Leaders at a special school judged ineffective during the pandemic have been left “frustrated” by a lack of support from their local authority ahead of the school’s closure, an Ofsted report has found.
Hunters Hill College, in Bromsgrove, is one of only a handful of schools found by the watchdog to not be supporting children effectively in the “current circumstances”.
The judgment followed a monitoring inspection in March, which also found safeguarding was ineffective.
Birmingham City Council’s cabinet has approved the school’s closure at the end of this academic year, after falling pupil numbers and rising repair costs made the site financially unviable.
The secondary school has capacity for 135, but took on no year 7 pupils last September. By January this year, it had 83 pupils, which has now fallen to 67.
A cabinet report said that bringing all buildings to a basic, warm dry standard would cost about £5 million. But this would “not provide value for money and would not provide a suitable building for the needs of the children”.
Building ‘defects’ prompt site closure
“Serious building defects” closed the school for 40 per cent of the autumn term and pupils were taught remotely.
Many staff have not been replaced because of the imminent closure, while an interim executive board (IEB) took over governance in February.
All of the school’s pupils have an education, health and care (EHC) plan, and Ofsted said leaders had put “considerable effort” into ensuring plans were updated ahead of their change of placement.
But “delays with Birmingham local authority mean that pupils have still not had the revisions made”.
“Leaders’ time is being consumed in trying to get the local authority to take action.”
Ofsted also found the IEB was “frustrated by the lack of effective action from the local authority and other agencies to support the school”.
The council said all pupils had been offered an interim or permanent placement. Those who did not accept an offer would move to home tuition.
It said it had met with the IEB and school leaders weekly and had a “project board” in place.
A spokesperson said: “These mechanisms ensure direct support from the LA is provided in respect of placement and the necessary review and amendment of EHC plans.”
Ofsted also criticised the quality of work set at the school and noted pupils’ lack of interest “stems from some teachers’ low expectations and failure to set work that is well matched to needs”.
Since 2016, Ofsted has conducted 116 local area SEND inspections with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to assess provision available for those with special educational needs and disabilities.
It found “significant weaknesses” at more than half of inspections.
Ofsted is set to revisit Birmingham City Council next week to monitor “how the local area has responded to the significant weaknesses” identified in June 2018.
Adam Boddison, the chief executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs, said the volume of local authorities identified “suggests the problem is in part with the way in which the system is working”.
“There needs to be an appropriate balance of funding, expectation and accountability if we want LAs to be successful in putting effective provision in place.”