Cambridge Steiner School – How Safe Is It?

Curious as to why most other SWSF schools put Ofsted reports on their websites and Cambridge Steiner School doesn’t have any? Well, you’ll see why Cambridge Anthroposophical educators don’t want to advertise their latest Ofsted by reading a copy of it. It’s available here (you should be able to download it via a link at the bottom of the page, try reloading the page if it doesn’t display)

The Inspector reports this, right at the start:

“However, although pupils are well supported and nurtured, the school does not provide adequately for their health, safety and welfare. Many of its policies and practices do not meet the regulations for registration. A number of these were noted in previous inspections and have not been adequately addressed.”

There’s more detail of the school’s failures elsewhere within the report:

“Many of the policies to support the welfare, health and safety of the children are not written to current requirements and a number of regulations are not met. The attendance and admission register are not kept appropriately, and there is no policy on late arrivals. Some of these issues were identified in previous inspections. Furthermore, those policies and practices that do exist are not consistently implemented. There is no system by which the implementation and effectiveness of policies are monitored, and this depends too much on individual teachers’ inclinations.”

More worryingly is the section of the report dealing with suitability of staff. OK, all adults are checked with the Criminal Records Bureau but the Inspector does note that

“…an effective, standardised system for checking adults’ other credentials and noting the outcome on a single central register has not been established, as required. A number of regulations are not met in this area.”

On the school’s premises and accommodation the Inspector notes that:

“The arrangements for children who are ill are currently inadequate on both sites…. The play space for children in the Ross Street Kindergarten is too small to allow children to play freely and safely.”

I don’t know about you but if I was a parent and considering sending my kids to the Cambridge Steiner School I wouldn’t do so on the basis of this Inspection Report alone. If I was a parent at the school, would I even know that there were deep failings at Cambridge Steiner School? Well, if the school is communicating properly then yes. Here’s what the Inspector has to say about the school’s provision of information for parents:

“The school has a prospectus and a parents’ handbook which together provide some, but not all of the required information, and a number of regulations are not met. Inspection questionnaires indicate that some parents are not satisfied with the information they receive about their children’s progress.”

Hmmm. OK, so if I’m one of those parents unhappy with the school, how do I make a complaint, what is the procedure at Cambridge Steiner School? The Inspector reports that

“The school has a grievance procedure to address parents’ dissatisfactions; however, some parents said that they were unaware of it. The procedure does not meet several of the regulations.”

Actually, the Inspector appears to me to be understating the failings within the school’s complaints procedure. If parents are not satisfied with the response to a written complaint then the school must, reports the Inspector:

“• …make provision for a hearing before a panel appointed by the proprietor of at least three people who have not been directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint

• ensure that one person on the panel is independent of the management and running of the school

• allow for parents to attend the panel hearing, and, if they wish, to be accompanied

• provide for written records to be kept of all complaints, indicating whether they were resolved at the preliminary stage or whether they proceeded to a panel hearing

• ensure that correspondence, statements and records of complaints are all kept confidential”

and the above actions required of the school to meet regulatory conditions of operation suggest that were a parent to make a complaint then it wouldn’t be dealt with according to required standards and procedures.

Parents are advised to check out their own Steiner school’s Ofsted Inspection Reports (all of them, not just the latest) and full details of its complaints procedure. Read the Ofsted Report in full, rather than just the opening Evaluation else you might miss something important to you. Check the complaints procedure, make sure that it fits basic Ofsted/regulatory requirements.

(Edit Feb 2012: readers might like to compare my own post with an equally damning article published in the ‘Cambridge Evening News‘)

(Edit Feb 2019: the school is now inspected by the School Inspection Service. The Evening News article is no longer available following the paper’s rebranding.)