School in crisis after scathing Ofsted report brands it ‘inadequate’

Links Education Support Centre

Links Education Support Centre - Credit: Archant

A BELEAGUERED school has been plunged into special measures and received a damning Ofsted report following an emergency inspection.

Less than two years ago The Links Alternative Provision Academy, formerly an education support centre, was celebrating success after education watchdogs rated it outstanding.

But now it has been branded inadequate in all areas and slated for failing to keep up-to-date registers and sending pupils home without confirmation parents knew their child was leaving the premises.

The school, which admits youngsters aged 11-16 who are excluded or at risk of exclusion from mainstream schools in St Albans, also came under fire for its quality of teaching which is “poorly planned”.

In addition Ofsted deemed the behaviour of pupils to be inadequate and noted “significant numbers” of incidents involving physical and verbal aggression.

The report reads: “There are occasions when staff condone students’ wishes to go home when they choose to during the school day. These practices are simply unacceptable.

“Furthermore, these occasions present a significant safeguarding concern for the students’ wellbeing when they are not at the academy.

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“Although attempts are made to contact parents when their child leaves the academy, this may simply be by leaving a text message on a mobile phone.”

The Links currently has 51 students on roll spread across its main site in Hixberry Lane and second premises in Woollam Crescent, where they hold part-time programmes for students at Key Stage 3 who are also registered with mainstream schools.

Headteacher Tracey Healey, who since the inspection has been replaced by an acting head, took over the school around five years ago.

She was heralded for turning it around and achieving their previous outstanding rating and was also shortlisted for Britain’s Best Boss Competition in 2009.

A complaint received by Ofsted prompted inspectors to visit the newly-converted academy last month, during which time they observed 11 lessons and concluded students failed to make progress in English, maths and science.

In their findings it was also highlighted that Ms Healey had been off due to sickness for a “significant period of time” during the spring term.

Her absence was partly attributed to why the governing body “does not yet have a good understanding of the academy’s strengths and weaknesses”.

Maire Lynch, chair of the school’s management committee and also headteacher at Loreto College, said: “The inspection took place after a complaint was made to Ofsted which raised concerns about standards at the school. While we are disappointed with our Ofsted result, we accept the findings.

“Our priority is making sure our students get a good education and we are working closely with the Department for Education and Hertfordshire County Council to take immediate steps to address the issues raised.”

Ofsted will now regularly monitor the troubled school and has suggested a number of areas that need improving including pupil welfare, the quality of teaching and effectiveness of leadership and management.