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(UK) Wales: Special school rated 'inadequate'

Aug 9, 2022, Monmouthshire Beacon: Watchdog blasts school for inadequate learning https://www.monmouthshirebeacon.co.uk/news/education/watchdog-blasts-school-for-inadequate-learning-557803

Wales AN independently-run school for children with special needs may be told not to take any extra pupils after inspectors said youngsters’ learning, safety and well-being were “inadequate”.

Estyn visited Talocher School in Wonastow, which has recently changed hands, and found it had made “slow progress” on meeting national requirements while facing “persistent” staffing problems.

The school near Monmouth was recently taken over by Aspris Children’s Services, part of the private equity investment Waterland group, and looks after up to 60 youngsters with “social, emotional and mental health needs” and children with autism, aged seven to 19. Inspectors visited the school unannounced in July with a particular focus on the ability of the school to manage pupil behaviour and the impact of this on its provision of an appropriate curriculum.

And in their report, they noted that while staff are “caring and patient in their work with pupils”, recommendations from a core inspection in February 2020 still hadn’t been fully implemented.

“Persistent challenges associated with the recruitment and retention of staff limit the pace of progress,” it said.

Noting that Talocher, which currently has a roll of 50 pupils, still didn’t “fully comply” with the Independent School Standards (Wales) Regulations, “the quality of leadership and management has been unable to drive sufficient improvement”….

They also noted “limited opportunities for staff to access relevant professional learning to strengthen their skills and understanding of the complex needs of pupils across the school”. Many lacked previous experience of supporting education for pupils who face these barriers to their learning, added the report.

“Online training modules provided by the company often have little direct relevance to the roles of teaching and learning support staff.

“This means that staff at the school rely on their own understanding of how best to meet individual pupils’ needs, based on their personal reading, interest or experiences….

“In turn, too many incidents of low level disruptive behaviour continue to impact negatively on the learning and well-being of others.”

The report further highlights “significant challenges around the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified and experienced staff”.

And following the recent transfer of ownership, it says the new proprietor’s policies are “too generic, do not reflect practice at the school and do not meet Welsh Government requirements… including the quality of the curriculum and policies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children at the school”….