The English office for standards in education, children’s services and skills (OFSTED) has reported that Phoenix College, a special school on Christchurch Road in Reading, is ‘inadequate’ and requires special measures.
Phoenix College is an SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) special school that caters for up to 64 students aged 11-18 with education or health care plans.
After an inspection on 13 November, the OFSTED inspector reported that they are:
… of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.
Amongst other criticisms, OFSTED reported that:
Teachers’ typically weak subject knowledge limits their ability to develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding across the curriculum.
Safeguarding is not effective. Leaders have not ensured that all safeguarding arrangements are fit for purpose.
Additional funding to support disadvantaged pupils is not used effectively because pupils’ needs are not well understood.
A spokesperson from Reading Borough Council issued this statement on behalf of Brighter Futures for Children, the company set up this year by the council to manage their children’s services:
The outcome of the Ofsted inspection in November recognises the need for improvement and an action plan is already in place and moving forward to tackle the issues identified in the inspector’s report.
As the Ofsted report highlighted, headteacher Eleanor Hatchett is taking firm action to challenge ineffective teaching and the Interim Executive Board (IEB) has taken action to review and improve safeguarding arrangements.
The headteacher has received support from [Reading Borough] Council and external consultants to provide staff with additional training and guidance. As a result, senior leaders have introduced a range of new management systems and approaches.
New systems have also recently been introduced to improve the quality of information kept about pupils’ progress, behaviour and attendance.
Inspectors noted that there are strong relationships between staff and pupils and young people have helped to review the school’s behaviour policy and had their ideas included in a new approach to behaviour management.
The report states that a recent safeguarding audit carried out by the IEB has provided a sound basis for urgent improvement and that staff know pupils well and understand the signs to look for that may indicate a pupil is at risk. New systems have also very recently been put in place to monitor attendance more closely.
We know that there is much to do to bring about the improvements needed at the school; the inspection recognised that we have a good understanding of the issues and appropriately detailed plans and actions to help bring about the changes needed. The IEB, local authority and headteacher will continue to work closely to bring about the improvement needed.
In the longer term we are actively seeking to relocate Phoenix College to a setting which would offer an improved learning environment.