The mysterious case of the vanishing Ofsted report.

Fiona Millar's picture
Here’s a little puzzle for you all. What happened to the Ofsted Inspection report into the Durand Academy (one of the Secretary of State’s favourite schools) that was carried out before Christmas?

Durand Academy tends to be in the news quite a lot. It has been involved in a number of high profile legal actions, Mr Gove name checks it in a lot of speeches, in the past it has paid a lot of money to a PR company which had connections with the school governing body.

More recently it as been involved in a long running dispute with locals in West Sussex, who object to the inner academy’s plans for a secondary boarding school in the South Downs.

It gets good results with an above average number of pupils eligible for the pupil premium and has been ranked “outstanding “ by Ofsted in recent years. However its last inspection, carried out on December 4-5 2013, changed that judgment. The school was rated as “good” in each of the four Ofsted categories.

The report, which appeared momentarily on the Ofsted website, explained that the school couldn’t be outstanding because not all teaching was “consistently good and outstanding” and “newly introduced systems to check how well the academy is doing are not yet fully developed by leaders to provide accurate and precise performance information.”

Pupils, “particularly the youngest children and the most able, are not encouraged enough to work independently” it stated.

You could read the full report for yourself, only it has now been removed from the Ofsted website, which seems unusual to me. Some schools do raise concerns between seeing the draft copies of their reports and publication, and Ofsted has also been known to delay initial publication while full moderation takes place. But to have been published on the Ofsted website in the first place it must have passed through the approval process. How is it possible that this could be reversed now?

I contacted Ofsted to ask them what had happened and felt the reply wasn’t altogether convincing. I was told by a spokesperson that there was ‘nothing untoward” about this decision. The report had been removed “to be reviewed”

Apparently a routine trawl of recent inspections to ensure compliance with the latest Ofsted guidance (which came into force on January 1 2014 so shouldn’t really have applied to 2013 inspections) found a few irregularities as inspectors hadn’t followed the new guidance (which didn't actually apply to the Durand inspection) to the letter. In particular this related to comments about “teaching style”

I was assured that no pressure had been brought to bear either by the school or the DFE, but that the actions had been taken by “senior officials” at Ofsted.

“HM Chief Inspector and Ofsted’s National Schools Director are clear they will not accept reports that do not properly follow Ofsted’s own guidance, especially relating to particular styles of teaching,” was the official response. “All judgments and grades still stand pending the conclusion of this review.”

In which case why can’t the report be made publicly available?  Lack of compliance should be picked up before publication and if there is scope for further review, why shouldn’t every other school that feels hard done by be afforded the same privileges as Durand?

Many schools feel that Ofsted inspections don’t fully reflect the strengths . Allegations about lack of consistency among inspection teams, and inadequate compliance with the Ofsted framework are not uncommon.

Yet an exception appears to have been made in the case of this school. The time for review is surely before publication not after, and that process should be applied fairly for all schools, not just those that are favoured by the current Secretary of State. Does anyone know of other cases where Ofsted has pursued a similar course of action?

Post script

Since writing this original blog I have been contacted by Ofsted again. They stress that the the report will be re-published in the very near future and that the Durand Ofsted was one of six removed from the Ofsted site due to concerns about "poor wording" in references to teaching style, in the light of recent Ofsted guidance on teaching and learning. This poor wording should have been picked up in the pre-publication period apparently, but wasn't.


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