School makes complaint after being declared inadequate by Ofsted
THE owners of a £9,500-a-year independent school declared inadequate by Ofsted because of “falling masonry” and a lack of checks on staff have lodged a formal complaint against the inspectors.
Silverhill School in Winterbourne was awarded the lowest possible rating despite having been judged as “outstanding” since 2008.
Principal Julian Capper, who has run the institution with his wife Jenifer for 16 years, said the report was a “complete misrepresentation” and fears it will now have to shut down because of the reputational damage.
The couple have submitted an official complaint with Ofsted, vehemently disputing its findings and accusing inspectors of “bullying and passive aggressive behaviour” during their visit in February.
In their report on the school, which has 200 children aged two to 11, the government officials said: “Leaders do not follow the school’s health and safety procedures rigorously enough.
“The building is poorly maintained.
“Some classrooms have poor lighting or lighting that does not work.
“Ceilings in some parts of the building show extensive signs of water damage.
“A fire alarm point is not in working order due to water damage.
“Furthermore, the external fabric of the building appears unsafe.
“In recent times, falling masonry has caused some parents and carers to rightly become concerned about their children’s safety.
“When such issues arise, leaders are too slow to address the dangers posed to pupils and staff.
“The site is not safely maintained.”
They also criticised the school’s safeguarding procedures and background checks on employees.
“The processes for recruiting staff are poor,” the report said.
“At the time of the inspection, some adults who work at the school did not have any recruitment checks in place.
“When checks have occurred, leaders do not record these on a single central record, as is required.
“The proprietors’ knowledge and oversight of this aspect is poor.
“As a result, some of the welfare requirements of the early years are also unmet.
“Some staff, such as the school’s deputy designated safeguarding lead, do not hold the level of training required.
“The proprietor does not understand the appropriate level of checks required for each member of staff, including those who work in the early years.
“Consequently, some staff have not been checked for their suitability to work with children. This is unsafe.
“Leaders do not demonstrate the skills needed to lead a safe school for adults or pupils.
“Leaders do not understand or fulfil their legal duties regarding safeguarding.
“The proprietor must take immediate action to address the unmet independent school standards relating to welfare, health and safety and premises.”
Mr Capper told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are suffering from a brutal, inhumane inspection.
“The staff have been left in tears because they are being judged not on their teaching and care of the children but on whether they are document-fillers.
“We were caught out in one or two areas but the way they said it paints the school in the worst possible light.
“We have had three ‘outstanding’ ratings in the past where leadership was of a very high level, but that same leadership has now been recorded as dire.
“It is almost as if they have reported on a school that does not exist.
“Their report is a catalogue of misrepresentation of the school.
“We had an instance when the wind affected a very small section of an old building, causing some dust on the ground.
“The masonry was protected immediately so there were no problems for the children
“We ordered scaffolding which has not been able to go up because of the wind.”
Mr Capper said Ofsted’s framework for inspections had “changed completely” and Silverhill School in Swan Lane was not alone in going from outstanding to supposedly inadequate.
“Data recording of staff is supposed to be produced in a single document,” he said.
“All the information was there but we had not completed that clerical task of recording it in the same place in a certain format.
“We had a painter on site and we had not done a DBS on him. He had no contact with children.
“We have a protection officer who is a parent and a senior police officer for whom we did not do a DBS because we didn’t think that was needed and there is a conflict with what is required under GDPR about handing over personal information.
“The report says children are not properly prepared for secondary education, which is totally incorrect and almost libellous.
“The children get into the top schools – several go to the QEH and Pate’s Grammar School.
“They asked a five-year-old whether he understood the word ‘deradicalisation’ and that is why they felt the children did not know enough words.
“Another child was asked to explain the difference between a business and an enterprise.
“There are lots of adults who would not be able to answer that.”
Mr Capper said the inspectors gave staff no opportunity to explain how the school works or provide context.
He said: “In a maths lesson where the children were not writing anything, the inspector said they were not helped or supervised to get over difficulties.
“Had they asked the teacher they would have been told that because we have small classes, these children are encouraged to work things out for themselves and develop resilience to overcome challenges, and in due course get the answers clarified.
“The school is now under significant threat. It could be the end of it.
“After years of being a high performing school, we are being thrown in the dustbin.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “We judged this school to be inadequate for the reasons that are set out in our inspection report.
“We do not discuss individual complaints, but we do take them seriously and deal with them in line with our published procedures.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service