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Independent £8,000-a-year St Helens Montessori School in East Farleigh graded 'inadequate' by Ofsted just two years after being rated 'outstanding'

An independent school which charges up to £8,130 a year in fees has been deemed 'inadequate' by inspectors - just two years after being graded 'outstanding'.

Ofsted bosses visited St Helens Montessori School in East Farleigh in November and found concerns with its leadership and a lack of accountability for the welfare and safety of pupils.

Concerns highlighted regarding pupil welfare included a lack of a fire-risk assessment on a recently built extension, the water in handbasins was too hot and that accommodation for the short-term care of sick or injured pupils did not meet requirements.

St Helens Montessori in East Farleigh, Maidstone. Picture: Google (6111298)
St Helens Montessori in East Farleigh, Maidstone. Picture: Google (6111298)

It was also claimed the children did not have "enough understanding about the dangers of extreme views or radicalisation".

Inspectors added that checks against adults looking to work at the school were not carried out rigorously enough.

Back in 2016, the school, which teaches pupils between two and 11, received a glowing report across the board, singling out Jeannelle Dening-Smitherman as an "inspirational and dynamic headteacher", who led with "great modesty and skill".

In this month's report, Ofsted still graded the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and outcomes for pupils, as 'outstanding' and noted that parents and carers highly recommend the school, and were "unanimous" in their view that it provides very well for their children.

"Pupils are happy, unfailingly polite, and rarely miss a day at school," inspectors added.

The school was recommended to make a number of improvements, including ensuring staff have regular training on the latest requirements in keeping children safe and that medical-room arrangements meet the required standards.

Miss Dening-Smitherman said: "We have already taken rapid steps to rectify the identified shortcomings.

"We have an excellent new administrator and we have another keen and committed safeguarding officer. Very much has already been done to lead us back to our Outstanding status.

"We would have been devastated had there been any issues with the happiness and well-being of our children and staff, or with the quality of our teaching and the children’s learning.

"That would have been far more upsetting and difficult to rectify.

"We have received so many letters of support and must now look forward to addressing all the issues and ensuring that our children continue to receive this high-quality education in a safe and happy environment."

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