KEY FINDINGS FROM OFSTED REPORT:
- School leaders “do not ensure that all pupils are safe from harm”
- Pupils don’t observe “appropriate boundaries”
- Student relationships damaged “by unchallenged, inappropriate behaviour…including sexual harassment.”
- JFS “does not adequately provide for pupils’ wider personal development”, including PSHE, RSE and LGBT issues
- School in special measures for “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education“
- Persons responsible for leading the school “are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement”
Europe’s largest Jewish secondary school has been put into ‘special measures’ and judged to be ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors, who visited the school last month.
Although the comprehensive in North London was praised for its academic achievements and the breadth of curriculum, inspectors found student behaviour was poor and there were significant gaps in its safeguarding provision.
Ofsted also found there was inappropriate behaviour, particularly sexual bullying via social media, that pupils are not “adequately prepared for life in modern Britain”, and that many report that their peers are disrespectful.
New interim head and former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said the school “should come out of special measures pretty easily” in an interview with Jewish News this week.
The report said the school’s “leaders do not ensure that all pupils are safe from harm”, saying that while “many pupils enjoy positive relationships with staff and other pupils… many others feel that leaders have not protected them from the behaviour of their peers.
It criticised pupils for not observing “appropriate boundaries” and that relationships “are damaged by unchallenged, inappropriate behaviour…including sexual harassment. Many pupils report sexual bullying, including via social media.”
It rated the quality of education as “good”, and said “pupils do well in their academic studies”, while saying “not all pupils experience the necessary depth of content in some subjects”; in particular creative ones.
The report said JFS “does not adequately provide for pupils’ wider personal development”, highlighting a deficiency in areas such as Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education and Relationships and sex education (RSE), as well as Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues.
Inspectors decided the “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.”
Chair of governors, Andrew Moss, said while Ofsted’s findings were disappointing, they had to be addressed. “I appreciate that many parents reading Ofsted’s report will struggle to recognise the school their children attend. Indeed, inspectors themselves noted that many pupils have a positive experience of JFS.
“But while many do, not all do – and that isn’t good enough. As a school we have a responsibility to all our children. Since we became aware of Ofsted’s initial findings, we have been working hard to bring in the necessary expertise to help turn the school around and to ensure the improvements they make are sustainable and long-lasting.”
A spokesperson for the United Synagogue said: “This is a very distressing Ofsted report and one which we know will make very troubling reading for parents, students and staff. Notwithstanding the positive findings about the school’s education and sixth form, the serious failings found by Ofsted demand urgent attention. We acknowledge the governors recognise this and have already taken steps to improve safeguarding in particular. We will be working with the school to ensure the programme of improvements continues at pace.”
The announcement was made on Thursday morning after a turbulent month which has included a visit by the education inspectorate and the departure of former headteacher Rachel Fink.
Following news that Fink would leave her role, the school’s new interim head was announced as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the ex chief inspector of Ofsted between 2012-16.
Speaking to Jewish News this week, Wilshaw said the school had already been “transformed” with new measures put in place to tackle a cultural and behavioural problem at the school. He said it ”should come out of special measures pretty easily”.
“Within two weeks, we’ve seen a massive change, where we set clear boundaries for students”. He said: “Most of the staff at JFS want the sort of culture that we are prescribing. They want clear boundaries for students and have been fed up with poor behaviour.
This comes after more than 3,000 people have signed a petition launched by a JFS student, urging the Kenton-based school to provide better mental health support.
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