Homophobic language and bullying are rife at a specialised autism school set for closure, the national education watchdog has reported.

The Anderson School in Chigwell has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in a scathing review of the school.

Following an inspection in March, Inspectors outlined numerous behavioural issues, a ‘chaotic’ environment and poor-quality teaching.

In a report published yesterday (May 20), the school – previously rated ‘requires improvement’ – was said to experience an overwhelming number of “significant behavioural incidents”.

Pupils Ofsted inspectors spoke with said did not feel safe in school.

Inspectors wrote: “They do not like the homophobic language and feel particularly threatened by abusive language, which is common, and the violent behaviour of a minority of pupils.

“Pupils told us that they do not feel free from bullying. Many are not confident that teachers would deal effectively with bullying. Conversely, teachers believe that they protect pupils effectively from bullying.”

Behavioural failings were said to be a result of the school admitting too many pupils with high-level needs too quickly.

Students interviewed by Ofsted had “mixed views” of the school.

Ofsted reported: “Some enjoy school and point out how staff help them overcome their anxieties. Others say it is chaotic and feel events in school heighten their anxieties.

“The serious behavioural incidents they witness impact on their education and well-being. They say the school is dangerous. They do not feel safe.”

Two thirds of the pupils who completed the Ofsted survey said they would not recommend the school to a friend moving to the area.

A high turnover of staff had damaged relationships and trust between pupils and teachers, the report concluded.

“Frequent changes in staff mean that the curriculum is not taught well”, Inspectors said. “The lack of continuity means pupils’ learning and confidence suffer. Too many staff have low expectations of what pupils can do.”

However, inspectors praised “pockets of very effective teaching, where staff have considered pupils’ interests and matched learning to individual needs.”

In April, The National Autistic Society (NAS) revealed the school would cease operations at the end of July just three years after it opened.

Caroline Stevens, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “This is a deeply disappointing report, which underlines the extent of the difficulties the school has been facing.    

“We have been running good and outstanding schools for over 50 years and know how challenging it can be to open a specialist school. But our school in Chigwell had particular problems, ever since it opened in 2017.  

“The school team worked hard to turn things around and made progress in some areas. But the improvements weren’t sustained and, as Ofsted identified in this report and previously, many of the challenges are deep rooted.   

“It can take established schools three years or more to overcome serious problems and get up to the right standards. And we believe it could take our school in Chigwell even longer. We simply cannot continue running a school that does not consistently reach expected standards and won’t do so for years. It simply wouldn’t be right, which is why we took the difficult decision to close the school at the end of the summer term.   

“Everyone involved in the school had high ambitions when it opened and we’re very sorry we haven’t lived up to these aims. We understand how deeply disappointed many students, parents and carers are and want to reassure them that our focus is on supporting our students through this difficult time and helping them to prepare for the next stage of their education.      

“We know there are questions about the school site and want to reassure people that we are committed to ensuring that it is used to benefit autistic children and young people. We are still considering the options and are talking to other organisations about possible opportunities.”

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