The Maharishi Schools Trust has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority
(ASA) for using the term “outstanding” in its marketing material. The ASA ruled:
“In the context of an ad for an education provider, the claim "outstanding academic results" was likely to be interpreted as referring to a current Ofsted rating; a rating which we understood had not been awarded by Ofsted to the Maharishi schools (primary and secondary) located in Lancashire. In the absence of such a rating, we concluded the claim "[Maharishi Free Schools] Have proven outstanding academic results" was misleading and had not been substantiated.”
The Trust defended itself by saying that a 2009 Ofsted inspection of the independent Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, which became the Maharishi Free School in September 2011, used the term “outstanding”. However, this inspection was a light-touch Independent School inspection which is not the same as one for a state school. And it doesn't apply to the Maharishi Free School which hasn't been inspected yet.
The ASA was not impressed with the school’s defence:
“The ASA noted the academic results of the students, which demonstrated they had achieved very good exam results, and we recognised that "outstanding" was a common descriptor used to denote achievement in many industries. However, we considered that parents of school-age children would be aware of Ofsted and its rating system and that "Outstanding" was its highest rating for overall quality of education.”
It’s not the first time the Maharishi Schools Trust has been in trouble. The ASA
ruled against it in relation to marketing of the Maharishi Free School last year. The Schools Adjudicator
twice ruled against the Admission Criteria of the Maharishi Free School in 2012. And the School failed to enter pupils for Key Stage 2 Sats despite the Funding Agreement making it clear that it should do so.
The Maharishi Schools Trust hopes to open a second free school in Suffolk
which will “follow the successful model of the Maharishi Free School in Lancashire.” It’s to be hoped that that doesn’t include admission criteria which fall foul of the Schools Admission Code and misleading marketing.