£750k shortfall, 3 sets of lawyers, and a wall of silence from Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley

A private school which has been threatened with closure by the government has had to ask parents for money.

Friday, 27th April 2018, 4:28 pm
Updated Friday, 27th April 2018, 4:31 pm
Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley

It is understood the funds are required in order to remain open next year.

Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley is appealing for cash donations, loans, or for parents to pay their yearly fees early.

And they are also asking if parents can offer other help, such as voluntary work to help with legal advice, financial work, fundraising, or “educational leadership”.

Interim principal Tim Byford

The school is said to be hoping to raise £750,000 from parents, who were asked for the donations in a meeting on Wednesday April 18.

Interim principal Tim Byford had agreed to speak to the Gazette this week but cancelled the interview.

He instead emailed a statement which praised the “beautiful singing” of staff at last week’s meeting.

It said: “We had a massive turn out by parents, staff and RSSKL Association members at the whole school meeting. The meeting opened with some beautiful singing by staff.”

Interim principal Tim Byford

The £9,875-a-year school which has been threatened with closure by the government declined to answer questions from the Gazette this week.

The school had agreed to an interview with us about a string of damaging revelations.

But interim principal Tim Byford declined to speak to the Gazette, and after initially asking us to email any questions the school communications manager said there would be no answers.

Rudolf Steiner School has been threatened with closure for more than two years, following a series of inspections from two separate official bodies.

But it now appears that:

>The school is appealing for donations and loans from parents, in a bid to raise £750,000 to stay open;

>Three separate legal firms have been employed by the school, including the firm which represented Princess Diana in her divorce from the Prince of Wales, in their

efforts to stay open;

> Parents are also being asked to offer help with legal, financial, property, fundraising and “educational leadership” expertise, free of charge;

> The school has a £200,000 pension deficit.

The school has neither confirmed nor denied any of these allegations.

Some allegations have already been confirmed however, including:

> The school expects to have its budget cut by around 10 per cent next year, as the principal told the Gazette in a previous interview;

> Ofsted has visited the school five times since November 2016, with Rudolf Steiner School repeatedly failing to meet the required inspections.

Parents, staff and school association members all attended a school meeting last Wednesday (April 18) when some of these issues were discussed.

One parent who attended the meeting told the Gazette parents were asked to contribute £150,000 to ‘cover the costs of a tribunal’ and a further £600,000 to help keep the school open through the summer.

In an emailed statement Tim Byford said: “We had a massive turnout by parents, staff and RSSKL Association members at the whole school meeting. The meeting opened with some beautiful singing by staff.

“We then heard from several Class 11 students about their experiences of the school.”

He added: “There was an hour for parents and friends to ask questions of all concerned.

“The in-depth questions helped define the school needs in additional skills at trustee level, money-raising and in continuing the appeal process.

“People have since come forward to generously offer help in skills and time.

“Many thanks to all who attended and additional heartfelt thanks to those who have offered help and advice since the meeting.”

The latest inspection report from Ofsted has now been released, and is worse than previously thought.

Two weeks ago the Gazette reported on the latest visit from the school inspection body, which took place in February. At the time that report was not publicly available, but it was believed that only safeguarding was criticised.

However, it is now clear that Ofsted also stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.

About quality of education, the report says: “Not all teachers planned lessons in line with leaders’ expectations. For example, they did not consider carefully enough the needs of pupils who have additional learning needs.

“Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy.”

The section about ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ adds: “Leaders have failed to ensure that all new employees have been thoroughly vetted prior to taking up their post.

“They have accepted applications that fall far short of a professional standard and have not taken up appropriate references.

“Once again, leaders have potentially put pupils at risk by not assuring themselves of the suitability of the staff they employ.”

Finally, the leadership section said that the school was getting worse in some respects. It said: “Crucially, leaders have failed to sustain the improvements to safer recruitment practice.

“These failings have been long-standing at this school. Recent appointments demonstrate an unacceptable standard of practice. The application process is not completed professionally.

“The school’s policy on recruiting new teachers has evidently been ignored. This represents a worrying reversal of the new safeguarding culture emerging at the previous inspection.”