Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ofsted: Keeping the school’s environment safe

1.        It is rare nowadays for inspection to uncover serious concerns about the security of a school site. Arrangements are generally robust, understood and applied by staff and pupils; inspection reports sometimes comment on the speed with which headteachers have reacted to any concerns about site security raised by parents or pupils. In one of the schools visited in the survey, as an extra precaution, parents were asked to sign their children in and out of the before- and after-school club each day.

2.        Where there is nursery or extended school provision on site, senior managers ensure that safeguarding arrangements in these settings are implemented with the same rigour and to the same exacting standards as applied elsewhere in the school.

3.        Careful attention is paid to the physical environment and how space is used to promote learning, while at the same time ensuring that pupils’ safety and well-being are protected. Daily routines promote good order which adds to pupils feeling safe. Hygiene, cleanliness and tidiness in all areas of the schools are given high priority; hazards and clutter are routinely removed to prevent accidents or incidents. Premises and accommodation are maintained to high standards, with any faults or defects being rectified without delay.

4.        Effective leaders do all they can to ensure that staff know how to cope with critical incidents or emergencies such as fire. The critical incident plan at The Deepings School, for example, was well understood and provided a model of best practice in the area. In the event of any form of critical incident, it provided a clear framework to support the school in planning and carrying out immediate actions, managing its response and returning to normality. Roles and responsibilities were made clear, as were arrangements for partial or full evacuation of the premises. After student deaths connected with road traffic accidents, the plan had been used to good effect to support the whole school community.

5.        Effective schools recognise the importance of caring for pupils’ emotional well-being and the central part that this plays in them feeling safe and secure. Larger schools sometimes create areas where pupils can go for additional support or guidance. These can be particularly effective for pupils who are vulnerable or at risk for a variety of reasons. Two examples are given below.
The student support centre at Turton High School Media Arts College had been an important development, creating a calm environment and helping students to deal with their anxiety and frustrations. As a result, there had been fewer incidents in the school. Pastoral support staff were trained in specific issues, such as drugs awareness, and ran self-help groups for students.

Stratton Upper School and Community College had established two distinct areas: the first, known as ‘the retreat’, was recognised as a lifeline for students who needed a less hectic environment in a large school. A second area, called ‘the remove’, had been established in the school to support students at risk of exclusion. The school worked with partners, such as the youth offending team and the integrated youth service, to offer a personalised curriculum which could lead to students reintegrating into the main school.

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