Ofsted has now published inspection data for 2000-2005*, its Freedom of Information responses reveal.
This is welcome. I have long complained that it is difficult to find historic judgements because reports disappear from Ofsted’s website. This meant it wasn’t easy to check claims made by incoming heads, academy trustees and even politicians that schools were ‘failing’ before the new broom arrived.
The information makes interesting reading. For example, it confirms that Cuckoo Hall Primary School was judged ‘Very good’ in 2001. Yet the subsequent head Patricia Sowter told the Education Select Committee in 2011 that Cuckoo Hall had been in special measures in 2001 shortly before she arrived in 2002. Former education secretary Michael Gove repeated the claim that Sowter had taken over the school when it was inadequate. But it wasn’t. It was very good. And it had come out of special measures in 1999. The Advertising Standards Authority twice told Cuckoo Hall to remove misleading claims about the schools.
A second example is that of Stamford Queen Eleanor School which was judged ‘good’ in 2001. Yet when QES was taken over by Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust in 2014, the local paper reported that QES had ‘suffered from a reputation of low achievement for many years, dating back to its time as Fane School [pre 1987]’. But this ‘low achievement’ hadn’t prevented inspectors from saying the school was good in 2001.
St Luke’s C of E school, Portsmouth, became Charter Academy sponsored by ARK in 2009. The school’s history on the academy’s website says St Luke’s was ‘released from special measures in 2001’. But Ofsted’s newly-released data shows no record of an inspection of St Luke’s in 2001. An inspection took place in 2003, however. St Luke’s was judged good. A 2007 inspection** showed it was Grade 3: satisfactory.
Yet the 2003 and 2007 inspections didn’t prevent David Cameron in 2014 from portraying St Luke’s as a basket case before it became an academy. He cited results from 1999 (yes, 1999!) to show how bad St Luke’s results were. But inspectors, remember, said it was good in 2003 and satisfactory four years later.
Ofsted has said there may be some errors in this historical data but releasing it will make it more difficult for schools to over-egg improvements allegedly made after schools came under new management. That’s not to say improvements haven’t been made – in exam results, perhaps, or subsequent inspections. But it will now be just a little harder for new managers to claim their predecessor school was ‘failing’ when it wasn’t.