Prestigious free school failed over staff safeguarding

Ex-independent school challenges Ofsted ‘inadequate’ rating received after 'serious allegations' were made about staff

Martin George

The introduction of short-notice Ofsted inspections forces headteachers to choose between family and school, says one school leader

An independent school that became a free school has been judged “inadequate” after it failed to follow legal guidance following “serious allegations” about staff.

Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, which was founded in 1875 and joined the state sector as a free school in 2013, said it is challenging Ofsted’s verdict.

Today’s report, which follows an inspection in March 2019, calls on the school to “urgently amend” its safeguarding practice.

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It says: “There are significant weaknesses in leaders’ actions following serious allegations about staff and cases of staff misconduct. Leaders did not take all the action required of them under statutory safeguarding guidance.”

The report does not give any details of the nature of the allegations or alleged misconduct.

However, it says: “Leaders’ decision-making and judgement in managing allegations about members of staff reflect significant weaknesses in the culture of safeguarding in the school.

“When allegations were made, leaders and governors investigated these concerns ‘in house’, and did not report the incidents to the local authority and other external agencies, in line with statutory guidance.”

The school said that it has formally challenged the inspectors’ conclusions.

Safety 'of paramount importance

Chair of governors Helen Roberts said: “The safety and wellbeing of all our pupils has always been of paramount importance. The school incorporates robust and cohesive safeguarding strategies with stringent measures in place to support this.

“Any issues around safeguarding are always dealt with in full accordance with statutory guidance. Our dispute has centred around the interpretation of this guidance.”

The school called in Bradford Council's safeguarding team following the inspection.

The council said its officials "immediately identified the problems that the Ofsted inspectors had found and instructed school staff in how to address them".

It said that while there were still some outstanding issues, "significant progress had been made by the time the Ofsted 'inadequate judgement had been made public and appeared in the media some weeks later".

Marium Haque, Bradford Council's deputy director of education and learning, said: “We are now satisfied that the weaknesses in the culture of safeguarding identified by Ofsted inspectors and our own experts have been progressed and we will continue to monitor the school on its improvement journey.”

The school, which has 1,087 pupils aged 4 to 19, was also criticised by Ofsted because “some pupils do not feel that they have an adult in school whom they could approach if worried about anything”.

However, the report rates the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as “good”. Outcomes for pupils receives the same grade.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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