Investigation into allegations of Ofsted inspection irregularities in Norfolk
On (23 Sept 2014 Ofsted released the findings of an investigation into allegations of inspection irregularities in Norfolk.
The investigation was commissioned by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, following claims published by the Observer newspaper in August that three academies in Norfolk had been improperly made aware of impending visits by Ofsted inspectors.
Led by Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s Director of Quality and Training, the investigation considered:
- whether or not any advance notice was given of the dates of inspection in these three cases: Great Yarmouth Primary, Ormiston Academy and Thetford Academy
- whether the processes in place to protect our inspection schedule information are sufficiently robust and are being followed at all times
- any lessons that can be learned to ensure that, as Ofsted seeks to engage more current practitioners in the inspection process, the integrity of inspection scheduling information is protected
Following a thorough investigation, Sir Robin found:
- no evidence to substantiate the allegations that the three schools in question had improperly received prior notification of the dates of their Ofsted inspections in order to put them at an unfair advantage
- as a result of a lapse in information sharing procedures, the then chair of governors of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, Dame Rachel de Souza (who is also chief executive officer of the multi-academy Inspiration Trust to which Great Yarmouth Primary Academy school belongs) was mistakenly given sight of a schedule that included the planned inspection date of that school, during her training to become a seconded Ofsted inspector. The date of the inspection was subsequently changed after this error was identified.
As well as setting out the findings, Sir Robin’s report makes two recommendations:
- that Ofsted examines what further measures may be necessary to ensure that current processes around confidentiality and preventing conflicts of interest are as robust as possible, particularly those governing access to inspection scheduling information
- that Ofsted looks at where it could adopt a more flexible, risk-based (and therefore less predictable) approach to the timing of certain types of inspection.
In light of the findings, Ofsted has also this week conducted a new, unannounced inspection of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the inspection process.
Sir Robin’s full report Report to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector following an investigation into allegations of inspection irregularities in three Norfolk schools is published on the Ofsted website.