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'Serious failings' found at private school months before it suddenly closed

PUBLISHED: 06:26 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:05 26 September 2019

Hethersett Old Hall School. Picture: Dave Guttridge

Hethersett Old Hall School. Picture: Dave Guttridge

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Inspectors uncovered "serious failings" at a private school which closed shortly before the start of term.

Stephen Crump was headmaster of Hethersett Old Hall School. Picture: Stephen CrumpStephen Crump was headmaster of Hethersett Old Hall School. Picture: Stephen Crump

Hethersett Old Hall School announced in August it would not be opening for the new school year, shocking parents, staff and pupils.

The school blamed declining pupil numbers which left it struggling financially. It went into liquidation owing £500,000.

However a letter from the Department for Education to the school, dated May 17 from the Department for Education, shows it had other problems.

It told the school, on Norwich Road, to come up with an action plan after a visit by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in March found "serious regulatory failings" in safeguarding and management.

Inspectors wrote: "Arrangements to safeguard pupils are not completely secure or well managed.

"The school has a suitable safeguarding policy, but it is not fully implemented with regard to making prompt referrals to statutory bodies for safeguarding."

It also failed to meet all the standards for leadership and management.

Inspectors found that the school's proprietor "does not always ensure that the leadership and management demonstrate good skills and knowledge, and fulfil their responsibilities effectively".

The school did meet all the standards for other areas, including quality of education, development of pupils and suitability of staff.

Inspectors said the school had to take "immediate action" to make sure it met all the standards.

In the letter from the DfE in May the school was told to come up with an action plan which had to be submitted in June.

The inspection was not mentioned as a reason for the school's closure when the headmaster and chairman of governors told parents the news.

However the school was required to publish a copy of the report on its website and send a copy to parents.

A report from liquidators said the school's assets should easily cover its debts once the property has been sold.

It charged up to £5,210 a term for day pupils and £9,760 a term for boarders and took pupils from 3 to 18.

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