Coombe House School has ‘significantly improved in a short time’ following an inspection by Ofsted.

The independent Dorset Centre of Excellence, which manages the special needs school near Shaftesbury, has now met independent school standards, after failing a prior emergency inspection in October 2022. 

It had previously been reported that the school had been improving, overcoming a ‘bumpy’ start since its creation last year, closing briefly in its first week. The school also struggled to recruit staff.

Some parents took to social media last year to claim the large school environment was not suitable for every child and complained that the site was not fully ready when it opened with building work still taking place.

Dorset Council said at the time that the first few weeks had been “bumpy” which led to some staff, including senior roles, leaving just weeks after being recruited.

Managing Director Andy Holder told a shareholders committee on Monday, September 18 that an Ofsted inspection was imminent and would shortly be published: “I think it is reasonable to say that Ofsted have reflected the progress that has been made thus far… it’s positive news,” he said.

The inspection, which took place between Tuesday, June 20 and Thursday, June 22 said the overall effectiveness ‘requires improvement,’ as does the quality of education.

However, the behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management parts of the school received a good rating, with the school meeting independent school standards.

The inspection was carried out without notice under section 109 (1) and (2) of the Education and Skills Act 2008, to advise the Education Secretary on the school’s suitability for continued registration at an independent school.

The report says that pupils ‘like their new school’, having formed trusting relationships with staff who have a detailed understanding of their needs.  

The report goes on to say that new leaders have 'significantly improved the school in a short time.'

However, the report outlined that leaders have not yet established a culture which promotes pupils’ enjoyment of reading.

According to the report, leaders have not yet 'adapted the environment or the curriculum to meet the needs of these pupils whose attitudes towards learning are not yet positive,' saying that the pupils do not learn the curriculum effectively.

During the inspection, pupils explained that they 'like their new school' and 'see that staff want the best for them.' The report explains that they have 'formed trusting relationships with staff who have a detailed understanding of their needs.'

The school’s headteacher, Darren Harte, said he was pleased with the progress made by the school.

He said: “I have been very pleased by the manner in which the school community has pulled together to ensure it develops a culture of continuous improvement.

“This report reflects the hard work of the team and pupils, who rightly deserve the positive comments within. Although inspectors agreed that there is more to do, the feedback from our pupils and their families was humbling and shows we are on the right path.” 

Coombe House School is operated by the Dorset Centre of Excellence, which is owned by Dorset Council and is part of the authority’s SEND Capital Strategy, a £40 million investment in Dorset’s young people, building capacity and strength in Dorset’s school system.