THE residential provision at an Andover special school has maintained its “outstanding” Ofsted rating despite not meeting national minimum standards.

Inspectors from the education watchdog visited Wolverdene Special School, in Love Lane, in February, and a report published in April graded it as “outstanding” overall.

However, the inspector found the school did not meet a national standard for operating safe recruitment and adopting recruitment procedures in line with regulatory requirements.

Ofsted visited the school after a higher number of complaints and allegations than usual were received since the last inspection, the majority about events during the day in education rather than the residential provision.

The school caters for primary-aged children who are experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

It provides mainly day placements, with 10 residential placements available for boys, where they stay for up to four nights a week.

Ofsted found the way children and young people are helped and protected was “good”, while the effectiveness of leaders and managers was “outstanding”.

At its previous inspection in January 2019 it was also graded as “outstanding”.

The inspector found that managers “appropriately reported safeguarding concerns to other agencies, including the designated officer of the local authority, whose advice they have closely followed”.

The inspector said that evidence of the process followed to address complaints is logged, but without chronology.

The report said: “Some children are averse to restrictive physical interventions, feeling that they made matters worse. However, staff ask all children about which strategy or holds work best for them and record them in behaviour support plans.”

It added: “Staff debriefs following an incident are not routinely recorded and physical interventions involving the head of care or her deputy mean that challenge of practice could be compromised.”

The inspector said it was hard to “establish if the school is following safer recruitment practice” because some references and employment history documentation was held by managers rather than in recruitment files.

The report said: “Once the papers were found, it was possible to see that in large part the school is doing so. However, staff have not verified references supplied by previous employers when this would be appropriate.”

Ofsted found that all children have “made measurable progress across a range of developmental areas, much of it substantial and all of it sustained”.

It said staff “lavish” emotional support on children, and added that “children have benefited enormously from making friends in the residential provision and in school, when both have proved too difficult elsewhere. This is a result of children feeling secure and so able to explore relationships and open themselves up to learning”.

The inspector also found that staff work well with children who experience “high levels of anxiety”, saying: “Children are able to adopt strategies that staff teach them in order to manage difficult feelings and better maintain control of their emotions and behaviour.”

The report said that some areas of the provision feel “institutional” partly because of “extensive use of the same colour paint for most rooms”.

However, it said children are able to personalise their rooms.

Leaders and managers were said to have “an acute understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses”.

Ofsted recommended that the school enhances the “homely environment of the residential provision” and that “complicated safeguarding and complaints” are recorded with chronology of events and actions so that how they have been addressed is clear.

The school was also asked to record debriefs of staff, and that a senior manager monitors those that involve a head of care.