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East Sussex school decides to sue over Ofsted report

A school in East Sussex has decided it will take legal action against the school's inspector Ofsted over a damning report it received about the education it provides, reports the BBC.

Northease Manor School based near Lewes in East Sussex was given a rating of 'inadequate' in all areas of inspection following a visit by Ofsted in February this year.

The school is an independent day and weekly boarding school for potentially able students with Specific Learning Difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and Autistic Spectrum Disorders including autism and Asperger's.

The school charges £9,141 a term for its boarders, of which there are fifty at the school aged between ten and 17.

OFSTED

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, and was formed in a different guise in 1984, although has only existed in its current form since 1992. Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department responsible for the inspection of schools in England.

Oftsed inspections are followed up by the publication of a report in which schools are rated in a number of areas across a four-point scale ranging from outstanding (level one), to good (level two), to satisfactory (level three) and finally inadequate (level four).

Schools which receive an outstanding or good rating are inspected less often, around once every five years, whilst those with a lower rating are inspected more often and with less notice.

'Outstanding'

The school had previously been rated as 'outstanding' in almost all areas, following an inspection in July 2013. However, on this occasion the Ofsted inspectors found that the school failed to safeguard pupils' welfare and safety.

"Pupils' health, safety and welfare are not secured within the residential provision," said the Ofsted report.

However, the report concluded that generally all pupils felt happy in their boarding accommodation.

"The older boys and the girls report that they mostly enjoy their time boarding in their respective houses," the report added.

The findings were the result of an 'emergency' visit by the inspectors who gave the school little notice after receiving a complaint from a parent which raised a safeguarding concern. The focus of the criticism surrounded the provision of residential services at the school.

Legal challenge

The board of governors of the school said that following a review they would now challenge the report of the Ofsted inspectors.

"The inspection of our boarding facilities remains an ongoing legal dispute between the school and Ofsted. The school has a very strong track record in our previous Ofsted," said the school.

"We are challenging various aspects of the process, behaviour and stance of this Ofsted inspection, which we believe has led to this outcome," continued the school.