New academy - Ofsted not publishing a report

(78 Posts)

To cut a very long story short; the head is a "character". A couple of years ago the LA wanted to close the school as there are hundreds of empty desks in the authority and a large proportion of the pupils at the school came from neighbouring areas (parents living closer preferring other schools in the city). Head had also refused to go coed, which meant that another school which wanted to go coed couldn't do so. There was a lot of unmet demand for coed, non-denominational school places.

Head evaded closure by taking advantage of the government's policy to allow schools graded as Outstanding to convert to academies (although they had to start admitting boys, which at least allowed the boys school to admit girls).

Ofsted report not long after gave another Outstanding. Then a little over a year later, in December 2013, the school had a surprise Section 8(?) safeguarding inspection. This became a full inspection, which concluded mid-December 2013.

The safeguarding inspection report has been published, but the full report has not. Neither the head nor Ofsted are saying why. The whole thing is extremely fishy and it's not something I've heard of happening before - this isn't just a case of a school challenging a report, from what I can see.

Sorry that's way longer than I hoped blush

The local paper is all over it but I've seen nothing in TES or elsewhere:

Local news article - one of several!

tiggytape Fri 21-Feb-14 23:33:15

A surprise inspection for an outstanding school isn't so surprising. Some schools here have had them too (and some have been downgraded but others have not).
Until recently some outstanding schools weren't outstanding in all areas. It used to be possible to be awarded oustanding overall without being judged outstanding in some key areas (eg teaching) that would now disqualify this and those schools seem equally likely to being inspected even if they had been Ofsteded not so long ago.

The (as yet) unpublished report is also not too unusual - it can take many weeks to get from Ofsted inspection to publication and the Christmas break doesn't count in the timeline. That isn't unheard of so it is a bit premature to see this as a problem yet.
Parents on these boards though often ask if it is a bad sign that Ofsted visited weeks ago and yet no report is on the website yet. The answer is yes - generally it is a sign that the H/T might not be happy with the report and may be disputing it. I don't know if that is the case here but there is a well known correlation between a huge delay from inspection to publication and subsequent bad news.

The odd bit is what the paper reports about teachers knowing the outcome already (not all H/Ts share the findings of Ofsted with all school staff before it is officially published. Many don't in fact) and what it alleges about the reactions to everything in the school.

Effic Sat 22-Feb-14 00:46:52

Hi
Sorry I can't be more helpful other than to say I suspect your worries are well founded. Don't wish to disagree with another postee, but it is infact very very unusual for a section 5 report to remain unpublished after 15 working days. Sir Michael did throw a hissy fit in January and hold up a load of reports in quality assurance because he felt inspectors were advocating certain method over others and wanted all reference to specific strategies removed but that was done by mid-jan. It's actually also fairly unusual for a section 8 (something might be wrong inspections - usually requiring a more qualified inspector - a HMI) safeguarding inspection to turn into a section 5 ('normal ofsted') unless the safeguarding inspection found that safeguarding was inadequate which it doesn't sound like they did! I wonder if this is the problem? I am not sure what grounds the inspectors would have had to turn it into a section 5. It almost sounds like a proportion of the staff stuck the knife in/raised genuine concerns and got the inspector to start questioning leadership in general and thus he/she turned into a section 5 but I don't think they are supposed to do that so maybe that is the issue. Anyway, ofsted listen to no one but your best bet is, from my vast experience with this lovely lot,to write/visit your MP and ask him and if necessary put in a freedom of information request to ofsted (am surprised your local paper hasn't?) to explain why the report hasn't been published.
Good luck

Thanks both smile

I ought to say that I don't have a child at the school (mine goes elsewhere). It's the way academies (or rather their HTs - or at least this one) seem untouchable that worries me and the way this impacts on LAs' ability to plan.

I think an FOI request is a very good idea.

tiggytape Sat 22-Feb-14 15:10:51

There have been delayed publications recently. I have heard of several personally and there have been threads like this one that describe the same thing - Ofsted came in November but no report by February.

This post by admission may shed some light too:
There is also another reason why reports at the moment can be slow. Apparently there has been a diktat from Sir Michael Wilshaw that all reports needed to be reviewed to check that they had given appropriate weighting to gifted and talented pupils in the reports.
Obviously if you combine that with schools who do not like the outcome objecting to what is in the report then there can be considerable delays. But the bottom line seems to be if it is taking a long time expect bad news.

November - February or December - March is definitely not unheard of or even particularly uncommon.

BethDaze Sat 22-Feb-14 16:24:26

As someone who went to that school, there are most definitely governance and leadership issues that have been exacerbated by the enhanced autonomy that becoming an Academy has given them.

I strongly suspect that the report is being contested by the headteacher so as to not damage the schools reputation and that the Department of Education investigation will come to nothing.

After all, it's still a high-performing school and the headteacher has publicly bragged about being friends with Michael Gove ...

Goodness tiggy, that is a really long time. I completely agree that heads should be able to contest reports, but surely there has to be a limit?

Beth, the school does indeed get results. Do they manage out those who will dent their stats though? They won't be the only school who does this, to be fair. I also hear they won't cooperate with other Bath schools in accepting excluded pupils.

