A school once considered the best in Bristol is still not doing enough to address "serious weaknesses", nearly 18 months after receiving the worst Ofsted rating.
Montpelier High School remains “inadequate” despite a change of leadership and making improvements, including tackling bullying.
Ofsted inspectors made their second monitoring visit since the damning report in June 2022 and found many pupils felt unprepared for life beyond their studies while some did not think they were given sufficient guidance or information about careers and further education.
The girls’ school, which is run by the Venturers’ Trust, a multi-academy trust sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, was long regarded as a top education provider and was one of the most oversubscribed in the city following an “outstanding” Ofsted report in 2010.
It was not inspected again for 12 years.
The “outstanding” rating followed the switch from a fee-paying school to a state-funded academy in 2008.
It changed its name from Colston’s Girls’ School in November 2020 following the toppling of the Colston Statue.
Headteacher Vanetta Spence, who took over the role in June, said: “The finding that we have made progress to improve the school was the best outcome we could receive from a monitoring inspection.”
She said she was confident of a better overall rating following the next full inspection in the next year.
"Does not feel like a safe place"
In 2022, the watchdog found that “for a significant proportion” of pupils, the school on Cheltenham Road did “not feel like a safe place” because of bullying, while the quality of education, sixth-form, and personal development of students also required improvement.
In a letter to the headteacher, published on Monday 13 November, following the latest monitoring visit on 20 September, Ofsted inspector Susan Aykin said: “Leaders have made progress to improve the school, but more work is necessary for the school to be no longer judged as having serious weaknesses.
“Since the monitoring inspection in December 2022, a new headteacher has been appointed.
“The senior leadership team now includes four associate headteachers.
“In addition, the pastoral team has been expanded to include non-teaching heads of year.
“The school has taken action to address the areas of weakness identified at the previous Inspection.”
The inspector said “robust safeguarding procedures” were in place to protect pupils’ physical and emotional wellbeing.
She said: “The school works closely with external agencies, including the local authority’s safeguarding team, to ensure that pupils at risk of harm receive effective support.
“The school is vigilant about the risks that pupils may face.
“Through regular scrutiny of safeguarding concerns, the school ensures that all information pertaining to vulnerable pupils is recorded and shared effectively.
“For example, the attendance officer, the special educational needs coordinator, the safeguarding leader and heads of year meet frequently to evaluate the information they have about pupils and decide on appropriate actions.”
Ms Aykin said students of all year groups reported “significant improvements” in the relationships between classmates and between pupils and staff.
“Pupils have a trusted adult with whom they can share their worries,” she said.
“Many pupils state that they have strong relationships with staff and feel supported and protected.
“Pupils define bullying accurately and have increased confidence that bullying issues are resolved effectively.
“The school has improved its overview of behaviour and bullying incidents, both of which have decreased significantly.
“However, despite the school having revised the personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum, many pupils do not yet feel that they are well prepared for the world beyond school.
“Some pupils feel that they do not receive a breadth of information and clear guidance about future careers and further education.
“However, sixth-form students study a very effective PSHE curriculum.
“Sixth-form students also receive detailed and informative guidance about careers, apprenticeships and higher education.”
Asked to comment, Vanetta Spence said: “We are pleased that Susan Aykin, who carried out our second monitoring inspection in September, recognised the improvements that the school has made, commenting on our robust safeguarding procedures, strong relationships and a clear vision for success that prioritises welfare and education.
“The finding that we have made progress to improve the school was the best outcome we could receive from a monitoring inspection.
“Further improvements have been made since the visit, thanks to the efforts of staff, leaders, governors, parents, students and members of the Venturers Trust team.
“We are continuing to work hard to make our school the best it can be and we are confident that when Ofsted returns to carry out a full inspection at some time in the next year we will be able to earn a positive judgement.”
Monitoring visits are different to graded visits and do not result in a newly assessed overall rating but instead check progress on addressing identified weaknesses.
Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service