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Parents demand changes at Ofsted-hit private school

Heathside Prep at centre of three critical inspection reports

07 December, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

THE under-fire head of a Hampstead private school hit by stinging criticisms from Ofsted inspectors has been sent a letter by anxious parents demanding a raft of changes.

The prep school, which is based at a series of sites in and around New End, has had three highly-critical inspections since May, including a warning that “leaders and staff do not know how to keep pupils safe”. A group of parents have asked for an emergency meeting with staff. The New Journal has learned that, in a document addressed to headteacher Melissa Remus, parents say the future of the school rests on how changes are implemented.

Proposals include app­ointing a new board of governors to give parents a greater say, new management systems, im­proving communications and a fresh way of investing school fees – up to £18,000 a year per child. “The school is at a turning point,” the letter says. “The present crisis could be a catalyst for the school’s decline, but also presents an opportunity for great improvement.  “We are committed to the school and are concerned to see it thrive.

However, there are significant and imminent risks to the school’s future. “We believe the changes outlined in our proposal are urgently needed to transform the school and restore confidence for staff and parents alike.”

Parents say Ofsted’s findings back up their demands, adding: “The reports point to fundamental structural problems of ineffective, opaque governance, chaotic administration and poor communication.” The letter offers support to teachers, as parents think Heathside is a “wonderful school”, adding: “ It’s most important assets are its warm, supportive and happy atmosphere, the excellent, nurturing teaching staff. “The proposals are born out of a wish to ensure trust is restored and to see that the school emerges stronger.”

The letter adds that parents feel issues can be resolved – but warns that if they are not dealt with then the problems identified by Ofsted would “threaten the willingness of both staff and parents to remain part of the school and the financial viability of the school”. The demands include changing how the school responds to the New Journal. They call for the school to employ a “communications expert”.

They say that the fact the newspaper has to contact the headteacher directly – reporters call Ms Remus’s personal mobile phone or email for comment on the recent difficulties – “impedes swift, effective resolution of communications problems” and threatens the school’s reputation.

The school has describ­ed Ofsted’s findings as “disappointing” and said that “immediate steps” have been taken in response to them.

The “rapid growth” of the school had created challenges that were being solved, Heathside added last month. Ms Remus said the letter, sent anonymously, was not from the Parents and Teachers Association.

She added: “It contains factual errors. For us to be able to act on it, the authors must identify themselves so we can begin a dialogue. That notwithstanding, the letter covers important points, all of which are already being addressed. The school has submitted a very detailed action plan to the Department for Education following the Ofsted reports, and we are looking forward to a further inspection to check progress against this plan. The authors of the letter are clearly supporters of the school, which is very much appreciated.”

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