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Ofsted hits back at Inspiration Trust's claims it made mistakes

PUBLISHED: 15:20 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:20 01 March 2019

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy has been ranked as

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy has been ranked as "inadequate" by Ofsted and put into special measures. Picture: Archant

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Ofsted has hit back at claims it made mistakes during an inspection at a Norfolk primary school.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, has hit out at Ofsted inspectors following Great Yarmouth Primary Academy's Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, has hit out at Ofsted inspectors following Great Yarmouth Primary Academy's "inadequate" judgement. Picture: Submitted

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, said an Ofsted report which judged Great Yarmouth Primary Academy to be inadequate was “simply wrong” and claimed the inspection team had a “negative agenda”.

The report criticised the unruly behaviour of pupils at the school, its high number of pupil exclusions and leaders’ unrealistic opinion of its effectiveness.

Dame Rachel has lambasted the inspection team for its assessment and claims that when the school challenged what it saw as problems with the report, inspectors “refused to listen, twisting the text of the report to fit their negative narrative rather than admit they got things wrong”.

In response, Ofsted said all complaints made about its inspection process were thoroughly investigated – but it defended its judgement of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “We acknowledge that this school is experiencing changes in its leadership. However, its pupils’ behaviour and educational attainment are simply not good enough.

“We understand the significant impact our judgements can have on a school, staff, pupils and the local community, and we know it is particularly difficult when a school is judged inadequate. But we do not make such decisions lightly.

“When a school is placed in special measures or serious weakness, the inspection report is subject to additional checks, to ensure the judgements are firmly supported by evidence.”

Gerry Batty, chief executive at the Wensum Trust and a former headteacher, said it was not unprecedented for a teacher to criticise Ofsted in such a way – but that staff were given ample opportunity to raise concerns during inspections.

Gerry Batty, chief executive of the Wensum Trust. Picture: Bethany WhymarkGerry Batty, chief executive of the Wensum Trust. Picture: Bethany Whymark

“Perhaps the school does not feel it was listened to, but schools are given the opportunity to say whether they are happy with the way the inspection has been conducted,” he said.

“As a headteacher you don’t want any of your schools to get into bother but whether we like it or not Ofsted is the prime measurer of our schools.

“It is the right of every school to complain if they don’t feel the process has been done properly, but schools do have to work with Ofsted to improve.

“Ofsted inspections have got a lot better over the years. Even Rachel de Souza said she had come across some good, astute inspectors who have known the school and done a good job.

Clare Jones, executive headteacher at Bignold Primary School in Norwich. Picture: SubmittedClare Jones, executive headteacher at Bignold Primary School in Norwich. Picture: Submitted

“I believe that Ofsted are out to champion the cause of the children, and if you don’t believe that we may as well all pack up and go home, but like any inspection body there is a certain amount of subjectivity because of individuals. The process should be completely objective but sometimes that slips.”

Clare Jones, executive headteacher at Bignold Primary School in Norwich, said: “Ofsted inspections are a part of education and school leadership. As school leaders we have to take the rough with the smooth.

“What I do know, however, is that no school leader sets out to give their children a poor education. Reading the tweets from the first 37 days of the new principal I can see that efforts are being made to improve the learning experiences for all of the children at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy.”

Ofsted inspections, which are a requirement for further education colleges and early years providers as well as schools, are held up by both educators and parents as the paramount measure of quality.

Richard Burbage, headteacher at the Loddon Primary Federation, said inspections ensured leaders had a “good handle” on their schools but that the reliance on Ofsted as a performance measure made them “pressurised”.

The federation recently had short inspections at both its schools, Loddon Infant and Loddon Junior, in the space of a fortnight.

Mr Burbage said: “School inspections are critical, but can be a highly pressurised part of school life. The stakes have become so high with league tables pitting schools against each other in the eyes of some parents.

“In my experience staff always want to do their very best for the children, they need to be led and managed well, and the leadership need to have an honest and realistic view of the school.”

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