'Inadequate' Ofsted rating leaves Walsall special school devastated

Shocked leaders of a Walsall special school have been left devastated after being given the lowest rating possible by Government inspectors.

Mary Elliott Special School, in Leamore Lane, Walsall. Photo: Google.
Mary Elliott Special School, in Leamore Lane, Walsall. Photo: Google.

Ofsted ranked Mary Elliot Special School as ‘inadequate’ in a report published this month which left headteacher Matthew Ball “extremely disappointed” with the outcome. Chair of governors Lesley Foster also found the report difficult to accept.

Despite praising key areas such as safeguarding and describing pupils as being happy at the school, inspectors said children did not receive a good enough education and the curriculum did not meet their needs.

Inspectors were also critical of the sixth-form provision saying the curriculum was not “coherently planned”.

The inspection of the school, which caters for 134 children aged 11-19 who have special educational needs, was carried out in March.

The report acknowledged that Mr Ball and his leadership team had identified improvements needed and he said these will continue.

Mr Ball said: “I am extremely disappointed, as is everyone connected to the school. It is a devastating outcome for such a skilled, devoted and hard working staff team. Ofsted have acknowledged many strengths of the school, whilst making recommendations for the school to improve further.

“Massive strides have been made in recent years, those who know the school best would verify this, and improvements will continue. We demonstrated progress in all areas of school development, and outlined future plans that we will now endeavour to carry out.

“We are six months on from the inspection, and have implemented a number of changes to ensure a positive future for the school.”

He added: “Importantly, safeguarding processes and the level of pastoral care for pupils, including behaviour management, were found to be exemplary.

“This means children attending Mary Elliot are part of an exceptionally safe and caring school community.”

Mr Ball also said he was pleased with feedback parents gave Ofsted which was “overwhelmingly positive”.

Mrs Foster said: “The outcome is exceptionally difficult to accept. The school has developed its staff skills, resource base and pupil environment, with the students at the very centre of all decisions.

“Staff have worked tirelessly to advocate, and protect, the most disadvantaged young people in our area.

“We will be working hard now to assure our positive action continues following this outcome, and that all the strong foundations, that are already in place, are built upon.”

The report said: “Pupils at Mary Elliot School do not receive a good enough education. The curriculum across the school does not meet the needs of pupils well enough.

“Pupils are not helped to know and remember more because leaders have not decided what they want pupils to learn, or the order in which they will learn it. Pupils are not well prepared for the next stage of their education.

“Pupils are happy and behave well in school. Leaders have introduced different behaviour approaches that are used by staff to support the pupils.

“Pupils know what is expected of them and follow routines well. Staff quickly support pupils if they are worried or feel bullied.

“The sixth-form curriculum is not coherently planned and does not meet the needs of all students. Leaders have not identified the knowledge and skills that students need to be successful when they leave school.

“The executive headteacher has quickly identified the improvements needed at the school. He has worked closely with governors to increase leadership capacity to address the issues faced by the school.

“Leaders have thought carefully about the safeguarding of their pupils. They ensure that staff receive training and know about any safeguarding risks.

“Staff identify any safeguarding concerns quickly. They are tenacious in following up concerns to secure the help their pupils need.”

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