More secret private school warning notices published for first time

The government has published more warning notices that it has issued to underperforming private schools, two years after a Schools Week campaign first pressed to make them public.

The Department for Education has finally released notices sent to seven private schools last year, after Ofsted revealed “serious regulatory” failings around safety in all of them.

The notices follow nine that were published in February this year. All 16 notices were sent to the schools between September and October last year, after they failed to meet the independent school standards, but have only just been made public.

Of the seven schools whose notices were published today, all were rated ‘inadequate’ at their most recent full inspection, and in all cases inspectors found safety to be substandard.

Now the DfE has warned each school they must submit an action plan with “reasonable timescales for implementation” or face being struck off the register for independent schools and closed, or face restrictions on their operation (such as being forbidden from admitting more pupils).

Both the Al Falah Primary School in south London and Browns School in Kent had poor fire safety arrangements. A follow-up inspection for Browns school found the standard had been met.

Buttercup primary school, also in the capital, was placed in special measures after leaders again failed to ensure pupils were safe. Visiting speakers were also not properly checked to make sure they “did not promote partisan views”.

Safety arrangements were also out of date at ISP School in Kent, and teaching was “not suitably challenging.” Similarly, safety arrangements were lacking at the Leicester International school and pupils were not being stretched.

The Imam Zakariya academy in north London also failed on safeguarding arrangements, and premises including the toilets were in poor condition. There was also “no strategy for school improvement.”

Only one school, Al Ashraaf secondary school, was found to be failing to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. Inspectors said pupils at the Islamic private school has a “limited understanding about people of different faiths from their own”. Teaching and learning was also poor, and pupil safety was not ensured.

The Independent Education and Boarding team at the DfE said in their letters to the schools that even if they submitted action plans, the education secretary might reject them.

The government has recently been trying to take a tougher line with failing private schools, and is currently consulting on stricter requirements on private schools. Schools would have to submit improvement action plans within three months of failing standards, or face removal from the list of registered schools or other restrictions.

All private schools are measured against the independent school standards, but Ofsted only inspects the roughly 1,000 smaller private schools that do not belong to the Independent Schools Council. These larger private schools have their own inspectorate.

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