The Japanese School in Acton. Picture: David Hawgood
August 11, 2023
The Japanese School in Acton has been rated ‘inadequate’ despite its quality of teaching being ‘outstanding’ over concerns that staff weren’t properly trained to safeguard children. A high turnover of staff who would come to London from abroad to teach in the school meant that many weren’t aware of UK safeguarding standards, says the Ofsted report.
The school charges its 299 pupils, aged between 6 to 15, an annual fee of £3,741 and is said to deliver an ‘ambitious’ curriculum to an ‘outstanding’ standard. However, the school has repeatedly fallen foul of Ofsted over the best part of a decade being consistently rated either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by the regulatory body.
It was dropped from ‘requires improvement’ to Ofsted’s lowest ranking ‘inadequate’ by this recent report. It says that senior leaders at the school had little to no understanding of their statutory duties towards their students. The reason the report gives for this is that, “Leadership arrangements mean that senior school leaders and trustees change regularly. For example, senior staff arrive from Japan, and in a matter of a couple of years, return and are replaced by other, new leaders.
“Trustees also rotate often. The proprietor body has not made suitable provisions to ensure continuity in leadership’s oversight of the school, including checking the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements.”
The inspector found that many of the teachers coming over to work in the school had not had proper Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, which is a requirement for those who work with vulnerable people. For people working in schools, an enhanced DBS check is required to ensure that staff do not have any unspent criminal convictions as well as convictions, cautions or reprimands that would bar them from working with children.
The report states: “Several of the required checks on leaders’ and staff’s suitability to work with pupils have not been carried out. For example, leaders have not ensured that Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks have been completed for all new members of staff, particularly those who arrive from overseas.”
Without these safeguarding measures in place, the inspector deemed the school as not meeting the independent school standards. While independent schools are fully inspected by different regulatory bodies, Ofsted also does some basic checks to ensure they meet certain standards. The report reads: “Some unmet independent school standards were addressed quickly by leaders during the inspection. However, there remain several unmet independent school standards, both in relation to safeguarding and arrangements for managing complaints.”
It was also found that staff weren’t properly trained in how to deal with specific safeguarding issues. The report states: “Staff have received a translation of the latest statutory safeguarding guidance, but they have not had specific training to ensure that they understand and can act on its key messages. They have a limited grasp of some of the key risks, including, for example, online bullying and exploitation.”
The school, which is partly funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, claimed its inadequate rating from Ofsted was partly down to cultural differences between the UK and Japan. It also vowed to rectify safeguarding concerns that came with the rapid turnover of staff.
The 2018 report, however, contains many of the same criticisms of the school that are present 5 years later, showing that little progress has been made. The 2018 report states: “There is a high turnover of staff coming from and returning to Japan every two to three years. Consequently, there is little stability and continuity in the school’s leadership.
“The processes for handing over information and inducting new leaders to the requirements of the English school system are ineffective. As a result, leaders, including trustees, have not ensured that the school meets all independent school standards relating to safeguarding, welfare, the curriculum, and complaints procedures.”
Despite serious concerns about staffing and safeguarding the report was glowing about the standard of education children were receiving as well as showing that the school had clearly made some progress in student welfare compared to 2018. While the report from 5 years ago raised concerns about bullying and lack of support for vulnerable students including those from an LGBTQ background, this was not found by the inspector 2023 who said that bullying was minimal and staff ‘keep an eye’ on pupils who might need more support.
The report praises the school’s classroom culture stating: “Leaders are determined to provide pupils with a highly ambitious curriculum. Pupils achieve exceptionally well and acquire detailed knowledge in the broad range of subjects studied. Leaders provide many enrichment opportunities to support pupils’ personal development. They also have high expectations for pupils’ behaviour, guiding pupils on how to behave with integrity, as well as how to make a positive contribution to society.”
Despite this praise, the report represents a backslide in the school’s Ofsted rankings with its past two reports saying the school ‘requires improvement’. The Japanese School is now one of just two schools in the borough that has been designated as ‘inadequate’.
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