Pupil ban on Ampleforth lifted despite Ofsted concerns

DfE lifts restrictions stopping top private school from taking on new pupils as inspection reveals safeguarding concerns

John Roberts

The DfE has lifted a ban on private school Ampleforth College from taking on new pupils - despite Ofsted's ongoing safeguarding concerns

The Department for Education has lifted a ban on new pupils attending a scandal-hit private boarding school after the school made "unprecedented commitments" to improve safeguarding and governance.

The government's intervention at Ampleforth College, in North Yorkshire, comes as a new Ofsted monitoring report reveals that there are still ongoing safeguarding concerns at the school.

Last year, education secretary Gavin Williamson imposed a ban on the £36,000-a-year boarding school taking on new pupils over "very serious" safeguarding failures.

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This ban has now been removed and the Catholic school has committed to an action plan to "sustain a strong safeguarding culture".

Safeguarding concerns at Ampleforth College

It has also made a commitment to meet the independent school standards in full at its next Ofsted inspection in autumn 2021. 

However, a new monitoring inspection report, published today by the inspectorate, highlights a series of safeguarding concerns at the school.

The report, based on an inspection in late March, says that a review of the school’s safeguarding records by an external agency had identified a number of recent cases of very serious child-on-child abuse.

But Ofsted's report also says that trustees are "not confident that they have a full knowledge of all child-on-child abuse that has taken place since the current online data storage tool for recording and managing safeguarding concerns was set up".

The inspection report highlights a recent safeguarding incident at the school.

It says: "Just last week, a further serious safeguarding incident, relating to an unaccompanied visitor to the site, occurred. This incident demonstrates that the school’s risk assessment policy and procedures are not applied consistently."

The Ofsted inspection report says that the school does not meet all of the independent school standards that were checked during the inspection.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our robust action in relation to Ampleforth College has secured unprecedented commitments to improve governance and safeguarding at the independent school.

"With this in mind, we have lifted the restriction on Ampleforth College admitting new pupils. We will be monitoring it closely and if it is not meeting the standards at the next inspection, we will not hesitate to consider whether further action is necessary."

Ampleforth College said the DfE's decision to lift the restriction has been taken following Ofsted’s recent monitoring visit, which found many improvements to the college’s safeguarding procedures and the submission of an action plan "demonstrating the college’s long-term commitment to safeguarding excellence". 

The school's headteacher, Robin Dyer, said: ‘This is welcome news. However, notwithstanding the fact that our outcomes remain good – our students are happy and safe, and our parents overwhelmingly endorse the college – it is a simple truth that any criticism of our safeguarding policies and practice must be taken with the utmost seriousness.

"We welcome scrutiny as an opportunity to improve. It is our intention to be the best we can be in all areas of education, to continually progress and to work positively with all stakeholders to achieve this aim. We are excited about the future and the prospect of equipping our students with the skills and attitudes that enable them to navigate the challenges of today’s society safely and happily’ 

Emily Konstantas, chief executive of the Safeguarding Alliance, an independent safeguarding firm working with the school, said: "The Safeguarding Alliance began working with Ampleforth College at the end of 2020. Throughout that time, the college has worked tirelessly with the support of The Safeguarding Alliance to put in place robust safeguarding practices and procedures.  

"While embedding best-in-class practice and a culture of safeguarding takes time, the college has been unrelenting in its determination to drive improvement and ensure safeguarding remains a top priority.

"Given the current public focus on safeguarding, Ampleforth College should be showcased for its open and transparent approach and commitment to ongoing change." 

When the DfE placed a notice on the school banning it from taking new students from 29 December onwards, Ampleforth College said it had submitted a complaint against earlier Ofsted findings and would be appealing against the DfE enforcement action. 

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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