Wynstones Principal Paul Hougham today apologised for the school’s past failings and promised a new start following the publication of a damning report on safeguarding at the Steiner Waldorf School in Whaddon.
The school was closed in 2020 following an OFSTED assessment for failings in safeguarding children. All teachers were made redundant and the full board of Trustees resigned.
An independent report published today points out serious failings that took place under the school’s previous management:
1. Safeguarding arrangements were not seen as a central and integral part of how the school was managed.
2. There was a lack of clarity and purpose in safeguarding arrangements that was compounded by a reactive approach that did not locate responsibility in one point.
3. Potential tensions between individuals’ “philosophy” and safeguarding (as being in the best interests of the child) was not managed, and this may have contributed, for example, to peer on peer abuse not being fully recognised as being serious and significant.
Hougham, appointed in March 2020 to rebuild Wynstones, today apologised to families affected by the closure and promised a completely new start:
“I would like to apologise for the historic failures of the school, and the impact on those families and children affected. That this and other Steiner Waldorf schools failed so badly is a travesty. Waldorf Education should be part of an essential renewal in education that puts the holistic development of head, hand and heart at the core of how we raise our children. It can only do this if a central ethic of safeguarding leads its provision, in all schools. I am grateful to Ofsted for holding the school to account. I am grateful to this report’s authors for the depth and integrity of its difficult truths. We will continue to commission annual audits from the Local Authority. And I am committed to our renewal of Wynstones, as a beacon of holistic education.
The pioneering community of parents for this coming’s September’s relaunch are finding a deep resonance with that vision, and at our open days and parent meetings there are many dialogues that are crafting and creating that community. One parent, moving across the country from London, has said:
“At a time when there is increasing awareness about the need for systemic change, here is a school responding with a clear vision – and one that resonates with me deeply. The team seem to me to be addressing the issues that led to this particular school’s closure head on, incorporating a sophisticated understanding of what has and hasn’t worked within the education system at large, and building all those rich insights into their leadership model. As I understand it, the school is setting out to integrate the best of Steiner Waldorf into a clued-up contemporary, progressive setting. Facilitating cutting edge learning for children in a nurturing and creative environment. My sense is that this school will attract families aligned with its vision of change – not just within education but within the world at large – and we’re excited to be a part of that.”
The new Principal is hiring a new team as he plans to reopen the school for pupils aged 3-11 this September. A completely new Board of Trustees was also appointed to oversee the school’s relaunch.
Chair of Trustees and former head of Broadway Infant School in Yate, Juliet Lambert, said:
“As a former State school headteacher and now chair of Wynstones’ trustees, I’ve long admired the Steiner Waldorf education approach to educating the whole child in a natural, inclusive environment. It was clear that Wynstones under past management had serious failings and I join Paul in apologising to the families affected. Under new management and with a completely fresh teaching and leadership staff, we will set the highest standards from the start and make Wynstones a model of what this kind of education can offer in the best possible environment for children.”
“Waldorf education in the UK is going through a process of modernisation and renewal which will put it at the heart of new educational thinking. Wynstones is at the forefront of that change. Paul Hougham brings a dynamic forward-thinking approach to Waldorf education. His particular cross-sector experience makes him uniquely equipped to develop a new and reinvigorated version of Waldorf education at Wynstones.”
Fran Russell, Chief Executive, Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, March 2021
Hougham also stated:
“All of the points covered in the safeguarding review have been rigorously addressed by the school and now form robust foundations that carry the essential integrity at the heart of Waldorf schools:
1. Safeguarding arrangements are now a central and integral part of how the school is managed. The school’s leaders and trustees are committed and bound to ensuring the ‘establishment of an embedded, integrated and standards led approach to safeguarding.’
2. The school’s DSL and newly appointed Vice Principal (Safeguarding and Wellbeing) is Kathryn de Ferrer, who brings 10 years of experience in leading safeguarding teams in both comprehensive and independent boarding schools.
3. A review of the school’s mission in November 2020 concluded with an unequivocal statement that: “Our commitment to safeguarding is absolute: Wynstones must and will meet the very highest standards.” These standards will be ensured by:
a. High quality staff training in safeguarding, child protection and whistleblowing without any conflicting messages.
b. Children’s safety will be protected by effective systems, appropriate training, monitored practice and vigilant oversight.
The regular reporting of various stages of the review process over the past year together with the school’s own dialogue with the Department for Education and the NSPCC has led to significant initiatives that have fundamentally reinstalled an accurate safeguarding ethic and culture within the new school:
• A safeguarding outreach programme has begun to establish a shared understanding with parents and the wider community on how safeguarding is a core expression of care. Four videocasts on the school’s website are serving as starting points for this programme, challenging myths and promoting collective ownership.
• Record keeping is overseen by a designated trustee: Ian Lawrie QC, in order to ensure an exemplary level of quality assurance to the school’s procedural integrity.”
The review and report also addressed all recorded cases over a 12 month period. The school’s new team recognise the changing landscape of safeguarding provision for all schools. It is joining many progressive settings in establishing the opportunity of ‘listening spaces’ for past students and/or parents. This is being led by the school’s Vice Principal, Kathryn de Ferrer, and more details are available through the school’s website.
De Ferrer commented:
“The new Wynstones is already demonstrating a highly professional approach to progressive education, and absolutely core to this is ensuring that an impeccable safeguarding culture is front and centre in all we do. This is essentially about how students are safe, happy, healthy and thrive in our care.”
The report concluded that on the basis of the presence and performance of the school’s new Principal and Trustees, the school now has the scope and basis for the ‘establishment of an embedded, integrated and standards led approach to safeguarding.’
“In July 2019 Amanda Spielman, head of Ofsted, wrote to the then Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds, recommending that all Steiner Waldorf Schools be investigated for how the underlying principles of the pedagogy, their educational philosophy, was leading to their failures. Ofsted was absolutely right to inspect and instruct closure of schools, but it was the prevailing cultures in the schools, not their underlying philosophies, that were at fault, and led to unsafe cultures, inadequate provision and failing schools.
Wynstones is at the forefront of a renewal and revolution in Waldorf Education, restoring the authenticity of a holistic education of head, hand and heart that is progressive and professional, so brilliantly provided in many other countries around the world, and deserved by kids here.”
Paul Hougham, Principal at Wynstones, April 2021
Press contact: Paul Hougham, Principal, 01452 429220