DfE releases 15 more private school warning notices

The government has published 15 more warning notices identifying failings at private schools around the country.

About half of the notices, which cover April and May this year, are for private religious schools, with many of these failing on safeguarding problems. One of the schools hit with a notice was criticised for a “falling pupil roll”, in that there were no pupils at all.

The Department for Education also published 26 reports issued to private schools in June.

The existence of the warning notices was first revealed in December 2015 after a joint investigation by Schools Week and The Yorkshire Post obtained a damning dossier of the previously unpublished documents.

Schools Week FoI later found that 131 improvement notices were issued to independent schools between January and November 2016.

On warning: The schools

The Castle House primary school in Newport failed the independent school standards for safeguarding in February this year, prompting the Department for Education to demand a written action plan. The Independent Schools Inspectorate said staff at the Christian ethos school were not being checked against “barred lists” and fire risk assessments hadn’t been done. Fees range from £600 to £2,950 per term.

The Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch all-through school in Lancashire was similarly blasted by the ISI for not checking staff against barred lists. The Jewish school, which charges between £1,460 and £6,630 per term, was also not filling out pupil records properly, making parents aware of all necessary information, and governors weren’t proving sufficiently effective.

In Southampton, the all-through St Mary’s Independent school was graded “requires improvement” by Ofsted in March this year. The school, whose proprietor is listed as the Brothers of Christian Instruction, have leaders who “thought aspects of the school are better than they are”. Pupils at the £7,620-£9,900 a year school were not always being identified as having special educational needs and progress in maths was slow.

The Sunrise primary school in north London failed the independent school standards again, having already fallen below them and submitted an action plan following a previous inspection. Leaders had made “limited progress” in meeting the standards this time, including a lack of schemes of work across all subjects, insufficient safeguarding records, and problems with the attendance record. The £5,538 a year school must submit another action plan, and if it is rejected, it could be closed.

The 14-19 Abbey College in Worcestershire was plunged into special measures this year after being graded “good” by Ofsted five years ago. Checks on staff at the £25,800-£27,500 a year boarding school were not carried out properly, assessment policies were not applied consistently, and pupils said classrooms were cold and walkways were poorly lit.

Ampleforth College, a Catholic school based in Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire (pictured), has been told that safeguarding must improve, with particular focus on the safety of boarders, child protection and appropriate checks on staff.

The primary school attached to the abbey, St Martin’s Ampleforth, also received a warning notice focusing on safeguarding and the safety of boarders, and including the need for staff to understand the school’s policy on what happens when pupils go missing.

The warnings were issued after concerns were raised about safeguarding at the schools by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in March. In April, Ampleforth Abbey and the St Laurence Education Trust, which runs the schools, were stripped of all safeguarding responsibilities by the Charity Commission. Both charities are being investigated by the Charity Commission following allegations of sexual abuse linked to the college.

Khalsa College London has been told to improve teaching and careers guidance, to promote British values and make better safeguarding arrangements and checks on staff suitability. The school in Harrow was rated “inadequate” at an Ofsted inspection in March, which noted a “falling pupil roll” and said that “in the last academic year, there were no pupils. Currently, there is an extremely low number of pupils, including recent arrivals. Full-time leaders now spend very little time in the school.”

Dharma Primary School, a small Buddhist school on the outskirts of Brighton, has been warned to make better safeguarding arrangements and carry out proper checks on the medical fitness of staff. It has also been told to ensure there are suitable drinking water facilities and enough hot and cold water in bathrooms. The school charges £8,208 a year.

The Belsteads School, a small special school in Essex which opened in April last year, has been told to improve drastically the quality of education it provides, including giving impartial career advice and ensuring that teaching does not undermine “fundamental British values”.  It must also improve safeguarding by carrying out proper checks on staff and provide suitable areas for medical examination and treatment. The school, which charges £55,000 a year, was rated ‘inadequate’ at an Ofsted inspection in March, which noted that it still did not have a governing body and one of the two proprietors was no longer with the school.

The Greek Primary School of London, based in Acton, was rated “requires improvement” by Ofsted in January due to weaknesses in the leadership team, who had failed to evaluate the school’s strengths and inadequacies.The school teaches around 80 four- to 11-year-olds and does not charge fees. Its work on promoting British values and preparing pupils for life in modern Britain was not sufficiently developed, and some pupils lacked the skills to read certain words in English.

Redroofs School for the Performing Arts in Maidenhead is rated “good” by Ofsted, but failed to meet the Independent School Inspectorate’s standards in January. It teaches 79 nine- to 19-year-olds and charges fees of around £1,500 a year. It was criticised for failing to ensure that teachers had received safeguarding and Prevent duty training and not putting in place effective filtering and monitoring systems to protect children online.

Pangbourne College in Reading teaches 426 11- to 18-year-olds at a cost of between £17,655 and £35,190 a year. The Independent School Inspectorate has warned the school that it must conduct “prohibition from teaching” checks for peripatetic staff before they are appointed.

Zakaria Muslim Girls’ High School, rated “requires improvement”, received a warning notice for failing to provide access to up-to-date, impartial careers guidance, and a weak system of monitoring and assessing progress. The school, which teaches 92 girls at secondary level and charges £1,400 annual fees, also lacked an effective system for checking that girls were safe.

Ofsted “inadequate” Al-Falah Primary School, which teaches around 95 pupils an Islamic curriculum at £2,400 a month, gained a warning notice because it failed to meet all of the Independent School Standards. In a follow-up inspection by Ofsted in February this year, Ofsted found that the “handwritten” system for recording safeguarding concerns wasn’t adequately improved, and did not “reflect a strong enough safeguarding culture”.