Struggling Thetford free school on road to recovery, Ofsted inspectors say

Des Reynolds, executive head teacher the Short Stay School for Norfolk. Picture: SUBMITTED

Des Reynolds, executive head teacher the Short Stay School for Norfolk. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

A school which was told last year that it needed to make urgent improvements to safeguarding and its pupils' achievement levels has been told it is on the right track to recovery.

The Pinetree School in Thetford, which provides education for 33 children who have not been able to fit into mainstream education, was labelled inadequate by Ofsted inspectors last July when it was plunged into special measures.

It was told that leadership and teaching at the school was lacking, and that pupils' behaviour was poor.

Inspectors also raised fears over a range of safeguarding issues, including how legally-required recruitment checks are carried out, safety at the school's site on Staniforth Road, and risk assessments for visits and trips.

The school was also criticised for using locked doors as a behaviour management tool.

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But a check-up carried out by inspectors in February found that the school's new sponsors, the Engage Trust, were taking 'effective action' to fix those problems. There was also praise for improvements in teaching, assessments and leadership and management.

John Mitcheson, Ofsted inspector, reported that the trust's statement of action, and its improvement plans were 'fit for purpose'.

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Des Reynolds, chief executive of the Engage Trust, said the trust's experience as a specialist provider of alternative provision education had stood it in good stead.

'The trust is really pleased and proud of the hard work that the staff and students have put in.

'The report recognises that in all the areas where the original report found difficulties, improvements have been made, particularly in relation to safeguarding.

'There's more work to be done and we recognise that in behaviour and attendance we need to improve in particular, but those are issues which can take time,' he said.

The school was originally opened in September 2013 as the Thetford Alternative Provision Free School, with Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, calling it a 'trail-blazing' school.

However, the school fell into difficulty when founding headteacher, Nico Dobben, was forced to leave due to ill health.

The school became part of the Engage Trust in April 2015.

Do you have a child at the school? Have you seen an improvement? Let us know by emailing Andrew Fitchett on

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