Special-needs school in Mansfield back on track after scathing criticism

The boss at a Mansfield school for youngsters with special needs insists it is back on track after a damning report by the education watchdog, Ofsted.

By Richard Silverwood
Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:29 pm
Fountaindale special-needs school in Mansfield, which is making good progress after a damning Ofsted report.

Fountaindale School, off Nottingham Road, declined dramatically between 2017, when it was ranked ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors, and last year, when it was branded ‘Inadequate’ and placed in ‘special measures’.

But now, acting head teacher Jan Collins has welcomed the verdict of a monitoring inspection, carried out last month, which says the 78-pupil school is improving.

She said: “We are delighted with the very positive report received from Ofsted following its inspection in February.

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"The report recognises the swift and thorough action taken to address the areas of improvement previously identified.”

Fountaindale is a community special school for youngsters, aged between three and 18, who have complex physical and sensory needs

But alarm bells began to ring in the summer of 2019 when the school was issued with a warning notice.

The notice stated: “There has been a serious breakdown in the way the school is managed or governed. The safety of pupils or staff is threatened.”

Months later, in February 2020, Ofsted inspectors reported that Fountaindale had “serious weaknesses” and expressed “concerns about the safeguarding of pupils, as well as leadership and management”.

The report said pupils enjoyed going to the school and that the staff were dedicated. But safeguarding arrangements were “not effective”, staff “do not always have the necessary training”, and the governors “do not fulfil their roles and responsibility well”.

However, the latest inspection, which was conducted remotely as well as on-site because of lockdown restrictions, concluded: “Leaders and those responsible for governance are now taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances”.

The Ofsted report revealed that, over the last year, 25 members of staff and 11 governors had left the school, with most of the vacancies being filled.

A revised curriculum was now in place, while staff were “appropriately trained” and safeguarding was “effective”.

Governance of the school had improved, and Nottinghamshire County Council, which runs Fountaindale, “had provided effective support”.

The turnaround has been overseen not only by Mrs Collins but also by a new, experienced interim executive head, Donna Chambers, and a new chair of the governing body, Elaine Jeffery.

Mrs Collins added: “The outstanding leadership of the interim executive head teacher, the support of the county council and the commitment of all staff and governors have been fundamental in achieving this successful outcome.

"Also, the unwavering support of families throughout this period has been invaluable. Through this united partnership, Fountaindale is proud to serve the wonderful and inspiring pupils as they progress on their learning journey.”

The school has made its progress even though one-third of its pupils, “who are particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by Covid-19”, are being educated at home.

Its residential unit, which came under fire after the 2020 inspection and was labelled ‘Requires Improvement’, was the subject of controversy in December when the council announced plans to close it down, despite the protests of parents.

The decision was to allow Fountaindale to increase its number of day pupils, meeting a significant rise in demand, and save £116,000, which would be ploughed into other areas of special-needs education.