Learning Disability Today
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Ampleforth College, a boarding school in North Yorkshire where a third of its pupils have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), has been deemed inadequate by Ofsted.
This means there are serious failures, which mean that children and young people are not protected, or their welfare is not promoted or safeguarded.
The Roman Catholic co-educational boarding school is on the same site as Ampleforth Abbey and provides education for 456 pupils, from Year 7 to Year 13. It has 368 pupils who board full time in nine boarding houses.
The Ofsted report said that over 37% of pupils have SEND and although a experienced special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) informs the help offered to these pupils in lessons, boarding staff do not receive the same level of information and advice about these pupils’ needs.
This left some pupils being cared for by staff who did not know how to understand and respond to their behaviour. For example, some younger pupils, whose vulnerabilities include SEND, were able to engage in penetrative sexual activity, observed by another pupil, because levels of staff supervision were not sufficient to protect them.
The report said: “The impact of safeguarding concerns is not consistently well evaluated. For example, safeguarding staff knew about several risk factors for the pupils involved in the above incident. Despite this, effective risk assessments were not prepared to reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring, or indeed reoccurring.
“The expertise of the SENCo was not used to inform plans for these vulnerable pupils. Boarding staff were not helped to understand the potential ramifications of poor levels of supervision. As a result, several pupils were directly affected by this serious incident and continue to be at risk because safeguarding staff do not understand the need for appropriate levels of supervision. Inspectors are concerned that other vulnerable pupils remain at risk.”
There are also no confirmed arrangements to safeguard pupils from monks who are a concern, the report says. Some younger pupils view monks as trusted adults. Staff have not done any effective work with these pupils to help militate against potential risks.
At the time of the last inspection, the headteacher had a veto which allowed him to insist on any monks of concern being removed from the abbey. Monks of concern would include those who have been accused of child sexual abuse, including any found guilty and any who are currently under investigation of child sexual abuse in the past and any who are under investigation currently. The abbot no longer recognises this veto.
Although there are plans for an information-sharing protocol between the school and the abbey, this has not yet been agreed and is unlikely to include a veto. This means that the needs of monks who were previously required to leave the abbey, due to concerns about their behaviour towards children, could be prioritised over the safety of pupils.
The school has since released a statement stating that there are factual inaccuracies in the report.
It said: “Ampleforth College has been on a relentless drive to transform safeguarding policies, practices and culture. Since the end of 2020 we have commissioned the support of external safeguarding experts to help us put sector-leading procedures in place.
“We recruited three experienced safeguarding staff (from the police, social services, and another school); strengthened our trustees through the appointments which increased safeguarding expertise and reinforced independence, and commissioned four external audits by safeguarding professionals over this period. We were also inspected by Ofsted four times and accepted their recommendations on each occasion.
“The statutory safeguarding agencies we work with locally – police, children’s services, and health – are happy with what we are doing to safeguard and promote the welfare of our students.
“Ofsted itself has acknowledged the progress we have made. Other, leading boarding schools have visited us to learn from our safeguarding practices. It is deeply regrettable that Ofsted has reached different conclusions.”
The statement added: “It is with great reluctance and regret that we find ourselves compelled into this response but we cannot stand publicly behind a report containing ill-founded conclusions and we will continue to do everything in our power to demonstrate to Ofsted the need to revisit their assessment in the light of the evidence already in their possession.”