Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Stanbridge Earls School 'still not a safe institution'

Media captionThe school was criticised for its handling of a pupil's claim that she was raped by students

A school criticised for its handling of a pupil's claim that she was raped by students is still not a "safe institution", according to a report.

Inspectors found Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey is still failing to meet five national minimum standards.

However, watchdog Ofsted said there was evidence that leadership and governance at the school was improving since the appointment of an interim head teacher.

The report comes after it was announced on Friday that the school is to close.

A new school is expected to be created on the site - a sister establishment to Gard'ner Memorial's More House School in Surrey - after the closure of Stanbridge Earls on 1 December.

'Inherent weaknesses'

A third inspection at the school for children with special needs came after an educational tribunal raised "grave concerns" about safeguarding.

Tribunal members accused Stanbridge Earls in January of failing to protect a pupil who claimed to have been raped twice by fellow students.

It was also found to have discriminated against the pupil, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, by excluding her following the allegation.

The latest inspection report revealed continued safeguarding concerns after one staff member photographed children who were allowed to take their clothes off on a recent school trip.

Inspectors said supervising staff failed to stop children from removing their clothes or immediately report the incident on returning to the school.

The group's leader failed to take appropriate action, the report said.

However, the incident was promptly referred to police and Hampshire County Council when it was reported and disciplinary procedures led to two staff members resigning.

Inspectors said interim head teacher Maggie McMurray dealt with the situation "appropriately".

Robust response

The report said: "The incident that occurred on the recent school trip is serious and demonstrates that the school cannot yet be considered a safe institution.

"The internal response to this has been robust, including the head teacher sending a clear message to staff about expected conduct and standards."

Ms McMurray replaced previous head teacher Peter Trythall who stepped down in April.

Inspectors said children are now safer than when Ofsted visited the school in January and April, but "inherent weaknesses" remained.

The Department for Education (DfE) has given the school until 9 August to produce an action plan on how it will improve - or face being re-registered.

But, in a letter to chairman of governors David du Croz, the DfE said: "In the light of Ofsted's report, the progress being made by the school and the steps being taken towards a takeover of the school, the Secretary of State has decided at this time not to issue a determination to remove the school from the register."

In a joint statement, the governors of Stanbridge Earls School said: "We welcome the fact that the plan to open another school on the site of Stanbridge Earls remains on track following the latest reports from Ofsted and the Department for Education.

"There is more to do - and we are not complacent about the challenges that remain - but we are encouraged that the school's significant recent progress has been recognised by both organisations."

Interim head teacher Ms McMurray wrote a letter to parents highlighting the report findings.

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