Inspectors find 'serious failings' in safeguarding at Northampton International Academy

"Many staff have lost confidence in leaders’ capacity to safeguard pupils. They are concerned that some pupils may ‘slip through the net’," says Ofsted

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 7:00 am
Inspectors have scolded Northampton International Academy for serious failings in its safeguarding measures.
Inspectors have scolded Northampton International Academy for serious failings in its safeguarding measures.

A scathing report has ruled that one of Northampton's biggest all-through schools is failing to properly safeguard pupils.

The education watchdog Ofsted has scolded Northampton International Academy after inspectors arrived on site in December 2020 following concerns.

Criticisms range from the school's leadership failing to spot and act on risks, to being slow to help vulnerable children and to a lack of confidence among staff that pupils will be safeguarded.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It ruled that in the weeks leading up to December "some of the most vulnerable pupils have been put at serious risk," and called on the school to "urgently address" its weaknesses.

A spokesperson for the academy said that safeguarding "remains at the heart of everything we do," that they "fell short of our expectations on the day of the visit" and that they are "continually reviewing and improving their practices" and that a number of changes had already been made. The spokesperson also said pupils had told inspectors they "generally felt safe" and knew who to escalate concerns to in the school.

Safeguarding is defined as action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm, abuse and mistreatment.

In the report published on February 5, the inspector wrote: "I am of the opinion that at this time, safeguarding is not effective.

"Arrangements to monitor the most vulnerable pupils are ineffective... This has led to potentially serious consequences... This has led to repeated safeguarding incidents for some pupils. In some cases, risk assessments have not been written at all.

"In recent weeks, some of the most vulnerable pupils have been put at serious risk."

Northampton International Academy was rated as "Good" during an Ofsted inspection in July 2019.

The report found that the academy's leaders had "too many responsibilities to enable them to carry out their safeguarding duties effectively".

While safeguarding policy was comprehensive, inspectors found staff - including key staff responsible for safeguarding - did not know how to implement it or use the school's 'electronic system' to raise or log concerns. They were also reportedly dealing with a "backlog" of issues.

The report continues: "Safeguarding records do not always contain the necessary detail. Those seen by inspectors were poor.

"Arrangements to monitor the most vulnerable pupils are ineffective. When a pupil has been identified as being at imminent risk, staff, including leaders, have been too slow to take action. This has led to potentially serious consequences.

"Risk assessments for the most vulnerable pupils are poor. This has led to repeated safeguarding incidents for some pupils. In some cases, risk assessments have not been written at all."

Meanwhile, if allegations were made against members of staff, these were in come cases fully investigated and in others took no action at all or notified authorities.

It concludes: "Many staff have lost confidence in leaders’ capacity to safeguard pupils. They are concerned that some pupils may ‘slip through the net’.

"Leaders should urgently address the weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements."

The school was ordered to take a number of actions ahead of "priority" visit when routine inspections resume under the Covid-19 crisis. Like all schools, NIA has had to face the challenges of dealing with the impact of the virus. And on the day inspectors were arrived at the academy (December 4), the entire of the Year 11 age group had to be sent home to self-isolate due to a reported positive Covid-19 test.A spokesperson for Northampton International Academy said: "This has been an incredibly challenging year for all schools but safeguarding remains at the heart of everything we do, and we are fully committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of every pupil at Northampton International Academy.

“We are pleased that the report highlights the way we safely recruit staff to work in our school, and pupils told the inspectors that they generally feel safe at school, they know who to escalate concerns to and that bullying is taken seriously and addressed.

“We acknowledge that the work to safeguard pupils is constant and we fell short of our expectations on the day of the visit, but we eagerly await Ofsted’s return in the next few months. We are working closely with Northamptonshire County Council to support the trust with an independent safeguarding review.

“We are continually reviewing and improving our systems and practices. Since the inspection, we have completed a restructuring that was underway at the time of the inspection to strengthen the pastoral care for our students, and have appointed a new deputy headteacher as our lead Designated Safeguarding Lead and additional and experienced members of staff to our safeguarding team to ensure effective safeguarding is consistently practised throughout the school."