A troubled school has admitted to parents for the first time that it could close before the start of the next school year.
Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley has emailed parents after suffering a double blow, with another failed Ofsted inspection plus the school’s struggles to find insurance after July.
Interim principal Tim Byford has now left the £9,857-a-year school to be replaced by an interim interim principal.
And the incoming permanent principal Martin Blain will only join the school if it remains open next year.
The letter to parents says: “The trustees now believe that there is a serious possibility that the school will have to close at the end this academic year, and that it is important that parents and staff know this.”
It adds: “We understand that this update will be distressing for children, parents, staff and the whole community. We are deeply sorry that we cannot write with more positive tidings.
“However, we feel duty-bound to give an honest asessment, as soon as possible, about the current situation.”
An emergency meeting of parents will take place on Monday, June 4, and parents are asked to “keep questions and comments” until then.
This will be followed by an emergency general meeting of the school’s governing body, the RSSKL Association, one day later.
A school spokesman told the Gazette: “We have always sought to be open and honest with parents, and that includes sharing with them the prospect that the school may close, so that they can consider alternative education for their children. However, no decision has been taken on this and we do not want to close. Alternative insurance is being sought.
“Although we take issue with Ofsted regarding some of the content of the report, and intend to make a formal complaint, we also acknowledge other issues that fell short of the standards we expect.
“If the school secures insurance and goes to tribunal then we are still confident of the outcome.”
Problems at Rudolf Steiner School date back to March 2016, leading to government threats to close the school.
But while school leaders are appealing against those moves they have long claimed to be confident that the school would remain open. This is the most explicit admission that Rudolf Steiner could be forced to close imminently.
>The Ofsted visit
This latest Ofsted inspection took place on May 10 and was the sixth visit over the last 18 months.
The report says the school has failed to meet the necessary standards for safeguarding, handling of complaints, and quality of leadership.
And it says that the school’s leaders have “potentially put pupils at risk” with their recruitment policies.
Criticisms include: “The lack of rigour and inaccurate recording amount to more than administrative errors.
“They are indicative of leaders’ continuing failure to take their responsibilities seriously.
“Despite intensive training and previous inspection findings over a long period, staff continue to make the same mistakes.”
Last month the Gazette reported how the school was appealing to parents for their help and expertise in a bid to stay open.
However Ofsted see this as evidence of serious weaknesses.
The report says: “Trustees have asked parents to support leadership capacity relating to: educational leadership; property management; legal expertise; and money raising for the school.
“The requests are indicative of a lack of capacity for the leadership and management of the school.”
>What could the failure to get insurance mean?
Last week the Gazette exclusively reported Rudolf Steiner’s problems getting insurance for 2018-19.
Now the school have told parents that this may prove to be the “decisive factor”.
The letter to parents says: “If the school cannot find alternative insurance, then it will have no choice but to close at the end of this term (July). This will mean no tribunal, but a closure and winding up of the operations.
“The school may find new insurance, fight the tribunal, and lose. In this scenario the tribunal judges would determine the timeline for closure. That may be immediate (during the summer) or later.
“The school might find insurance, and also win the tribunal. In this scenario it would continue to operate in September.
“The association could choose a managed, voluntary closure. In this scenario the school would agree a timetable with the Department for Education and the tribunal (eg at the end of this academic year, or Christmas).
“There are other scenarios being explored, such as a merger with another school or trust so that education provision could continue in September on this site with some existing staff, but, in light of the current uncertainties, such exploration is necessarily at a very early stage.”