A BASINGSTOKE secondary school has been told it is providing pupils with an “unacceptably poor education” and has been in a “state of serious decline over time”.

Coppice Spring Academy, a school for pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, in Pack Lane, has been graded as 'inadequate' following an Ofsted inspection, during which inspectors found pupils were “beyond control” and staff feared being hurt.

The school, which is part of the Catch 22 Multi Academies Trust Limited, was also told by the education watchdog that its safeguarding arrangements are “not effective”.

Pupils, staff, parents and carers told Ofsted that the school “is not a safe place for pupils to be”.

Inspectors found that the main school environment was “uninviting” with marked and grubby walls, torn carpets and classrooms that “fail to convey a sense of ambition or belonging”.

The core curriculum was found to be “particularly unsuitable”, while lessons did not “provide pupils with the knowledge that they urgently require”.

The report said: “Prolonged part-time school attendance reinforces pupils’ lack of personal motivation and diminishes their hope for the future.”

Ofsted found that disruptive behaviour and low expectations from staff were “a constant backdrop to school life”.

Pupils often left lessons to roam around the school grounds and frequently absconded from school altogether, which Ofsted said put them "at further risk of harm”.

Inspectors said that strategies to improve behaviour were “unsuccessful” and there was no “routine analysis” of behaviour incidents including aggressive or sexualised behaviour, with pupils behaving in “destructive, disrespectful and dangerous” ways.

Paul Mundy-Castle was appointed as interim headteacher in February.

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Ofsted said he was “setting new boundaries and implementing fixed-term exclusions to address extremes of behaviour, particularly when these are dangerous”, including pupils going onto the school roof.

Ofsted said that pupils acknowledged that individual staff may try to help them but had “no faith” in adults’ ability to resolve “disruptive, aggressive or bullying behaviours”.

One pupil said: “This would not be a good place to be gay."

Ofsted said leaders had not identified the school’s “state of serious decline”.

Pupils in Years 7 to 10 have attended school part-time since September 2021, with only a “small minority” participating in remote lessons, Ofsted reported. 

A visit from the local authority in November 2021 “raised widespread concerns”.

Ofsted found there was insufficient staffing and high staff turnover and absence, with no specialist teachers for English, maths, or science and a reliance on “unqualified and inexperienced staff”.

Ofsted visited Coppice Spring in March after receiving a complaint raising ‘serious concerns’.

Its report, published in June, said a staff survey showed “almost all staff lack confidence in the school’s leadership” and they had “unmanageable” workloads.

Safeguarding arrangements were “not effective”.

There was a reliance of using solely “limited information from supply agencies” when employing staff to temporary positions, and appointment records were said to be “incomplete”.

The report added that leaders did not check “candidate’s suitability”.

Pupil’s behaviour was found to be “frequently beyond control” with staff reporting that they ‘sometimes feel very scared’ of being hurt.

Outbursts and threats were said to happen frequently.

Ofsted said: “Leaders do not have the capacity to run the school effectively” adding: “The school does not function as it should”.

It asked leaders to “immediately stabilise staffing at all levels”, and ‘urgently’ review safeguarding and the curriculum.

They were also asked to “accelerate” plans to improve behaviour to ensure that the school is safe.

The school, which inspectors said requires 'special measures', has been advised not to appoint “early career teachers”. 

The report said those responsible for leading, managing or governing the school “are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement”.

Mr Mundy-Castle said: "We are obviously disappointed with the outcome of the report and acknowledge the failings that have been highlighted by Ofsted.

"We are at the beginning of an ambitious improvement journey and are using Ofsted’s feedback as a catalyst for change, having already implemented several reforms.

"Foremost, we have new leadership in place, including myself as interim headteacher, as well as new staff in key areas of the curriculum. We have identified and applied key changes to the delivery of the curriculum and are progressing a renewed focus on our behaviour and attendance policies.  

"The Coppice Spring Academy continues to prioritise the learning and wellbeing of its students. We now have the strategic plans in place, with the full support of our Trust, to ensure that all areas highlighted for improvement are successfully and promptly addressed."

Catch-22 confirmed that it has recruited a permanent headteacher to start on January 1, 2023, who will work alongside Mr Mundy-Castle during the term. 

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson added: “As part of a multi-academy trust, the performance of Coppice Spring School is independent of the local authority and this responsibility lies with the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC).

“However, as noted in the report, we undertook a visit to the school in November 2021 and subsequently expressed our concerns about the quality of provision. We are pleased that the school has started to take steps to address the challenges identified.

“The county council is committed to high quality education in all settings and has therefore offered support, regardless of its status as an academy, and will continue to work with both the RSC and the academy trust as ongoing improvements are made.”

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