St Mary's School special-needs pupils 'at risk of harm'

St Mary's School and Sixth Form College, in Bexhill, East Sussex Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption The school has its fifth head teacher since a "good" Ofsted report just two years ago

A school for children with special needs has admitted action is needed after an Ofsted report said pupils were at risk of harm.

In a damning report inspectors said St Mary's School and Sixth Form College in Bexhill was inadequate in many areas.

The school has appointed a fifth head in two years, and a new governors' leader to prioritise children's safety.

Governors and education chiefs said the situation required "urgent action".

St Mary's, part of the Talking Trust charity, has 62 residential and day pupils aged between seven and 19, many with speech, communication, emotional and mental-health needs.

It has enlisted the "urgent" help of East Sussex County Council as well as expertise from other special schools to try to turn around its fortunes for the second time in two years.


Ofsted inspectors said standards had declined to such an extent that parents and carers had lost confidence in the school and its leadership.

"Pupils are at risk of harm because leaders at all levels are failing to fulfil their statutory duties," it said.

"Some do not trust leaders to listen to their concerns and do not believe that their children are safe."

The report, which rated St Mary's inadequate in three of five categories - as well as overall - highlighted:

  • "Worrying" concerns about pupil safety, with children overseen by inexperienced and ill-equipped staff
  • "Disorganised" checks on staff suitability to work with children
  • Poor leadership, resulting in a culture of blame and declining teaching standards
  • Inadequate control of pupils behaviour

Julie Forsyth, who has two children at St Mary's, said: "They have let every one of us, and our children, down. But I still feel it is absolutely the right place for them - with the right leadership."

The school and East Sussex County Council said in a joint-statement: "The situation at St Mary's is very serious and requires urgent action.

"The reports will be very concerning to everyone but particularly to parents and carers of children and young people at St Mary's and the placing authorities."

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