DfE 'minded to terminate' funding of Steiner Academy Exeter

A Steiner Academy in Exeter has been warned by the government that it is at risk of having its funding terminated due to significant concerns about safeguarding, which led to the school being temporarily closed after a recent Ofsted visit.

The government has today published a ‘minded to terminate’ warning notice that was issued to the Steiner Academy Exeter, an all-through free school rated ‘requires improvement’, last month.

The letter from regional schools commisisoner Lisa Mannall stated the department had been informed of “significant concerns” about safeguarding, governance, and provision for pupils with special educational needs.

The letter warned “that there has been a serious breakdown in the way the academy is managed or governed” and “that the safety of pupils or staff of the academy is threatened”.

Steiner Academy Exeter was also visited by Ofsted last week and has been shut since Friday. The school’s website stated that the Ofsted inspection “identified certain shortcomings in safeguarding practices” that needed to be addressed “as a matter of priority”. It also confirmed that the school had closed temporarily so that it could “focus on learning lessons from this week’s inspection and ensure a safe environment for all pupils”.

“There is clear and deep regret that the education provided to children at the school has not been of the high standards or integrity required,” the statement said.

The governing board of the school has approved “the creation of an acting management team” with immediate effect, according to the school’s website.

An update from the school, published on its website yesterday, said that Mannall has supported its reopening, provided that it “sets up a new academy management committee and secures support from a strong local multi academy trust”.

It confirmed that the chosen trust is the Ted Wragg Trust, which runs five other academies in Exeter.

“A central theme at this point is the integrity and standards of Steiner education itself, our unwavering commitment to its provision within state education in Exeter, and enabling the excellence within the potential of this school,” the school’s latest statement said.

Mannall, in the letter sent last month, asked the school to submit a post-inspection action plan following an Ofsted visit last year, a copy of its “scheme of delegation for governance powers”, a short biography detailing “the relevant skills and role of each individual in the trust’s governance structure”, and its “terms of reference for externally-commissioned reviews of governance, safeguarding, and provision for pupils with SEND”.

Other demands included that the school commissions support from a national leader of governance for its chair of trustees and board, and agrees to meet with the regional schools commissioner’s office during this half-term for a “formal review”.

It will also have to agree to one of Mannall’s team attending all trustee meetings for the rest of the 2018-19 academic year, and ensure it recruits at least two additional trustees with expertise in governance and safeguarding, as well as looking at ways to collaborate with other multi academy trusts.

If the school fails to provide this information it will receive a follow-up termination warning notice, Mannall warned. Schools Week has approached the school for comment.