Chesterfield special school told it needs improvement by Ofsted

A Chesterfield special school has been told it must improve by Ofsted inspectors.

Inspectors from the education watchdog said Holly House Special School “requires improvement”, having being rated good at its last full inspection in 2014 and a short inspection in October 2018.

In their latest report, inspectors said leaders at the school at Old Whittington have been too slow to take effective action to improve the quality of teaching following the last inspection.

The watchdog praised aspects of the school saying leaders have begun to improve the learning culture at the school.

Since the last inspection, exclusions have halved, and attendance has increased to be in line with similar schools.

The school has implemented a range of alternative therapies to meet pupils’ social and emotional needs.

The wide range of enrichment activities help to develop well pupils’ social skills and their personal development is good. Safeguarding is effective. Leaders work well with a range of agencies to keep pupils safe.

The relationships between staff and pupils are positive and staff work hard to motivate the pupils.

Parents and carers are very supportive of the school. They are very pleased with the progress that their children make.

The transition of pupils into mainstream schools is well planned.

This enables pupils to have a good start at their new school.

However the report says leaders’ checks on the quality of teaching lack sharpness. Consequently, they have not identified areas for improvement and staff training needs quickly enough.

The quality of teaching is inconsistent. When teachers match tasks to pupils’ abilities, pupils do well. However, too often, teachers underestimate the ability of pupils. Pupils do not make as much progress as they should. The most able pupils underachieve in writing.

They do not develop their writing across different subjects.

Pupils’ behaviour, while improving, still requires improvement.

There remain a high number of incidents of poor behaviour. Staff knowledge of some of the pupils’ special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) is not deep enough to enable them to have a full understanding of how to manage pupils’ behaviour.

The curriculum does not support the teaching of reading well enough. The pupils who have weak reading skills do not have enough support to help them improve.

Pupils’ knowledge of key mathematical facts and their ability to reason in mathematics are underdeveloped.

Head Teacher Iain Williams said: “Holly House is a residential special school for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

“We provide education and care for 43 pupils aged 7 to 14.

“All the pupils placed at Holly House have exhibited challenging behaviours in their mainstream settings and many have been previously permanently excluded from at least one school.

“The needs of pupils referred to Holly House has changed and many more are exhibiting mental health difficulties than previously.

“We are well aware of the areas that require improvement and leaders have been working on this as part of the school improvement plan since September.

“The inspector recognised this, but felt the pace of change was not quick enough (even though this inspection came only 5 months after the previous inspection) and leaders have taken this on board.

“Though the inspection identified some pupils who require more support with reading it failed to recognise that 75 per cent of pupils are reading at or above their chronological age and this is compared to 70 per cent of pupils coming in to Holly “House reading at least a year below their chronological age. Many pupils coming into Holly House age 7 or 8 are unable to read.

“The residential part of Holly House was inspected in February 2019 by ofsted and judged to be Outstanding. (This report also available on the Ofsted website) This inspection judged the same Leadership and Management as Outstanding.”