Holgate Meadows Sheffield: 'Inadequate' special school's plans to join trust delayed by £2.4m deficit

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An 'inadequate' Sheffield special school's plans to join a multi-academy trust have been delayed by "financial difficulties", an Ofsted report states.

An 'inadequate' Sheffield special school's plans to join a multi-academy trust have been delayed by "financial difficulties", an Ofsted report states.

Holgate Meadows was handed the lowest grade possible by the education watchdog in March 2022, with inspectors saying pupils did "not feel safe" while heavily criticising the school's leadership.

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Papers in July revealed how Holgate Meadows special school, in Parson Cross, has reportedly run up a deficit ahead of £2.4m. Now, its efforts to join an academy trust also appear to have been delayed.Papers in July revealed how Holgate Meadows special school, in Parson Cross, has reportedly run up a deficit ahead of £2.4m. Now, its efforts to join an academy trust also appear to have been delayed.
Papers in July revealed how Holgate Meadows special school, in Parson Cross, has reportedly run up a deficit ahead of £2.4m. Now, its efforts to join an academy trust also appear to have been delayed. | Google Maps, submitted

Since then, papers have shown how the special school has run up a £2.4m deficit and has made 13 teaching assistants redundant, with more staff expected to go in time.

Amid all this, Holgate Meadows has been working to join Nexus MAT to bring about stability.

However, it has now emerged the school's efforts to join the trust have been delayed due to its "significant financial hardship".

It puts a spanner in the schools reported efforts to reduce its spending to a level where its debts can "written off" when it joins the academy.

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Holgate Meadows School was rated 'Inadequate' by Ofsted in 2022. It remains in special measures as of its most recent monitoring visits, and has made as many as 13 teaching assistants redundant.Holgate Meadows School was rated 'Inadequate' by Ofsted in 2022. It remains in special measures as of its most recent monitoring visits, and has made as many as 13 teaching assistants redundant.
Holgate Meadows School was rated 'Inadequate' by Ofsted in 2022. It remains in special measures as of its most recent monitoring visits, and has made as many as 13 teaching assistants redundant. | google maps

The monitoring by Ofsted, published on September 21, reads: "[Joining Nexus MAT] has been delayed due to the financial insecurity of the school. This is being addressed with a staff restructure and ongoing negotiations with the local authority regarding funding arrangements and placements for pupils.

"Despite the extra challenges that this delay has caused, you and your team have continued to concentrate on school improvement priorities."

Meanwhile, the monitoring report says progress is being made to bring Holgate Meadows back up to scratch, with compliments paid to nearly every aspect of school life - but more improvements are needed to shake of its 'special measures' status.

The report reads: "Although the school is experiencing a turbulent time, there are positive aspects to celebrate.

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"There is now a shared and clearly understood intent for the curriculum. Curriculum leaders have a much-improved understanding of the whole school curriculum.

"You are aware that the quality of support that pupils currently receive in lessons is not as effective as it should be. You have plans in place to train staff.

"Procedures have been tightened and improved to make sure that pupils, particularly pupils who are persistently absent from school, are safe."

However, a persistent issue raised in the school's last three Ofsted visits has been the number of pupils who are persistently absent, attend alternative provision, or "whose needs cannot be met".

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The newest report reads: "There continues to be a significant proportion of pupils whose needs cannot be met by the school, or who are persistently absent or attend alternative provision on a full-time basis but remain on the school’s roll. The welfare and safety of these pupils remain your highest priority.

"Procedures have been tightened and improved to make sure that pupils, particularly pupils who are persistently absent from school, are safe."

Papers shown to The Star in July revealed how the school had run up a £2.49m deficit, from a surplus of £300,000 in 2019, with leaders saying it was facing “significant financial hardship” over a “budget deficit and decline in pupil numbers”.

A source close to the school called the funding gap “unpayable, by any school”.

But the school says it believes its actions this year will reduce the per-year overspending to “around £200,000” so that it may be “written off” when it is academised.

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