Minister: I see that the boss has ordered an Ofsted inspection of that school in Haringey that’s defying his wishes. But I thought that an inspection was due in the next few months anyway.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: That is true, Minister, but the Secretary of State has ordered that the inspection takes place sooner rather than later.
Minister: Won’t that be seen as undermining Ofsted’s judgement about the timing of an inspection?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, no, Minister. I’m sure the new head of Ofsted will oblige.
Minister: Wasn’t there a monitoring inspection in September last year which said that the school was improving and that the local authority had been very helpful?
Sir Humphrey: Quite correct, Minister, but one must remember that the local authority is being intransigent and opposing the Secretary of State. It is perhaps wise to forget that the local authority has actually supported the school. Remember, he has told Haringey, “Hands off”. In the circumstances, Minister, it will not do to draw attention to any help that Haringey gave the school.
Minister: Yes, that was a hard-hitting speech he gave. “Hands off!” I like that – I might use it myself.
Sir Humphrey: I shall make sure the expression appears in your next speech, Minister.
Minister: One more quibble – I don’t suppose anyone will notice, but didn’t the school’s Sat results exceed our benchmark?
Sir Humphrey: Only by 1%, Minister. It’s neither here nor there. The important thing to remember is that academy conversion is the only way by which schools can raise performance. Monson Primary School in Lewisham improved considerably after it became part of Haberdasher’s Aske’s Hatcham Academy. Last year 76% of the Year 6 pupils gained Level 4 in English and Maths, and 50% of the disadvantaged pupils in the school gained Level 4.
Minister: But I’ve received an email from a constituent… now where is it? (Shuffles through a pile of paper on desk and pulls out a sheet) Ah, here it is… I’ll read it, “Brockley Primary in Lewisham was placed in special measures in 2010. It did not convert to academy status but still managed to increase its results by over 100% between 2009 and 2011. 88% of its Key Stage pupils gained Level 4 in Maths and English last year, and 85% of the disadvantaged pupils achieved the expected grade. This shows that academy conversion is not essential to raise results.”
Sir Humphrey: May I see that, Minister? (Sir Humphrey takes the paper, carries to the shredder and presses the button.) I think we can forget about that, Minister.
Minister: But what about the 40 secondary academies who failed to reach our benchmark in 2010?
Sir Humphrey: Sorry, Minister, I didn’t hear you above the noise of the shredder. In any case, many schools with improving results are still judged by Ofsted to be only satisfactory, and Ofsted has ruled that “satisfactory” means “failing”. The dictionary definition of “satisfactory” is “not outstanding”. It follows, then, that any school which is not outstanding is merely satisfactory which means they are failing.
Minister: But that means that any school which Ofsted judges to be “good” is only “satisfactory” which means they are actually “failing”.
Sir Humphrey: Precisely, Minister. They will then be ripe for academy conversion.