'Inadequate' Walton Hall Community Special School issued with warning
GOVERNORS at a special school could face the sack unless urgent action is taken to address concerns over the safety of pupils and the quality of their education.
Staffordshire County Council last night took the unusual step of issuing a formal warning notice to Walton Hall Community Special School, in Eccleshall.
Now the school – which caters for 11 to 19-year-olds from across Staffordshire – has been given 15 days to draw up a new action plan or the entire governing body could be removed.
It follows long-standing concerns about the supervision of students who stay overnight there, overall pupil achievement, leadership, management and governance.
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The local authority said it could not reveal further details because issues relating to individual pupils were confidential.
But councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for education, finance and transformation, said: "We hope that our decision to issue the warning notice will reassure parents that we are working hard to challenge under-performance in schools.
"Concerns regarding inadequate levels of supervision at the residential centre were first raised in 2011 and, following an extensive investigation, an action plan was drawn up.
"While there have been improvements, they have not been quick or far-reaching enough."
Walton Hall currently has 129 students, who have a range of special needs including autism, learning difficulties, disabilities and emotional or behavioural problems.
Fifty-five of these young people stay there for between one and four nights a week. Eight youngsters are also based at the school on 'extended' stays.
Walton Hall is the third school in Staffordshire to receive a so-called performance standards and safety warning notice over the last 12 months.
It means a school's entire governing body could be removed and replaced with an interim executive board.
The ultimate decision would be made by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Walton Hall's warning is likely to trigger a fresh Ofsted inspection at the school.
In its last social care inspection in January 2012, Ofsted described the quality of care and pupils' safety as good, with 'robust procedures for child protection'.
Walton Hall's most recent education inspection was in 2011 when it was rated satisfactory.
Headteacher Duncan Gorwood declined to comment to The Sentinel today.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "A warning notice should be used where there is evidence to justify both the local authority's concerns and the school's reluctance or inability to address those concerns successfully within a reasonable timeframe."