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Ofsted admits rape row school errors

Source BBC News@

Stanbridge Earls SchoolAn education tribunal raised "grave concerns" about safeguarding at Stanbridge Earls School in January

Schools watchdog Ofsted has admitted failings in its inspections at a Hampshire school criticised for its handling of a pupil's rape claim.

An education tribunal raised "grave concerns" about safeguarding at Stanbridge Earls in January.

Three Ofsted inspections failed to get "underneath concerns", an internal review has concluded.

The chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has apologised and stressed changes are being implemented.

The tribunal found the school, which caters for pupils aged 10 to 19 with special educational needs, had failed to protect the "vulnerable" pupil, who claimed she had been raped twice by other students.

It also found the school to have discriminated against the pupil, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, by excluding her following the allegation.

'Acknowledge mistakes'

Three subsequent Ofsted inspections revealed serious concerns about safeguarding, with the government demanding improvements.

Last month it was announced the school would close, with a Surrey-based charity taking it over and running a new school on the Romsey site.

Speaking in response to the review into Ofsted's actions, Sir Michael said: "Inspection is part of the safety net designed to protect children from harm and it is clear from our review... that our inspections should have got underneath what was happening sooner.

"We offer our sincerest apologies to the parents and children who have been affected.

"We cannot turn back the clock on what has happened at Stanbridge Earls School, but our actions show that when we get it wrong, we acknowledge our mistakes, take decisive action, and ensure that we use the learning to improve."

The inquiry did not find "widespread failings" but did reveal "weaknesses" in Ofsted's monitoring of residential special schools.

The watchdog said from 1 January all inspection work would be managed in eight regions overseen by regional directors.

It has also improved existing technology to ensure inspectors have better access to the full history of concerns at a school.

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