A SOUTHAMPTON school where children complain about bullying and where pupils feel “disheartened” is on an “exciting journey of development”, it claims.

St Mary’s Independent school has been slammed in a damning inspection and rated as ‘Inadequate’ by education watchdog Ofsted.

However, the school has hit back claiming the inspection process was flawed and it does not accept many of the inspectors’s findings

St Mary’s has now raised a formal complaint after inspectors visited its Midanbury Lane grounds between December 3 and December 5 last year.

The overall effectiveness of the school was rated as ‘Inadequate’, as was the leadership and management of the school under headteacher Claire Charlemagne.

The school has dropped from a “Requiring Improvement” rating following its last inspection in 2018. Furthermore, the school does not meet the Independent School Standards (ISS).

With annual fees between £8,085 and £10,506, there are 242 students aged between three-years-old and 16-years-old. According to the Ofsted report, pupil attendance and behaviour is poor overall with too many pupils regularly absent.

The report said that some older pupils interrupted their teachers, making it hard for their classmates to learn. A number of pupils complained to inspectors that the unruly atmosphere was affecting their learning. Others felt that teachers did not always respond when they raised concerns about some forms of bullying.

However, the inspectors found the school had effective safeguarding measures.

In lower year groups, pupils were upbeat and told inspectors how happy they were. But as pupils moved up through the school, their views became more negative.

Ofsted inspectors said St Mary’s needed an effective school-wide culture of accountability and to fix divisions within the school community, and ensure that a planned curriculum is implemented quickly.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Governors, leaders, staff, parents and pupils are extremely disappointed with the outcome of the recent inspection. Unfortunately, the inspection had been triggered by a complaint to the Department for Education which had not been raised previously with the school.

“The school strongly believes that the inspection process was flawed as a result, and has raised a formal complaint with Ofsted. While the school does not accept many of the inspection report’s findings, it does acknowledge that there are always areas where improvements can be made, and it embraces the opportunity as a springboard for future development.”

Mrs Charlemagne said: “St Mary’s Independent School is on an exciting journey of development and has made some bold changes over the past three years.

“These improvements ensure that the school provides the very best educational experience.”