Grammar school head hits back at ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating

A headteacher has criticised his school’s Ofsted report - labelling it ‘misleading’ and hitting back against criticisms of poor safeguarding systems.

Carre's Grammar School.
Carre's Grammar School.

Head at Carre’s Grammar School in Sleaford, Nick Law, has written to Ofsted to complain about the assessment which graded the school as ‘inadequate’ due to their views on the school’s management of safeguarding.

They rated leadership and management as ‘inadequate’ but also said the quality of education and the personal development of pupils ‘required improvement’ after their two day visit in June.

The Ofsted report acknowledged that “pupils feel safe and happy in the school” and “agree that teachers help them”.

Carre's headteacher Nick Law.

It also said while “pupils say there are incidents of bullying and name calling….they are confident that teachers deal with this and that it is not tolerated. The behaviour around the school is calm and orderly”.

Yet the Sleaford school still received an ‘inadequate’ grade for Leadership and Management because inspectors claim that “some of the processes and systems to safeguard pupils are not robust enough”.

A single finding of inadequate means that is the overall grade given to the school. The school had previously been rated as ‘good’ in 2017.

The inspectors’ concerns revolve around the way records are kept in different places and how often they are checked, meaning some pupils may be left “vulnerable and at risk”.

They add that record keeping is not detailed. “Safeguarding information is stored in too many places. It is difficult for leaders to quickly identify all the actions that have been taken to safeguard pupils.

“The lack of oversight and checks from senior leaders means that some of the actions taken by staff responsible for safeguarding are not appropriate.”

But the inspectors accepted that staff have been trained to be vigilant and report any concerns to safeguarding leaders.

Mr Law has disputed the findings and, in a letter to Ofsted, said the “conclusion made in the report is irrational”.

“A distinction needs to be recognised between highly sensitive Child Protection records and working records of the wider support team working with students to support their mental health or welfare,” he said.

“There is no statutory requirement for all records to be centralised. In actual fact we are required to keep safeguarding records separately from the child’s main school record, which they are.”

He explained that, when inspectors visited back in June, the school was in the midst of transferring all files to a new digital system which allows all records to be stored in one system, but with layered and restricted access in the appropriate way. The switch is now completed.

“Any complaints about the way we store the information are irrelevant now and yet the school has been labelled as inadequate – it’s illogical and unfair.”

The school has now brought in independent experts to carry out a review of the safeguarding policies and practices and has already addressed many the issues raised by Ofsted and developed plans to tackle others.

However in the report the inspectors state the action may not have come quickly enough, saying: “Trustees and senior leaders have been aware for a while that some of the processes and systems to safeguard pupils are not robust enough. Leaders have not acted quickly enough to remedy identified weaknesses. Leaders have not checked the effectiveness of safeguarding systems.

"The systems and processes have deteriorated over time leaving some pupils at risk. Staff responsible for safeguarding are over stretched. Leaders have not taken enough responsibility for pupils who are on the school roll but receive education elsewhere.”

However, more generally, the report adds: “Staff feel well supported by leaders.”

On teaching standards, the Ofsted report noted “there are still occasions when teachers do not use assessment well enough to check what pupils know”.

But Mr Law hit back at the assessment saying exam results are the real test of checking what pupils know – and the school continues to excel in that regard. In the recent GCSE results 99 per cent of students achieved grade 4 and above in five subjects and the school celebrated excellent A level results.

Inspectors said not all pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) get the precise support they need to help them learn as well as they could. There has been staff training, but it has led to the SEND support being “too variable”. They added: "Some pupils with SEND do not use the aids and resources they need to support their learning. This is because they do not want to appear different to their peers.”

On the other hand they acknowledged expectations of pupils are high and attitudes and behaviour were ‘good’. “Teachers want pupils to become resilient and independent in their approach to study. This is achieved by most pupils by the time they finish key stage 4.”

The sixth form was rated ‘good’ for a well-planned programme of study, with plenty of opportunities to develop leadership skills, preparing students well for further or higher education. Students value the support they get from their teachers.

For personal development inspectors also graded the school as “requires improvement” claiming “pupils do not have a good enough understanding of some aspects of British values and relationships education”.

Mr Law said: “I always welcome opportunities to check our progress and the Ofsted inspection is a way of seeing where we need to focus in order to reach the levels of excellence we strive for every day.

“But in this case I am both shocked and disappointed to see the findings of the report. I wholeheartedly disagree with much of the report and its conclusions and have written to Ofsted to make my case.

“Nevertheless we will continue to work hard to provide the best possible education and environment for our pupils and have already addressed many of the points raised by the inspectors back in June.”

The Ofsted report still concluded: “The vast majority of parents would recommend this school.”