An independent school for children with social, emotional and mental health needs has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
Following a visit to The Education Centre, in Haywards Heath, inspector Janet Pearce reported that a failure to meet the required health and safety standards meant there were “actual and potential risks to pupils’ safety and well-being”.
The Centre, which charges fees of £21,033 per year, had been told to improve following an inspection in March 2015.
But Ms Pearce said school leaders, including headteacher Geoffrey Wyatt and proprietor Eostre Education Ltd had not monitored its performance closely enough.
She added: “Consequently, they think that the school is better than it is.”
A list of requirements has been drawn up, including the need for improvements to teaching, leadership and pupils’ behaviour, and also for leaders to ensure the temperature of hot water at the Centre “does not pose a scalding risk to users”.
When it came to the staff, Ms Pearce recognised they were “incredibly committed to their pupils and want to do their best for them”, but she added they were “inadequately trained” to carry out the work.
The behaviour of the children was seen to be ‘inadequate’, and the Centre’s work to improve this described as “ineffective”.
Ms Pearce said: “Staff are so busy managing pupils’ behaviour, anxieties and problems that in many cases they have lost sight of how they should be helping pupils to grow up, learn more and manage their own emotions.”
Ms Pearce recognised that staff’s efforts were not helped by some outside influences such as not always receiving timely information about the children from their previous schools, and the fact the Centre’s building is “hard to maintain and is not suitably adapted for pupils with complex needs”.
While acknowledging that school leaders were “committed” to the school and its highly vulnerable pupils, Ms Pearce said: “Leaders and staff do not have a deep enough understanding of the requirements to run and maintain a special school.”
Some of the children at The Education Centre were placed there by West Sussex County Council.
A spokesman said: “We have informed all the parents of the children we have placed at the school and are discussing with them any concerns that they may have.
“We are working with the school on its need to improve its provision, to ensure that all the children currently placed are safe and receiving a good quality education.
“We will not be placing any more children at the school until these concerns are resolved.”
A school spokesman said the Centre “has to accept the inspector’s opinion and act”, adding that an “immediate, full action plan to address all areas of concern” had been presented to Ofsted.
The spokesman said specific concerns had been “totally addressed and in action plan” and added: “The Centre is confident the actions will result in greatly improved opinions in future.”