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Warning to £21,000-a-year independent school over need for quick improvements

PUBLISHED: 14:17 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:17 01 July 2019

Chloe Smith MP with Philip Hinchliffe, headteacher at Include Schools Norfolk. The school has been issued with a warning notice by the Department for Education. Picture: Submitted

Chloe Smith MP with Philip Hinchliffe, headteacher at Include Schools Norfolk. The school has been issued with a warning notice by the Department for Education. Picture: Submitted

Chloe Smith

A school educating young people with learning and mental health difficulties in Norfolk could be struck off the independent schools register if improvements aren't made.

The Department for Education (DfE) issued the warning to Include Schools Norfolk, which operates across three sites in Norwich, King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth and charges annual fees of up to £21,000 for its county council-referred pupils.

The warning notice calls for an action plan to be drawn up and implemented to address shortcomings by mid-August.

If the action plan is rejected by the education secretary, the school could be removed from the register of independent schools or have its operations restricted.

It follows the school's second consecutive "requires improvement" judgement by Ofsted after inspectors visited in March. They found variability in pupils' behaviour and high levels of persistent absence, as well as a lack of precision in the school's self-evaluation.

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The report also noted that an action plan put together after the school's first "requires improvement" judgement two years ago had been deemed unacceptable on three separate occasions and that leaders had more work to do "to support pupils to make the progress they should".

Include Schools Norfolk had 94 pupils aged 14 to 16 on its roll at the time of the Ofsted inspection, many of whom have been excluded from mainstream schools, special schools or pupil referral units.

The charity which runs the school, Newark-based Catch 22, was also issued with a warning notice by the DfE in May.

Both notices stated that independent school standards in areas including the welfare and safety of pupils, quality of education and quality of management were not up to scratch.

Include Schools Norfolk headteacher Philip Hinchcliffe said: "The letter was standard procedure following the inspection and was delivered to us two months ago.

"Our action plan was submitted to DfE on June 17 and has been implemented. With positive results already, we welcome the next inspection."

Following the Ofsted report's release in May, Mr Hinchliffe said: "While Ofsted identified areas where the school is performing well such as pupil motivation and staff support, we recognise there are some areas where we need to focus greater attention."

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