AET school hit by strike action rated ‘inadequate’

Inspectors found girls faced abusive language from 'over-sexualised' boys

Inspectors found girls faced abusive language from 'over-sexualised' boys

28 Feb 2022, 14:42

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A troubled academy where both staff and pupils staged protests against its parent trust over potential job losses has been rated ‘inadequate’.

Ofsted ruled safeguarding was “not effective” at Tendring Technology College, in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, in a report published on Friday.

Girls told inspectors they faced abusive language from “over-sexualised” boys, with homophobic abuse also found during a November visit.

Earlier that year staff and pupils at the school had taken to the picket line for three days of protests against a proposed restructure by Academies Enterprise Trust, which runs the school.

AET – the third largest trust in the country with 56 schools – was warned over losing a Birmingham primary school in 2020 that had been rated ‘inadequate’.

It followed two school improvement warnings for separate schools within a matter of weeks in 2019. The trust had been banned from taking on new schools in 2013 after being judged to have expanded too quickly.

However Ofsted said AET’s more recent “decisive action” at Tendring was contributing to the school, rated ‘good’ during its last full inspection in 2016, becoming “more settled” after a “turbulent period”.

‘If you are different – you will be bullied’

Inspectors ruled the school’s safeguarding arrangements were “not effective” and “until recently, safeguarding leaders have not had the capacity to carry out all their duties effectively”.

Ofsted noted “learning is regularly disrupted” and “not all pupils feel fully safe”. A minority of pupils “show a lack of respect for staff and other pupils” and “their poor behaviour and casual attitudes prevent them and others from learning”.

Staff should be trained on “systematic procedures” to manage behaviour, inspectors said. Current procedures were “not used consistently” and a “significant
proportion of staff feel that senior leaders do not support them well enough with
managing serious misbehaviour”.

Bullying was “not dealt with properly” and “too many pupils face homophonic abuse”.

“Pupils told inspectors that if you are ‘different’ you will be subject to bullying and offensive language,” the report stated.

AET said the school, which has 1,829 pupils on roll across two sites, has “had a really difficult few years, and there were clearly improvements that needed to be made”.

‘Over-sexualised behaviour not dealt with’

Ofsted found that personal, social, and health education (PSHE) lessons were taught weekly but “not always taken seriously by some pupils”.

This meant pupils’ understanding of healthy relationships, fundamental British values and the protected characteristics was “underdeveloped”.

“Girls told inspectors that not enough is done to prevent boys from using abusive language towards them, or to deal with the over-sexualised behaviour of a small minority of boys”, the report added.

Ofsted’s sexual abuse in education review last year advised schools consider using sanctions to reinforce a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated.

Staff protests over planned cuts

A short inspection of the school in 2019 warned that “inspectors have some concerns that standards may be declining”.

In May last year, three days of strikes were held by teachers against AET proposals which included the reduction of support staff, merging of departments and reducing middle-management positions.

It was also reported that hundred of pupils refused to attend lessons on one day of the strike over a perceived lack of mental health support.

The trust, which had been given millions of pounds from government to aid “financial recovery”, later agreed to pause the restructure.

An AET spokesperson said: “We know there have been significant difficulties for some time, and since September, under new leadership with a new chief executive and senior team at AET we’ve been working hard to resolve these.

“We know we have not always got things right in the past and we are determined to do better.”

Former regional schools commissioner Rebecca Boomer-Clark took over from Julian Drinkall as chief executive of the trust last year.

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