Menorah Grammar School in Edgware has received a damning verdict from Ofsted, which described it as “dysfunctional” and operating in “appalling” premises with a curriculum “not fit for purpose”.
The independent boys’ school, which caters for the modern end of the Charedi sector and earned a good rating at its last inspection less than three years ago, was judged inadequate in all categories.
Following the inspection at the beginning of March, the governors took the unusual step of shutting the school in order to carry out improvement on the building.
But Ofsted was unsparing in its report of what inspectors had found at the time, saying the “dirty and unsafe” premises included broken windows and lights, faulty emergency lighting and filthy toilets.
Fire extinguishers had not been serviced, open upper floor windows presented a risk of falling and drinking fountains in the playground were covered in mould.
There were “potentially serious concerns about the condition of the science laboratories, fire safety, the safety of the boiler, management of asbestos, and risk of Legionnaires’ disease”.
Pupils, who take GCSEs in year 10 and begin their A-level studies in year 11, were “getting a very poor deal”.
The curriculum was poorly designed, lacked ambition and “set pupils up for failure in the sixth form”. They often behaved poorly in lessons “partly because they are bored”.
In subjects such as English, “teaching focuses on training pupils to pass their GCSEs in year 10 right from the time they start year seven. Pupils are then expected to be ready for A-level study in year 11.”
It was “unsurprising that sixth-form examination results are poor in almost all subjects,” Ofsted said.
An urgent review of the whole curriculum was being planned, Menorah’s new leaders told inspectors.
The high turnover of headteachers and lack of effective governance had resulted “in a dysfunctional school”, whose pupils lacked confidence in the school’s leadership.
“An example of this,” Ofsted said, “is the graffiti which shows pupils voting on how long the latest headteacher will remain in his post.”
But despite the serious concerns, many pupils spoke positively about the school and liked its close-knit nature.
One strength was the special needs team, which was well led, inspectors said.
Pupils did not know enough about other faiths and cultures and had too little opportunity to meet people from other communities. They did know about “all the protected characteristics”. (Protected characteristics set out in equality law include sexual orientation and gender reassignment).
Inspectors also reported “major concerns about the school’s systems for keeping pupils safe” and found staff who had not had the required checks.
In response, the school said it had "driven through a rapid school improvement project including infrastructure, education and staffing. It is not a report we are proud of and in the past few months, we have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds of resources, focussing on all areas including the issues Ofsted raised.
It senior leadership has been restructured and a new headteacher appointed, who has "redesigned our entire educational provision in collaboration with a UK turnaround expert, focusing on all Independent School Standards to ensure we comply fully.
"We believe that we have the leadership and infrastructure to turn MGS around and return it to the Ofsted- rated 'good' school it was a year ago."