Governors of a Jewish primary in Hertsmere have written to parents after a damning Ofsted inspection slammed it for safeguarding concerns owing to “blurred boundaries” between personal and professional lives.
Iain Blakeley, chair of Governors at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School, wrote to parents on Friday afternoon about the school’s downgrade to ‘Inadequate’ after inspectors hammered its leadership and management.
In the letter, he said “we readily acknowledge the weakness raised by inspectors,” adding that the governing body has “been taking steps to address this”.
Blakeley said this included the appointment of “a new, independent headteacher from outside the immediate community” and “several new governors, including independent governors with no connection to the school, staff or parent body”.
The school’s last Ofsted inspection, in 2009, saw it rated ‘Outstanding,’ so the downgrade to ‘Inadequte’ represents a significant fall from grace for one of the Jewish community’s most respected primaries.
Blakeley said he was being “as honest and as transparent as possible” and said he had “always been proud” that the school was part of “a close-knit community – something which brings with it great advantages for our pupils”.
But inspectors said “boundaries have not been maintained” and that “for too long, professional and personal boundaries have been allowed to blur”.
After their two-day inspection on 30-31 January, they concluded that “the school has failed to maintain a positive culture of safeguarding” but Blakeley this week sought to reassure parents that this did not mean that children were not safe.
“Our staff are well-trained, our single central record and safeguarding files are excellent, we have robust policies in place to ensure children are well looked after, our children say they feel safe at school and the parent survey shows this too,” he wrote, adding: “There is no question that children are safe at school.”
The school was downgraded overall despite being deemed ‘good’ in all other categories. Among their findings, inspectors said pupils achieve well at all key stages and teaching is typically good. The behaviour of pupils was also said o be good.
Any school judged ‘Inadequate’ is given an automatic Academisation Order and Blakeley said Governors would be “working closely in conjunction with the Local Authority and our Foundation Body, the United Synagogue, to work through the practicalities of this”.
Anxious parents will get the chance to question the school’s leadership at a public meeting on 7.15pm on Wednesday, at which emotions are expected to run high. Those seeking to attend must register their interest through the school.
Blakeley added: “We are looking upon this as an opportunity to improve and have no hesitation in offering our assurances that we will work tirelessly for the good of your children, in order to do so.”