No closure plans following Chiltern Edge consultation

Plans to allow more time for Chiltern Edge School to raise education standards are being put forward following a consultation into the school’s future.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet will be asked to set up an external review of improvements made by staff in the coming months, as the Sonning Common-based school tackles the serious issues highlighted by Ofsted and ongoing financial problems. The review would take place in October and a progress report would be brought to the council’s cabinet in November.

The council launched a consultation on 27 April seeking views on the potential impact of a decision to close the school, and whether other solutions could be found to ensure good quality education in this part of Oxfordshire. This followed the release of an Ofsted report which rated the school Inadequate in almost every area assessed, and the placing of the school in Special Measures.

A report on the outcome of the consultation, together with recommendations for the external review will be considered by the council’s Cabinet next Tuesday (18 July).

Working towards lasting solution

The council’s newly appointed Cabinet Member for Education Hilary Hibbert-Biles said: “We are working towards a lasting solution which both enables the school to stay open and delivers the much-needed improvements demanded by Ofsted. Our number one priority remains to ensure that good educational opportunities are available to children in this part of Oxfordshire.

“The first important steps have been taken by the school’s very capable new leadership team and it is right that more time should now be given for the school to turn itself around. Many people will also be aware that we are in early discussion with the Regional Schools Commissioner and a potential sponsor for Chiltern Edge School.

She added: “During my meetings with school staff, families and campaigners, I have been impressed by the tremendous level of support for the school and the high regard in which it is so obviously held – despite the very serious criticisms from Ofsted. I have heard those voices loud and clear both in person, and in the statements of support submitted to the consultation.

“I know the last few weeks have been a very difficult time for staff, pupils and their families, and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the consultation to help find a solution which, above all else, will bring about the much needed improvement in the education of local children.”

Consultation responses

The vast majority of the 1,029 responses to the consultation were opposed to any proposal to close the school, and most stated that the school should be given more time and support to improve and stay open. There were also many responses which disagreed with the Ofsted judgement, saying the criticism did not reflect their experience of the school.

Only a few responses were supportive of a closure proposal, raising concerns over the ability of the school to turn itself around quickly enough and the impact this would have on children’s education.

A full overview and breakdown of consultation responses is included in the Cabinet report.

Positive developments

A number of positive developments have taken place during the consultation period, including the appointment of an Interim Executive Board at Chiltern Edge, led by an experienced former Headteacher.

An interim Headteacher with a proven track record of school improvement was also appointed, taking up her position on 5 June. She has put in place a range of actions and strategies aimed at addressing the numerous weaknesses identified.

Meanwhile the council is in early discussion with the Regional Schools Commissioner, and with a potential sponsor for Chiltern Edge School, the Maiden Erlegh Trust – a multi-academy trust based in Wokingham.