Outcry from parents as Ofsted says Steiner Academy is failing
A LEGAL battle is being launched by a Fishponds school over an inspection report that found it to be inadequate in all areas.
Ofsted placed the Steiner Academy in special measures after finding that it was “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education” and its leaders were not showing the capacity to improve it.
But the school’s governing body wants to challenge the inspection process in the High Court, while parents have defended the school, claiming the report does not give a “fair and accurate” picture.
Ofsted’s findings, just published after a visit in November, rated the school inadequate in all five of the areas it measured – leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; outcomes for pupils and early years provision.
Among 15 major criticisms Ofsted made were:
• Pupils are exposed to avoidable risk of harm.
•Physical intervention is used unnecessarily.
• Teaching is weak and pupils are underachieving significantly across the school.
• Teachers have low expectations of pupils’ achievement and attitudes to learning.
• Bullying incidents are too frequent.
• Pupils make basic errors in their writing.
• Curriculum is not taught well, including children not learning how to stay safe online and having a limited understanding of British values.
The inspectors concluded: “Leaders and governors have failed to ensure that pupils receive an acceptable standard of education. They have an over-generous view of the school’s effectiveness.”
The school’s governing body says it is concerned that, after Education Secretary Damian Hinds wrote to Ofsted demanding “additional scrutiny” of all Steiner schools, the watchdog’s approach has “impacted on the fairness and independence of the inspection process”.
Two other state-funded Steiner academies, in Exeter and Frome, were placed in special measures just before Bristol. All the schools, and a fourth in Hereford, were opened in the last decade under the Government's free schools programme
At the time of the Ofsted inspection, Steiner Academy Bristol had 377 students aged four to 16. The school's governors say their request for a fresh inspection with a different team was refused and they have launched a crowdfunding page to pay for an application to the High Court for a judicial review challenging the legality of the Ofsted process and report.
Governor Roy Douglas said: “While we take the report very seriously and recognise that improvements need to be made, we do not consider that the decision to place us in special measures was fair. We have a number of concerns about the way the inspection process was conducted and the judgments made and wanted to work with Ofsted to resolve these.
“Unfortunately we feel that the position Ofsted has adopted throughout this process has left the board of governors with no other option to pursue a legal challenge.
“We are concerned about Ofsted’s approach and what this means for the future of state-funded Steiner education.”
Principal Joss Hayes said: “My priority is the children, and a review of safeguarding by external agencies has already confirmed that pupils are safe here.
“We are committed to making improvements, and have already implemented a number of new learning programmes. We will be working hard with parents and carers to ensure that pupils get the education they deserve and are committed to delivering an education that is within our ethos.”
More than 1,000 people have signed a parents’ petition calling for a fresh Ofsted inspection.
Parent Deb Meachin said: “I am a qualified nursery nurse with huge amounts of child development experience. I have three children, aged 13, 11 and eight, who have all been through the Steiner system from age three. It has met every aspect of my children's development in such a positive way.”
A statement to the Voice from Fred Ehresmann on behalf of ‘The Parents of Steiner Academy Bristol’ said: “We do not believe that the recent OFSTED Inspection Report offers a fair and accurate representation of our School. From our own personal experiences of being parents of children at Steiner Academy Bristol, we hold the teachers in the greatest of esteem and are confident that they provide, a stimulating, nurturing and safe environment for our children.Furthermore, we do not believe that the inspection was carried out in a fair and impartial manner.
“We believe that this unannounced inspection by the same team of inspectors that had previously assessed and failed two other Steiner schools in the South West was influenced by these assessments.”
Another parent told the Voice: “My children have been there since it opened and they have thrived. They beg to go back to school in the holidays.”
The governing body’s crowdfunding page for its legal challenge can be found online at bit.ly/2TecoNf.
To read the Ofsted report, go to https://bit.ly/2WtG0IG