Ofsted’s complaints process ‘unfair’, says High Court judge

A High Court judge said that schools’ regulator Ofsted’s complaints process is “unfair” as he quashed a report which would have put a London school into special measures.

In a judgment handed down yesterday, Judge McKenna noted that Durand Academy had no ability to ‘effectively challenge’ a report which would have “destroyed” it.

Ofsted, he said, does not permit an aggrieved party to challenge a report it “considers to be defective”. The schools’ regulator believes its own processes are “so effective that the decision will always in effect be unimpeachable”.

‘Unfair’

Judge McKenna added: “The absence of any ability effectively to challenge the report renders the complaints procedures unfair”.

The Chairman of Durand Academy’s Board of Governors, Sir Greg Martin, said Ofsted’s report would have “destroyed” the school, despite its glowing educational record.

“This year’s school results have been exemplary and have placed us in the top 2.1% of primary schools in the country and yet Ofsted judged our school to be failing and wanted to sack the head teacher and the board of governors.

“It has taken us six months and around £300,000 to fight this unfair school report through the courts, and when you include Ofsted’s legal bill the amount of money wasted on this action is in excess of £500,000.”

‘Sham’

Commenting on the judgment John Denning, The Christian Institute’s Education Officer, said Durand Academy is one of many schools to have come up against Ofsted’s “sham” complaints process:

“In my time as Education Officer I’ve heard from many schools who have received unjust reports and haven’t been able to do anything about it.

“Ofsted’s complaints process is a sham. It holds the judgments of inspectors to be infallible and allows them to attack schools on the basis of their own personal biases. Christian and Jewish schools have been punished simply for holding true to their beliefs.

“Ofsted operates its own complaints process. As we have seen in the case of Durand Academy, schools are forced to resort to costly legal action if they are to have any hope of overturning a verdict. Something has got to give.”

Fear in Education

In June, the Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported that it is “virtually impossible” for schools to overturn an Ofsted judgment.

Figures obtained under a freedom of information request showed that in the three years prior to June 2017, not a single school “successfully changed or quashed an inspection report”.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of headteachers’ union NAHT, said the feeling that Ofsted is “infallible” creates “an aura of fear in the education system”.

‘A monster’

This fear is further evidenced by the testimony of head teacher Geoff Barton, writing for TES back in 2015.

He said: “Occasionally I get to speak to well-connected people far closer to government than I am.

“Their whispers are all about an organisation that has become a monster, which rather than helping us to improve our schools, feels insular, self-serving, spiteful and inconsistent.”

Find out more

For more information on Ofsted, its ‘British values’ drive, and plans to register and inspect Sunday schools, visit The Christian Institute’s Education page.

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