Sunday, November 27, 2022
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Ofsted inspect Gateway Academy after "safeguarding concerns" at Tilbury school

GOVERNMENT watchdog, Ofsted has inspected the Gateway Academy in Tilbury after concerns were raised over "the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements at the academy".

The inspection was carried out in September and has made a number of recommendations.

These are:

 Increase links with the local ‘Prevent’ team to implement plans aimed at keeping pupils safe from extremism and radicalisation.

 Ensure that the academy’s self-evaluation of safeguarding links clearly to the structure and content of the academy’s improvement plan.

 Ensure that checks on teaching and learning include an evaluation of teachers’ implementation of safeguarding policies and procedures.

 Help pupils, including vulnerable pupils, take more responsibility for helping others feel safe and supported.

The full report is as follows:

Academy leaders have implemented effective systems to ensure that pupils keep safe from harm. Rigorous checks on policies and procedures, specifically focused on safeguarding, ensure that they are up to date and match national guidance. Swift and decisive action is taken to improve aspects of the academy where improvement is required. For example, the academy’s analysis of behaviour records showed a significant decline in recorded incidents related to bullying and racism but it raised concerns about pupils’ awareness of e-safety, particularly out of school. As a consequence, academy leaders worked with their link police officer and revised the way pupils learn about e-safety.

A series of powerful assemblies about the risks and dangers of using electronic devices, including computers and mobile phones, have made a deep impression on pupils. In lessons and in discussions, pupils show a secure understanding of e-safety. They are clear about the rationale for the academy’s new policy about mobile phones, which is having a positive impact on their good attitudes to learning and life.

Issues of local concern also guide the academy’s work well. For example, assembly topics and the daily form period known as personal academic development (PAD) time are carefully constructed to cover a comprehensive range of topics related to life skills. They are adapted in response to any current issues. During the inspection, classes were learning about personal hygiene, linked to local concerns about health.

Similarly, academy leaders are alert to any concerns shared by other schools in the locality, for example about extremist views. Curriculum plans show that, following staff training in the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy, additional topics have been included in lessons to cover the risks of extremism and radicalisation. However, the academy’s safeguarding audit, action plan and improvement plan do not show clearly how improvements to safeguarding are managed, when they take place and who is responsible for ensuring they are completed and effective.

Pupils and their parents and carers value the distinctive staff roles and responsibilities that combine to keep pupils safe. For example, they know who they should speak to should they have any concerns or worries about their own safety or that of others.

This includes the clear guidance given to pupils when they go on school visits and work experience. The identities of the designated safeguarding lead and the deputy lead are displayed prominently. Both staff show clear leadership of safeguarding and child protection in the academy. Specialists such as the academy’s own education welfare officer, nurse and careers adviser complement the support provided by teaching staff.

All staff receive annual safeguarding training and regular updates. Their suitability to work with pupils is checked and recorded appropriately. Safer recruitment training ensures that academy leaders and governors appoint staff who meet statutory requirements.

Pupils who are in the care of the local authority greatly appreciate the sensitivity and confidentiality with which their safety and well- being are checked in the academy. However, they are not sufficiently involved in the academy’s ‘buddy’ systems and pupil leadership roles in which they can show care and consideration for others.

A strong feature of the academy’s safeguarding provision is the support provided for families. This includes the work of academy ‘ambassadors’ whose 971 family visits in the last school year have contributed to improved attendance and low exclusion levels.

Although disadvantaged pupils, disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs make less progress than their peers, better attendance is helping to improve their chance of catching up. Work with families across the schools in the trust also helps pupils to make a better start when they join the academy in Year 7 because earlier knowledge of their needs is helping to tailor support to those needs. The academy’s ‘summer school’ and ‘Saturday school’ also contribute to pupils feeling safe and well supported, including pupils whose circumstances make them vulnerable.

Pupils in Year 7 felt reassured by the ‘student expectations’ displayed around the academy, which state that they can ‘expect all adults to help us, trust us, respect us, to care about us and show empathy’.

The academy’s safeguarding policies take full account of government documentation, including ‘Keeping children safe in education’. All staff are expected to be familiar with this key document.

The extent to which teachers apply the academy’s policies routinely is evaluated through lesson observations conducted by the academy’s leaders and through checks by governors, in particular by the community governor who leads on safeguarding.

Most classrooms and pupils’ books contain health and safety rules where appropriate, although these were not universally seen at this early stage of the school year. Regular, detailed reports for the governing body contribute to governors’ secure knowledge of the academy’s safeguarding procedures and an understanding of their effectiveness.

Some governors use their familiarity with the locality or their experience of employment in sectors such as engineering to question the appropriateness of the academy’s policies and practice. The challenge they provide is helping to prepare pupils for a safe and successful stage of life, including further learning, when they leave the academy.

The academy’s checks on work experience placements through an external provider are effective. The use of a health and safety log raises pupils’ awareness of how to keep themselves safe in the workplace.

External support

Academy leaders work positively and effectively with a range of external agencies, including services offered by the local authority such as the ‘Troubled Families’ programme, social care services and the Fire and Rescue Service.

Local training used by the academy has focused on a range of relevant topics, including child sexual exploitation, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, radicalisation, teenage relationship abuse, sexting and e-safety.

The academy also works with a range of charities including ‘Open Door’, ‘Catch 22’ and ‘Coram’.

The academy works in partnership with The Gateway Learning Community to share support among the four academies and one free school that serve the local area. The designated safeguarding lead supports other academies in developing and sharing best practice in safeguarding. Links with other education providers, including South Essex College and Treetops School, help to minimise the risk of pupils missing education.

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