CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Inspectors report that Hampstead boarding school is ‘disorganised and unsafe’

Exclusive: Ofsted make surprise visit to Heathside Prep School after tip-off

06 July, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

A PRIVATE school has been hit with a critical Ofsted report after inspectors were urged to visit by an anonymous tip-off.

Heathside Preparatory School, which has a number of sites in and around Hampstead, was told the inspection had found the running of its boarding provision to be “disorganised and unsafe”.

The school is already at the centre of a row over the future of a historic pub it acquired two years ago.

The Old White Bear has remained shut while Heathside Prep use space for teaching, despite planning assurances that the ground floor would be let as a bar.

Headteacher Melissa Remus said new procedures were in place to deal with the concerns raised by Ofsted over its boarding house, which is a term-time home for 15 children.

Inspectors visited last month after what they described as the “receipt of information expressing concerns”.

“Managers do not follow safeguarding procedures appropriately.

A recent allegation by a boarder was internally investigated without the independent oversight of the designated officer from the local authority,” the inspection report said. “The school’s record of this incident and other complaints lacked detail and in some cases there was no formal record at all.”

It also said the boarding school lacked an “established rota” giving staff responsibilities and that two children had reported there was no one supervising the girls’ section on one occasion in May, adding: “These concerns led to these boarders feeling confused and unsafe.”

Inspectors reported that the “management of the boarding provision is disorganised and unsafe”, and added: “Staff are fearful of reporting concerns to managers. Ofsted rates the teaching element of the day school, however, as “outstanding” – the highest bracket on its inspection charts – and boarding pupils told inspectors last month that they were “happy”.

Ms Remus told the New Journal an unnamed member of staff in charge of the boarding wing had left the school. She added: “Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children sit at the heart of everything at Heathside.

In January we launched boarding as an addition and natural evolution of our strong commitment to the welfare of the children in our care. Our previous head of boarding didn’t meet our high expectations and left the school at the end of May.”

She added: “An Ofsted monitoring visit of the boarding house that took place a few days after her departure provided critical feedback on our progress from the commencement of boarding.”

Mr Remus added that the school have put in place new procedures developed with the head of the Boarding Schools Association to address issues raised. “It is important to emphasise the children in our care have always been safe and well looked after and, in terms of the daily experience of the children, boarding is a great success,” she said. “There is a wonderful collegiate atmosphere, lots of laughter and ample evidence that children are benefitting from the extension of school life.”

The school has frustrated some residents in the area who campaigned for the Old White Bear first to be saved from a residential conversion and then to be re-opened.

It is listed as an Asset of Community Value, giving it protection under planning law.

Heathside Prep bought the building and won planning permission 18 months ago to convert upper floors into new classrooms – with the understanding ground floor re-opening as a bar. But despite a publican gaining a licence to run the pub and ready to start work, it remains closed.

Ms Remus said the pub was on course to re-open “soon”, but added that there were “complications” in getting the bar fitted out and that was delaying a deal being struck with the operator.

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