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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.

 



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  1. Joy de Berker

    This year has seen Steiner education whether it is an independent or state funded school under greater attack than ever before. Education is suffering right across the board in the UK due to both lack of teachers. For the past 15 years good teachers have left education, as bureaucracy now outweighs the joy of teaching. With poor training and poor pay, this most important of jobs is in a sore state. Giving children confidence, resilience and an ability for self-motivated learning is way down the list of priorities as far as our government is concerned.

    Ofsted inspecting was initially set up as an organisation to observe and support schools, with the aim of improving where necessary any areas that were seen to be in need. It has now become a punitive, traffic warden -type organisation which seeks to close schools down rather than enable them to improve, which takes time and patience and obviously good guidance.

    Both Ofsted and the UK government are no longer in favour of Academies, especially not Steiner ones, and the scepticism that many people involved in Steiner education had when Academies were introduced is now being born out. The media taps into this too and loves to bring Steiner schools into the headlines in a negative way, including well-worn misinformation.

    I would like to draw attention to the very insular and myopic educational approach that our children are suffering in the UK. The general public have no idea about the true aims of Steiner education, or of how many countries right now are positively encouraging their growth. The numbers are as follows: Steiner Waldorf schools worldwide – 1,092 ( age range 7-18 years) and 1,087 Kindergartens ( age range 3-7 years) in more than 70 countries.

    In the past 14 years China has embraced this approach to educating children with more than 300 initiatives established. If you are not impressed by this, then closer to home Germany has 237 Steiner schools and 561 Kindergartens, The Netherlands 90 schools and 72 Kindergartens, and tiny Finland 26 schools and 39 Kindergartens. The facts prove my point. Education in the UK has lost its way and despite Steiner Waldorf education being 100 years old in 2019, it is still treated with suspicion and disinterest.It is time that it is given more positive acclaim in an otherwise hostile environment. Whilst not claiming all Steiner schools are perfect, I feel they are being unfairly judged and discriminated against.

    I wonder who is assessing the Ofsted inspectors? Are they really up to the job? Does the function and parameter of this role need to be transformed into something positive and truly inspirational? To close a school down should be avoided. If we are to close down every poorly run school, what would happen to all the thousands of children flowing onto the streets everyday ?

    It is a poor indictment on our muddled and struggling country in the times of Brexit and poor world leadership that we cast away the brilliant vision of the Steiner curriculum. No more biased negativity please.