Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane, the renamed Downhills Primary School, has been judged Good by Ofsted, according to the Times
said the result is a “vindication” of the decision of Education Secretary Michael Gove to force Downhills to become an academy under the Harris chain from September 2012. The paper said the Ofsted report, which hasn’t yet been officially published on Ofsted’s website, “poses hard questions for campaigners who fought him [Gove] tooth and nail.” The article reminds readers Gove had described these campaigners as “ideologues who are happy with failure – the enemies of promise”. The result should, the Times
said, boost the reputation of Harris.
But there’s one flaw in the paper's argument – Downhills was already improving.
Downhills had been judged Inadequate in January 2011 despite the quality of teaching being Satisfactory (although variable), leadership and management Satisfactory and effectiveness of care, guidance and support being Good. The judgement appeared to have been influenced by the poor 2009 results when just 40% of Downhills’ pupils achieved Level 4 in the Key Stage 2 Sats. Pupils hadn’t taken Sats in 2010 because of the test boycott.
The number achieving Level 4 rose to 63% in 2011, just over the target set by the Department for Education. An Ofsted monitoring report in September 2011 said Downhills was making “satisfactory progress” towards raising achievement and there was “a clear trend of improvement”. HMI Kekshan Salaria said the “core of experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise” was providing effective help and local authority support was good.
Downhills' results had risen; Ofsted said the school was improving. But Gove said it wasn’t – it was failing.
Ofsted duly returned in January 2012 and did a full inspection with Kekshan Salaria as lead inspector. This overturned the findings of the monitoring report and judged Downhills Inadequate.
In 2012, results rose again: 67% reached Level 4. And art work by Downhills pupils was considered outstanding enough to be displayed in the National Gallery
. But Ofsted’s monitoring report in July 2012 made no mention of this achievement. It reported the school was still struggling although the local authority had “provided a range of support to help the school make satisfactory progress in laying the foundations for improvement.”
So, results were still rising and “foundations for improvement” were present before Harris took over.
In 2013, the way of measuring Key Stage 2 results changed so a comparison with 2012 isn’t possible because no figure appears on the Schools Performance Table for Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane. But the new measurement shows the number of the academy’s pupils reaching Level 4 in 2013 was 69%.
An Ofsted monitoring report after Harris took over said the chain was offering strong support. But so was the LA before Harris took over. And, at last, Ofsted noticed the pupils’ exceptional art work.
The school should be congratulated for achieving a Good Ofsted judgement. But it is misleading to say the outcome was solely due to academy conversion and sponsorship by Harris. The “foundations of improvement” were already there and staff built upon them.
: During the last few weeks extracts from unpublished Ofsted reports have found their way into the media and politicians have revealed Ofsted judgements before official publication. Today the Times
and the website of Harris Academy Philip Lane have both published extracts from the unpublished Ofsted and the academy has a link to the full report. Ofsted has said premature publication of a report before it appears on Ofsted’s website could be a breach of copyright. Perhaps it’s time for Ofsted to act when schools, politicians or the media abuse the privilege of seeing draft reports before official publication.
*behind paywall but see extract on Schools Improvement Net
Downhills’ Ofsted reports can be downloaded here
. Monitoring inspection for Harris Academy Philip Lane can be downloaded here