Ofsted inspection rates Woodlands Special School as inadequate

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A school for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs has been rated as ‘inadequate’ following an Ofsted inspection in November.

Entrance to The Woodlands in Wem. Photo: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Row17 - geograph.org.uk/p/658649
Entrance to The Woodlands in Wem. Photo: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Row17 – geograph.org.uk/p/658649

The senior leadership team, staff and governors at Woodlands Special School say they are determined to rapidly improve following the inspection.

At their previous inspection in April 2015 the school was rated as ‘good’.

The school – which has sites in Wem, Oswestry and Bishop’s Castle – says that they want to become ‘good’ again as soon as possible, and have already begun work to address the areas for improvement identified by Ofsted inspectors.

Inspectors recognised that the school’s newly appointed leadership team have the capacity to deliver the improvements necessary and they are now working closely with education advisers from Shropshire Council to ensure that the measures needed to bring about the improvements are put in place.

Inspectors found that at the settings for primary school-aged pupils, Acorn Bishops Castle and Acorn Oswestry, “staff have created a calm environment for pupils to learn and thrive. Pupils are respectful and follow the rules. Subject leaders quickly identify the learning needs of pupils. They set challenging and engaging work. This helps pupils to make progress academically, emotionally and socially. In Acorns, pupils feel happy and feel safe”

Inspectors identified weaknesses in the secondary provision and found that whilst leaders wanted pupils to do well “often learning is disrupted by poor behaviour and not all pupils are happy in school. Additionally, pupils do not make the progress they are capable of because staff do not manage behaviour in lessons well. They do not take into account the pupils’ special needs. The work set often lacks challenge and does not build on what pupils already know”.

The inspection team reported that pupils say they enjoy their college experience and that the careers programme is well thought out and provides information about pupils’ next steps. The report says that “the school provides individualised support for pupils for example, through music therapy. They also use external agencies such as the police to support pupils to stay safe”.

Julia Taylor, headteacher, said: “Whilst we are disappointed with the outcome of the inspection, the inspectors recognised we were already aware of the improvements needed to meet the increased expectations of the new inspection framework which was introduced in September. Significant work has taken place since September, and following the inspection, to address the concerns raised by the team and deliver on the recommendations for improvement identified in the report.

“We had already begun to address the safeguarding issues identified, specifically related to our checks on off-site provision, and are confident that our plans have the urgency required to meet the necessary standards.

“We are working closely with our colleagues in the local authority, and our school improvement partners, to carefully plan the next steps to ensure we take the effective action to bring about the improvement necessary to enable us to be judged as good again.”

Karen Bradshaw, director of children’s services with Shropshire Council, said: “Shropshire Council wants our children to receive the best possible education. We’re pleased that the headteacher, staff and governors have already begun work to address the priorities for improvements in the Ofsted report and we will continue to support the school to ensure that pupils have consistently good opportunities to learn and to fulfil their potential.”

The two-day inspection took place on 12 and 13 November 2019. Inspectors observed lessons, held discussions with the headteacher, deputy headteacher, teaching staff, and pupils, and reviewed a range of documentation.

Inspectors focused on reading, writing, English, maths and humanities and scrutinised pupils’ work. They visited all three sites in Oswestry, Bishop’s Castle and Wem as well as alternative providers used by the school to support some of its key stage 4 pupils.

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