‘The Department did not receive complaints regarding the remaining ten schools which contributed to the decision to commission inspections.’
Department for Education (DfE) response, 19 August 2014, to Freedom of Information request
21 schools were inspected in April 2014 as part of the Trojan Horse investigations. Ofsted ordered six but the remaining fifteen were at the request of Michael Gove, then Education Secretary.
Four of these fifteen were named in the Trojan Horse letter but that left eleven which were not. So why were these eleven chosen? Had the DfE received complaints?
The DfE confirmed it received four complaints about Oldknow Academy
but no complaints about the remaining ten. It says these were inspected because:
‘the [then] Secretary of State had a range of concerns regarding the other eleven schools. Internal investigations raised a number of potential issues, particularly in relation to leadership and governance and the safeguarding of children in these settings.’
It’s unclear, however, what sparked these ‘internal investigations’. Or what form these internal investigations took. There were, after all, no complaints.
I can only speculate but in some cases it appears staff changes may have triggered inspections. In January 2014, Ofsted were concerned about ‘constant changes’ in leadership and high staff turnover at Ladypool Primary School
. Inspectors judged it to Require Improvement. Nevertheless, inspectors praised new head, Huda Aslam, for taking ‘swift action to accelerate the pace of improvement’ and noted there’d been a ‘marked improvement in governance’.
A monitoring inspection of Ladypool took place on 24 March 2014. Inspectors found the local authority (LA) was providing ‘training, support and challenge’. However, inspectors said some staff were ‘in a state of denial’ about the need to improve and were ‘reluctant to face the facts’.
A week later, Ofsted returned. This group of inspectors criticised LA advisers for not
ensuring leaders and governors fulfilled their statutory responsibilities. This overturned the monitoring judgement made a few days previously which said a National Leader of Governance was providing support to keep governors up-to-date with their statutory duties. The second group of inspectors found staff confidence in the head, leaders and governors was ‘mixed’. It’s unclear whether this group is the same as the ones criticised a few days before for being ‘in a state of denial’.
Liz Manley, who was head of Ladypool Primary School during the 2011 inspection when it was judged Good, is one of the ‘Trojan Horse’ heads whose cases have been taken up by the NAHT
Welford Primary School
and Marlborough Junior School
both had new heads but these were because the previous heads retired. Montgomery Primary Academy
had many changes of staff since becoming an academy in October 2012 but monitoring in March 2013 found the sponsor, AET, was providing ‘valued’ support.
But there had been no staff upheaval at Ninestiles Academy
. A full inspection in October 2013 judged it Outstanding in all four categories. In 2012, Michael Gove had praised
the executive principal, Christine Quinn. It’s difficult to understand why Ninestiles should have been subjected to what Quinn described as a ‘harrowing’ experience
when it was Outstanding and no complaints had been received.
Similarly, Small Heath School
and Waverley School
had been judged Outstanding in all four categories in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Ofsted had praised Small Heath’s head and leaders for ‘excellent leadership’ and Waverley’s governance for supporting the school’s improvement ‘exceptionally well’.
There appear no obvious reasons why Alston Primary School
and Gracelands Nursery School
should have been inspected just as there are no obvious reasons why Ninestiles, Small Heath
were targeted. And the staff changes at Welford, Marlborough
seem insufficient grounds to send in Ofsted as part of Trojan Horse. Remember, no complaints had been received.
There is one school remaining: Washwood Heath Academy
. There were historical allegations dating from 1999/2000 about the predecessor school, Washwood Heath Technology College, although it was not until 2002 that Birmingham City Council took decisive action. The Council used new legislation to replace the entire governing body. The last full inspection report, done before Washwood Heath became an academy, judged the school to be Good.
Of the ten schools, then, only two appeared to present concerns and in one case, Washwood Heath, they were historical. It’s unclear why Gove should have picked out eight schools for high-profile, highly-stressful inspections if the DfE had received no complaints and previous inspections had revealed no cause for alarm.
Ofsted reports can be downloaded here
UPDATE 21 August 13.05. Re Alston Primary School. There were substantial staff changes at the school noted in the full inspection of May 2013 when Alston was judged Inadequate. Monitoring reports reveal an Interim Executive Board was put in place and support given by Leigh Junior School. The Leigh Trust sponsored Alston from 1 January 2014. Michael Gove signed an order for it to convert to academy status and Alston officially became an academy on 1 July
. It is still unclear why Gove ordered an inspection when he had agreed for the sponsor to run the school as an academy.