report that is like War and Peace but we do want one that is reflective of the school. If you have said all of these great things about the school and don’t have the room to put them in how is the report reflective of the school?” he said.

In response, an Ofsted spokesperson said the school was judged inadequate for not providing a safe environment for its pupils.

“We do not set strict word limits for our reports, so if an inspector wants to make an important point about the essence or context of a school, then the number of words won’t be an issue.

“Our reports are chiefly written for parents; the evidence that supports the judgements is discussed in depth with the school during the inspection.

“Our inspectors write reports with parents and carers in mind, and they give a sense of what it is like to be a pupil at a school.

“While it’s relatively early days, our new reports have been well received so far.”

HERE are the four key safeguarding ‘systematic’ failings identified by Ofsted which ensured The De Montfort School received an ‘inadequate’ rating from school inspectors.

* Inspectors found it ‘unacceptable’ the school were rung by staff at the Medical Education Team once a week to update them on the progress of two students from the school in their care.

The DeMontfort School along with a number of other schools is supported by the the Medical Education Team which provides support for students two days a week who cannot make it into school because of physical disability or emotional challenges.

Inspectors said the school should be ringing the families every day to check on their children’s whereabouts despite Ofsted’s own guidelines only stating the school should be in ‘regular contact’.

* Students on extended work experience were receiving ‘alternative education provision’ and the school failed to ask work experience providers to supply the school with a copy of their risk assessment.

Mr Nichols said the guidelines for work experience wasn’t specifically just one week for year 10 students. He also pointed out any ‘alternative provision’ had to be provided by trained teachers who can improve behaviour in school.

Guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive on work experience states the school doesn’t need to see a copy of a risk assessment, the school simply needs to be certain an employer has it.

All of the school’s documentation on work experience said employers had signed forms to say they had risk assessments in place. Inspectors judged this insufficient.

* Inspectors said the school failed to protect a student on work experience

A student was on work experience with his older brother. Because they were picked up to go to work by a driver which had not had a Disclosure and Barring Check done it was deemed the student was unsafe.

The parents of the child were happy the child was safe as he was with his older brother throughout the day.

* The safety of a student on an afternoon’s placement wasn’t guaranteed.

The school had an agreement with a local business for a student to spend one afternoon a week there on work experience. The company signed an agreement to confirm it would ring the school if the student failed to arrive.

When spoken to by inspectors, an employee said they wouldn’t ring as they ‘probably wouldn’t have been in school in the morning’.

Mr Nichols described it as a misunderstanding which could easily be put right by speaking with the employer.

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