RUTHIN School has an autocratic and controlling management system and young people are not safeguarded appropriately, according to an official report.

The report by the Care Inspectorate Wales follows an inspection last November.

It has already attracted criticism from a Welsh Assembly Member, and a demand for heads to roll.

This comes just months after the school was listed second in The Sunday Times Schools Guide 2020 Welsh independent schools category.

The report states: “We found a culture where there was a lack of robust challenge prevalent at all levels, with an autocratic and controlling management system in place. Whilst there were designated line management systems in place, these were not implemented effectively and there were times when it was apparent senior staff were excluded from fulfilling their management functions.”

“The systems in place for governance and monitoring were not sufficiently robust, with no evidence of challenge; this had led to serious shortfalls in the safeguarding arrangements at the school.

"Some staff did not always feel supported, morale was low and they felt undermined and vulnerable by the lack of effective oversight by the Council of Management (COM). The COM does not have robust enough processes in place to safeguard the emotional health and wellbeing of young people.

“The leadership, management and governance relating to safeguarding was found to be inadequate and as a result, young people were not fully protected. Young people are not appropriately safeguarded as the COM has not demonstrated capacity to provide effective leadership, challenge and oversight to ensure policies and practice are implemented effectively.

"A safeguarding policy is in place however, this had not always been followed and had left those responsible exposed and young people not safeguarded appropriately.

“Young people in the main, spoke positively about their experiences at the school, felt supported by the boarding staff, but some did share they felt under pressure to achieve, particularly during exam times.

"Young people are more susceptible to have emotional wellbeing needs, especially those that live away from their families, however, the current policies are not ensuring young people have the appropriate access to specialist services to support their emotional health and well being.”

The school’s principal is Toby Belfield, who has been in post since 2008.

A spokesperson for the school said: “The COM was already carrying out a root and branch strategic review at the time of the inspection, and that work is continuing. We welcome the timely publication of the latest Care Inspectorate report and are ensuring the observations and action points contained in it are fully addressed as part of our review. The work we are doing now will ensure the school’s governance and operational procedures continue to keep pace with modern requirements.”

North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, said: “Heads must roll over this report’s findings. It’s been incredibly concerning to read of failings at Ruthin School and the report makes clear the leadership, management and governance relating to safeguarding was found to be inadequate and as a result, young people were not fully protected. This is the second report in a year following Denbighshire Council’s concerns about safeguarding issues. Senior management must now respond quickly to allay people’s concerns and that means taking decisive action against those who are responsible for the school’s running.”

Ruthin School’s fees range between £13,000 and £14,000 per annum for day pupils and £40,500 for boarders. Estyn, the school’s watchdog for Wales, reported last February the school had 360 pupils, of whom 192 are sixth-form pupils. Day pupils come from a wide catchment area that includes Denbighshire, Flintshire and Cheshire. There were 226 boarders at the school, nearly all from overseas.

This report added: “Pupils at Ruthin School achieve outstanding outcomes in public examinations at the end of key stage four and in the sixth form. Across the school, pupils display extremely positive attitudes to their learning and high levels of wellbeing. The principal provides astute and assured leadership. Together with the COM, he sets a clear strategic vision and mission, provides firm direction and promotes high expectations for all areas of the school’s work.”