Dear parents and carers,
As we pass the Michaelmas Festival, the School is also passing several important milestones and seeing many developments. We would like to take this opportunity to write to you all with an update on our status, and the changes at the School.
We would like to begin by thanking you all for the amazing support that you continue to show for the School, amid very rapid changes. We are aware that this is a period of great adjustment, and that things are happening at a rate that is difficult to absorb. As you will see below, this pace of change is necessary to address all the challenges we face. But we do also want to know how better we can work with everyone to make this transition a success.
As we informed parents at the Whole School Meeting on 4th Sep, the School submitted its grounds of appeal against de-registration in late August. These grounds stressed the rapid reforms being made at the School under the new governance and leadership, alongside the historical positives of the School, and its even more positive future. As per the normal timetable, the Department for Education has now responded to that submission and the Tribunal has set a hearing for February. Based on the response and this timing, and bearing in mind that Ofsted can come at any time, it is likely that Ofsted will return to inspect the School this term (before Christmas).
This is welcome news. If they come, an Ofsted inspection before the Tribunal will give the School the opportunity to demonstrate and evidence the progress made, and show that as an institution and a community we understand and comply with the Independent School Standards. This does not mean that the school improvement process will be completed this term, but we will ensure that the critical steps are complete and the rest is well underway, so that inspectors would leave in no doubt about the direction and permanence of the changes. Any Ofsted report will be considered carefully by DfE. DfE is free to decide to withdraw the notice of de-registration before the appeal hearing takes place. We hope to show DfE that the Independent School Standards are now being met or that concerns are being addressed rapidly and they will be met in a very short timeframe. Regardless of whether DfE decides to withdraw the notice of de-registration, we are committed to improving the school and will continue to prepare for the appeal hearing.
As you can appreciate, at the same time, this is a very compressed timetable for a comprehensive change process. This is why there is a need to make rapid changes quickly, which leaves little time for adjustment or sensitisation for the community. We do understand how abrupt some of these changes have been, but we also cannot delay steps that are essential for safeguarding and child protection like having a safe perimeter and changing the pick-up and drop-off system. We are grateful for the way that parents have adapted and embraced things with patience and understanding. Your role as parents is central to the School’s hopes of staying open.
The Tribunal will consider whether the School is meeting the Independent School Standards at the time of the hearing next February, and if not, whether the School has demonstrated that it is on course to meet them within a reasonable timeframe. Our chances of a successful appeal therefore depend on how much real change we achieve between now and then. It is in our hands to transform, and your support, patience and cooperation are vital.
We are grateful for the numerous offers of help you have given us. A vital contribution, we would welcome is your support for those who are working to ensure we achieve our primary goal of providing an excellent Steiner education in a safe and caring School. This includes all the wonderful teaching staff, administrators and support staff including volunteers who are devoting so much extra time to help us keep our school open. It is in that spirit that we kindly request that you keep any non-urgent matters that you may have to discuss with them to the times that are part of the school calendar, e.g. parents’ evenings. If it can wait, please let it wait.
These initial months, and these urgent steps, are the first steps in a long journey of change and improvement at the School. An outstanding School is always looking for ways to improve: we must always ask how can do better for our children, and how can we be a better Steiner School? Over the past months the new Trustees have been listening to many views, both inside and outside the community. The need for a head or principal was one of the things that resulted from those dialogues. Initially, the position was discussed as an interim role. Listening and reflecting since then, we have decided that it is in the best long term interests of the School that this role be a permanent part of the School’s make-up. So we wish to convey that while the individual occupying that role can change, the position will stay. We understand that this has been a big step for the School. Some Steiner Schools have adopted this model, some have not. But we believe that permanently embedding this position, alongside other changes to school management, will make sure that we not only survive through our current challenges but also thrive in the long term.
OUR STEINER COMMUNITY AND IDENTITY
As we wrote to the staff earlier this week, while we make this journey of change, we must also strive together to make sure that the flame of Steiner education continues to burn strongly at Kings Langley. Doing both things at once – meeting the standards and strengthening our Steiner ethos – is challenging, but it is fully doable. It requires patience, openness, a willingness to work together, and imagination – all things that lie at the heart of our School. The role of College is crucial here, to nurture that flame and support our teachers, and Trustees, SMT and College will be working together to make sure that we listen to all views about how we can strengthen that essence.
We are conscious that the rapid changes have affected people’s sense of community – in particular the changed access to shared social spaces of congregation around the car park and office, places which help glue us together. As described above, it has been essential to create a safe perimeter for your children, but we must cherish those social spaces too. We therefore plan to move the School café so that parents can continue to socialise there outside that safe perimeter, and likewise the School shop and the Community Space so lovingly created by the PTFA last year. But this will take time, so we ask that you bear with us while we work together to re-create or re-locate those social spaces.
Everything that is being done is with the goal of safeguarding our children and the School’s future – to ensure that the School does not have to close and making sure that is a safe School providing a wonderful Steiner education. It will take time for things to bed in, but in the long run we believe these new measures will protect the children, the School, its staff and parents too.
Our School and community are on a steep learning curve. This is true of all Steiner Schools, as we adapt to a changing world and Steiner education evolves for the 21st Century. We believe that as a School we should embrace that adaptive challenge with enthusiasm, turning our heads and hearts outwards to see what we can learn from those around us – wherever they come from. If we continue to listen, learn and evolve as a School then we cannot fail to meet the challenges ahead of us and flourish in the future. As parents that future depends so much on you and the wonderful children that you bring to our School, and we thank you for your support.
Peter Harrington, Chair
On behalf of the Trustees