Sexey’s School Ofsted: 5 reasons school once hailed as one of UK’s best is ‘inadequate’


Sexey’s School has been rated as ‘inadequate’ after an inspection from Ofsted in March – provoking a strong reaction from parents and the local community.

The Bruton school, which was described as “one of the most outstanding schools in the country” by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2015, has now dropped a ranking in its last two reports.

In 2013 the school was given a ‘good’ rating, before a ‘requires improvement’ report in 2017, and now an ‘inadequate’ score in 2019 – the lowest score which can be given by Ofsted inspectors.

It’s a shocking decline for the school, also hailed by Tatler in the past as one of the UK’s best state secondary schools.

The main apparent issues in the damning Ofsted report – which was released on Monday afternoon (May 13) – are safeguarding and problems to do with boarding.

Michael Gove described the school as one of the best in the country four years ago
Michael Gove described the school as one of the best in the country four years ago

In total five areas were labelled as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted (find a summary of these below).

Ofsted warned pupils were being put ‘at risk’ by a lack of detail in safety processes (including fire drills), while also pointing out a general ‘lack of enthusiasm’ for learning from students and a lack of support for those with special educational needs, amongst other issues.

The news of the ‘inadequate’ rating has prompted some parents to complain about the school on social media in strong terms, while others have passionately defended it.

Those who have defended the school highlight lines from the Ofsted report such as pupils feeling ‘well looked after’ and the head teacher monitoring teachers to improve standards.

To get the best sense of what Ofsted judged to be the issues at the school, it’s worth looking at their findings in full.

You can read the full Ofsted report by clicking below.

Report summary – how was the school inadequate?

The school is rated on eight different sections, with five scoring ‘inadequate’ and three scoring ‘requires improvement’, which meant an overall score of ‘inadequate’.

All three of its boarding rated scores were ‘inadequate’, which was a large contributing factor in the school’s overall rating.

 

The report brands the school inadequate in these categories:

  • Effectiveness of leadership and management
  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • Overall experiences and progress of children and young people in the boarding provision
  • How well children and young people are helped and protected in the boarding provision
  • The effectiveness of leaders and managers in the boarding provision

The school was rated ‘requires improvement’ in these categories:

Sexey’s School explains on its own website that parents would probably end up paying around £10,000 per year to send their child there as a boarder.

However it claims to be one of the ‘best value for money’ boarding schools in the country, compared to most other boarding schools, which tend to be independent.

The costs of education at Sexey’s are funded by the Government, as a state school.

But if you send your child to board there, you pay for the accommodation and associated costs.

School promises ‘immediate changes’ following Ofsted criticism

Head teacher, Helen Cullen, said ‘immediate changes’ are being made to the school’s safeguarding position.

In her response to the report, she was keen to address that since her arrival – September 2018 – she has taken actions to ensure improvements to the school.

She said: “During my first six months I have sought to gain a clear understanding of what needs to improve and have taken rapid action to strengthen the school’s capacity to improve, by restructuring the Senior Team and making key subject related appointments.

“The school is already seeing the impact of raised expectations and this new expertise, particularly in relation to leadership, improving teaching and learning and behaviour. 

“All of these elements are reflected in the Ofsted report, which details how these changes are having a positive impact.”

Sexey’s School in Bruton

She also said that because ‘safeguarding’ is given such importance by Ofsted, it can be a ‘limiting’ judgement, which then automatically defines many of the possible ratings as ‘inadequate’.

“There are elements that were not good enough and some historical issues and old systems/processes that needed to be changed.

“Safeguarding is a limiting judgement and therefore if safeguarding is identified as a concern then there are a number of categories within the report that are immediately limited to being ‘inadequate”, Ms Cullen added.

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The key findings of the unannounced inspection at Sexey’s

The Ofsted report has given a clear set of clear findings from the report, as well as a separate selection of strengths from its findings.

Take a look at the key findings, as well as the school’s strengths from the Ofsted report, below:

Key findings

  • The leadership of this school has recently been through a period of significant change. New senior leaders have improved many aspects of the school’s work. However, they have not yet established effective safeguarding practice in the school or the boarding provision.
  • Safeguarding arrangements are weak because too often there is a lack of a fast and effective response to concerns about pupils.
  • Pupils’ progress varies too much between subjects. Pupils’ progress in science, languages and humanities is well above average, but current pupils are not making strong progress in mathematics.
  • Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) are not supported well. Some of these pupils do not make the progress they are capable of from their starting points.
  • Teachers’ expectations of pupils’ academic achievement are not consistently high across the school. The most able pupils’ progress in key stage 3 is not good enough.
  • Although pupils are typically well mannered, too many pupils, especially in key stage 3, lack enthusiasm for learning. A minority of pupils do not take enough pride in their work. This leads to unfinished or poorly presented work.
  • The risk-assessment process for safeguarding vulnerable pupils is not rigorous enough. It does not lead to timely and effective action by staff to protect these pupils.
  • Middle leaders have not yet secured routinely good teaching in their areas of responsibility.
  • The governing body has not challenged senior leaders robustly enough about the arrangements for pupils’ welfare.
  • Leaders have not ensured that staff follow robust health and safety procedures. For example, senior leaders’ records of fire safety drills lack detail. Consequently, pupils’ welfare is put at risk.
  • Leaders have not ensured that the quality of accommodation in the boarding houses is Inspection report: Sexey’s School, 20–21 March 2019 Page 2 of 15
  • Teachers’ planning does not take pupils’ prior attainment into account sufficiently well. This leads to learning activities not being closely matched to pupils’ needs.
  • The sixth-form tutor programme is not sufficiently wide ranging. Sixth-form students’ understanding of online safety and the risks of extremist ideology is not well developed. consistently good.

Ofsted

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

It inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

Every week, it carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits throughout England and publishes the results online.

Its goal is to achieve excellence in education and skills for learners of all ages, and in the care of children and young people.

It reports directly to Parliament and is independent and impartial.

 

What Ofsted identified as strengths of Sexey’s school

  • The head teacher monitors the quality of teaching closely so that staff are now being held accountable for their performance.
  • The school has been well supported by external advisers in a period of substantial leadership change.
  • New senior leaders have a good understanding of the changes that need to be made to improve the school.
  • The curriculum allows a high proportion of key stage 4 pupils to study an academic core of GCSE subjects that meets their needs.
  • A change in culture brought about by the current leadership of boarding is having a positive impact.
  • Staff management of medications in the boarding houses has improved significantly. The nursing team provides a high standard of care.
  • Pupils feel well looked after and cared for by staff in the boarding houses.

Are you a parent or ex-pupil at the school and have an opinion on the Ofsted report? We would love to hear them.

Please get in contact with tommy.joyce@reachplc.com, or call: 01935 709741.

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