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Concerns raised over changes at Shifnal school

By Rory Smith | Shifnal | Education | Published:

Whistleblowers at a Shropshire school for vulnerable children have raised concerns over a 'teaching restructure' and high levels of staff turnover – with at least 14 teachers leaving their post this year.

Hillcrest Shifnal School

The secondary department at Hillcrest Shifnal School was reorganised as part of a 'school improvement plan', which has seen changes with the way pupils are taught, how lessons are delivered and teaching positions resulting in the removal of a deputy-headteacher.

But members of staff have said the changes have left some teachers funding their own resources and reduced the quality of learning, with complaints receiving little to no response.

A member of staff who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "Staff have been told several times that if they wanted to be more creative with their teaching, they would need to find/fund their own resources – this has caused serious concern.

"In the secondary part of the school, traditional rooms dedicated to specific subject areas have been abolished in favour of a primary school model where pupils are kept in one room all day and the various subject-specific teaching staff have to travel from room to room with all their resources to deliver lessons. Staff have expressed deep concern over this digressive step.

"As a result, pupil's quality of learning has been seriously compromised because their subject-specific environments have been dismantled and subject-specific teachers are leaving or have left."

The school confirmed that eight members of staff in its secondary department left in July 2019 and 14 have left in the last 12 months.

An emergency Ofsted inspection was commissioned by the Department for Education on June 25 this year following complaints made about how the school was operating.

Conducted by lead inspector, Elizabeth Ellis-Martin, the report concluded that "the school meets all of the independent school standards that were checked".

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Questioned

It states that frequent changes in leadership have led to 'an adverse effect' on staff morale and 'inevitable staffing losses', but that the school has 'united staff into an enthusiastic team for the start of the new term in September 2019'.

But staff have questioned the inspection and said few teachers were given the chance to input.

Ofsted confirmed the school underwent the inspection under emergency circumstances, but said it would not comment on individual reports.

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Its last full report rated the school 'Good' in June 2018.

A joint statement from the school's senior leadership team and the chairman of governors, Sam Millward, said the changes 'had an impact on the make-up of staff'.

It said: "The school increased its number of qualified teachers, introduced support roles as well as additional staff to support the school's new provision for children aged five to seven.

"After a thorough and thoughtful consultation, it was decided that the role of deputy head should be restructured to encompass both the primary and secondary units."

It added: "With guidance from the school's on-site multi-disciplinary clinical team, a 'base' approach was adopted across the school. Each form has a designated classroom – they are taught in these centres for all lessons apart from subjects requiring specialist facilities."

The school also said it has a clear complaints procedure alongside its dedicated employee assistant programme to support staff.

The school, on Lamledge Lane, cares for children between five and 19 years old with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and learning needs, and had 45 pupils on its roll as of June 2019.

Annual fees range from £55,000 to £87,000, dependent on the pupil's needs.

Rory Smith

By Rory Smith
Reporter - @rorysmith_star

Trainee news reporter based at the Shropshire Star's Ketley office in Telford.

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