"Despite some recent small improvements, leadership and management are inadequate; the interim leadership team has begun to remedy some of the areas of weakness, but improvement has been limited. Leaders and managers have been too slow in intervening where the quality of classroom practice and behaviour management is clearly inadequate. Several new systems and procedures have been implemented recently but these have not had any significant impact in tackling the school’s underlying weaknesses, including improving the quality of teaching and students’ behaviour. The impact of professional development on improvements to teaching and learning has been limited. Similarly leaders and managers at all levels have not been effective in identifying precise, achievable actions that should significantly improve students’ experiences and personal development". What on earth have they been doing for the past three months, with unlimiteed resources of expertise to call on, or is it simply that KCC did not realise the seriousness of the situation.
Information about the quality of the previous leadership is in the previous 2010 OFSTED Report which judged the school to be satisfactory and had many good points to make about it: "The school has undergone and continues to experience significant change since the new principal was appointed just prior to the last inspection. The vision of higher expectations of students' performance is increasingly shared by the staff through very effective senior leaders driving actions to reinforce these expectations. The appointment of qualified and specialist teaching staff, for example, has systematically addressed one of the areas of relative weakness identified by sound self-evaluation. Where lesson monitoring has identified underperformance, swift and robust action has been taken successfully to ensure that a satisfactory quality of teaching is restored quickly. The school recognises that the role of middle leaders is relatively underdeveloped and has realistic plans for improving their contribution to school improvement". Perhaps it was the partly the removal of head and governors that precipitated the rapid decline in standards, as the pupils saw an important stability destroyed.
The consequence of the decisions made by KCC and the inadequate leadership are spelled out starkly: "Behaviour and safety are inadequate. Most students do not show respect or courtesy to others. They have poor attitudes to learning. Students experience bullying and harassment because behaviour management is inadequate. Students say they do not feel safe and lack confidence in the staff to keep them safe. Behaviour and safety are inadequate. A new behaviour policy is being introduced. However, there is a lack of consistency in dealing with a very high number of significant behavioural incidents. The high number of exclusions is resulting in a substantial amount of learning time being lost. Attendance over the last three years has been consistently low and too many students have attendance that is persistently below 85%. Poor attendance to lessons and disruptive behaviour are common. Lessons are frequently interrupted by shouting, swearing and by students entering or leaving the classroom. Inspectors observed many occasions where students showed a lack of respect for staff and each other. The use of racist, sexually explicit or homophobic terminology by students often went unchallenged. The school council says that bullying has lessened, but many students are still concerned about the amount of bullying that takes place. One student confided that the reason he is absent so often is due to bullying. Students say they have little confidence in the staff’s ability to keep them safe".
It is hardly surprising that, in such a climate, learning is inadequate, exacerbate by poor teaching: "Teaching is inadequate because it does not meet the needs of the students and results in them making inadequate progress. Although examples of satisfactory and good teaching were observed during the inspection, teachers’ expectations are generally too low. Strategies to manage students’ behaviour are often ineffective. For example, an English lesson was consistently interrupted by frequent disruptions caused by students shouting, throwing paper and refusing to behave, despite the efforts of several different adults. Senior leaders have taken some steps to address weaker teaching. Increased monitoring of lessons and evaluation of data about students’ performance have enabled senior leaders to provide some staff with helpful feedback about their practice and offer information about how they can improve. There is a high level of staff absence and many posts are filled on a temporary basis. Senior leaders have correctly identified that lack of challenge and inconsistent use of assessment information, as well as students’ general non-attendance, impede learning".
It appears that events following the OFSTED Inspection exacerbated the situation, and Kent's Director of Education was forced to close the school for two weeks to address concerns about health and safety, following a series of horrifying events, including the summoning of the fire brigade, as described in the local Reporter newspaper and Newshopper. Reports circulating locally indicate that five months on from getting rid of the headteacher and governing body, KCC is continuing to fail to resolve the problems of the school, with untold long term consequences for these vulnerable children. What a disgrace.
Meanwhile the school website makes no mention of the OFSTED Report nor of any difficulties over the past six months, but identifies its philosophy as: "At Furness School we emphasise traditional standards of good manners, socially acceptable behaviour and mutual respect, whilst providing a relevant, varied and interesting education. We are in the fortunate position of being able to combine our curricular activities with very high Care Standards which enables our students to take their place in society and the workplace of the twenty-first century". It hardly sounds as if any lessons have been learned.
However, Kent County Council now appears to have given up and handed over temporary responsibility for the school to a private contractor, Lilac Sky Schools, presumably for a large fee.
Compare this perhaps with the OFSTED Report of schools with a similar profile of students: Harbour School, Dover - Outstanding; Goldwyn Community Special School, Ashford - Good; Bower Grove School, Maidstone - Good; Portal House School, Dover - Good; St Anthony's School, Margate - Good. The only other Special School for Behavioural Need had a Satisfactory grading. With this level of expertise in the special schools of the county, how on earth can KCC have got it so wrong at Furness?