A village school near Horncastle has been rated as ‘inadequate’ after an inspection by Ofsted revealed concerns over safeguarding, with “too many weaknesses that leave pupils potentially unsafe”.
The Build-a-Future Independent School in West Ashby, which is part of the Keys Group, promised improvements last spring after a previous damning report by Ofsted amid a police investigation into allegations of assault and neglect. Three men and a woman, who were employed at the school, were arrested before being released under investigation back in April 2021, before later concluding the investigation with no further action taken.
Ofsted was commissioned by the Department of Education last year for an additional inspection after concerns were raised about safeguarding arrangements, the quality of education and leadership and management. This was conducted without notice in February 2021 before a report published in April last year stated the proprietor had not ensured that safeguarding arrangements were effective.
Ofsted later carried out a standard inspection on November 30, 2021 where the school was found to need several areas of improvement. It was given a rating of ‘inadequate’ and the findings were published in a report on February 7, 2022 – read the full report here.
A school spokesperson told The Lincolnite: “We take our responsibility to provide the best education and support for young people very seriously.
“The school became part of our Group in December 2019, just three months before the first lockdown. During the pandemic, like all schools, it has experienced significant challenges which have at times slowed the progress we have sought to make.
“We are absolutely committed to making sure our school meets the needs of its pupils and we will continue to make any and all changes that are needed.”
A spokesperson for Lincolnshire Police said: “We have now concluded our investigation. No further action will be taken in respect of the people who were arrested in connection with this enquiry.”
Ofsted report highlights safeguarding concerns
The report states that pupils develop trusting relationship with staff and they appreciate that staff care about them. They say staff help them to resolve concerns about bullying, for example, and feel safe in school. However, leaders have not made sure that the school’s safeguarding arrangements are effective.
The report states: “Leaders do not always take timely or effective action to respond to concerns about pupils’ welfare. They do not use safeguarding information received from pupils’ previous schools to put in place the necessary support.
“Staff understand their safeguarding responsibilities. They know what signs to look for and the actions to take if they are worried about a pupil’s welfare or safety. Leaders do not ensure that all staff keep accurate records of their concerns.”
The report adds that expectations of what pupils can achieve and how they should behave are too low. Not all pupils are challenged to achieve as well as they should, while the quality of education is described as “inconsistent”.
It is also noted that staff do not consistently challenge pupils when they use inappropriate or offensive language. The behaviour of some pupils has a negative impact on the learning of others.
The report continues by saying that “there are too few activities that enrich pupils’ experience at school” and the students “do not appreciate Britain’s wide variety of cultures and faiths”. Ofsted also believe that the school’s “curriculum is not ambitious enough for all pupils”.
Signs of some improvement are highlighted in the report, including leaders introducing a new system to manage pupils’ behaviour, However, Ofsted said “it is too early to say whether this new system is having a positive impact on pupils’ conduct”.
The report also notes that leaders’ actions have improved the attendance of some pupils since they joined the schools. However, some pupils continue to attend poorly. “Not all pupils choose to attend lessons once they arrive at school. Leaders do not track this internal absence,” the report adds.
Ofsted said that following a period of leadership turbulence, the school’s proprietor has recruited experienced leaders. However, the proprietor has not ensured that leaders’ improvement plans address all of the school’s weakness.
It has also “not ensured that the school meets all of the independent school standards”, and has “not met its legal duty to keep pupils safe”.
When leaders identify new concerns, they do not routinely include this information on pupils’ risk assessments. Staff have not yet received training to complete risk assessments for off-site visits, which Ofsted said “leaves pupils potentially unsafe”.