It's difficult to know what's gossip and what's truth.

tiggytape Sat 22-Feb-14 17:33:11

It is true academies aren't run by LAs but they aren't totally above all regulation either. In many areas of the country there are only academies and no community schools left. This trend is set to continue and whilst some don't like it, academies don't have quite the autonomy many fear.

Academies have to participate in Fair Access Protocol for example. That means they have to accept hard to place pupils such as those who have been excluded and those who move to an area outside the usual admissions round and cannot find any other place.
They have to abide by admissions laws
They are free to set their own holidays but in practice they keep them the same as everyone else's.
They cannot make children leave who are destined to do badly in GCSE exams any more than any other school can but they can select at A Level just like community schools can.

yourlittlesecret Sat 22-Feb-14 17:41:55

Some years ago DC school was inspected. I am a governor. The staff and GB knew on the day that the school was going to be marked inadequate and placed in special measures. The OFSTED report was not published for several weeks.
Not surprisingly the head chose not to go public until the report was published, it allowed breathing space and some planning to be done.
(School now outstanding 5 years later).

BethDaze Sat 22-Feb-14 18:19:40

Johnny and Tiggy.

The school has been known to essentially remove students from the sixth form if they aren't meeting standards, though they prefer they leave voluntarily after meetings with the headteacher.

They can't really shift the well-behaved low-performing students at GCSE level, but they've farmed out the odd less well behaved student who wasn't getting the grades, though mysteriously the really obnoxious students who were predicted C grades and above got to stay. There's also a lot of focus on getting D-E Grade students to the C grade, and students who might stumble doing Higher Tier GCSE's get dumped onto the Lower Tier, so they can ensure that C grade.

So it's a pressured environment for those on the pass/fail borderline and the ones considered 'beyond help' are basically dropped.

And yeah, they don't really do students that have been excluded from other schools.

There are more accounts at this petition, you don't have to sign to see them, and there are a lot.

www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/department-for-education-governors-of-oldfield-school-release-the-full-extent-of-concerns-raised-by-ofsted-about-oldfield-school

TalkinPeace Sat 22-Feb-14 18:35:12

TBH though, I would rather that those who NEEDto see the draft report meet and line their ducks up before it hits the press than after

as somebody who occasionally writes really nasty reports, I know that you NEED to offer an exit route from all situations

That's fair enough, Talkin.

tiggy, this is such an area - almost all secondaries here are academies. It's reassuring to know that they're not above regulation, though.

Beth I think most schools focus a lot of attention on borderline C/Ds. What you describe is horrible though.

ScaredOfReprisals Sat 22-Feb-14 19:23:58

Ofsted do not intend to ever publish the full report. They downgraded the full Ofsted inspection to a safeguarding inspection and wrote a safeguarding report (which can be found on the Ofsted website)stating that they were broadly satisfied with safeguarding but that complaints, grievance and whistleblowing policies were inadequate and that the governors were too reliant on information from the headteacher. They came across concerns which were ‘outside their remit’ which have been referred to the DFE. It is not clear why the decision was made to suppress the full report or who made that decision.

An online petition has over 700 signatures asking for the full report to be published. If you read the comments from the petition and the newspaper article, you can gather what the concerns might be.

Some courageous members of staff spoke to inspectors during the Ofsted inspection. They were promised that they would be protected, that something would be done and that the Ofsted report would be published. But they have been left high and dry. Those teachers were accused of being ‘treacherous’ by the headteacher and were told to ‘consider their positions’.

The broader question, for everyone, is what can be done about concerns about the headteacher of a converter academy where teaching and learning is outstanding and where the governors are too weak to stand up to her? The LA is powerless, the unions have had no effect, OFSTED have backed off so the staff seem to be without any help. Even the DFE’s powers are limited in these circumstances.

TalkinPeace Sat 22-Feb-14 19:28:32

The broader question, for everyone, is what can be done about concerns about the headteacher of a converter academy where teaching and learning is outstanding and where the governors are too weak to stand up to her? The LA is powerless, the unions have had no effect, OFSTED have backed off so the staff seem to be without any help. Even the DFE’s powers are limited in these circumstances

I'd be interested to hear prh47bridges comments on this
it being an aspect of Academy Accountability on which we have fundamentally disagreed since I joined MN

prh47bridge Sat 22-Feb-14 22:29:25

There is potentially a problem at any school where the governors are too weak to stand up to the head. The LA is pretty powerless even at a community school if it is classed as outstanding - their powers to intervene only really kick in if the school is failing. Some LAs will look at complaints if the parent is unhappy with the response from the governors, some will not. With an academy there is always the option to complain to the EFA once the academy's own complaints procedure has been exhausted.

Ofsted should, of course, be holding all schools to account. That is what they are there for. In this instance they have called for an external review of governance and have passed complaints to the DfE. The question is what are the DfE going to do about it. Given the comments in the Section 8 report I would expect some form of action to be taken. If they do not I would agree that the mechanisms are not working properly.

I wonder if the report, using the criteria Ofsted are obliged to use, gave a better verdict than they were happy to put their name to.

Obviously this is idle speculation - but that's exactly what's going to happen if all concerned continue to maintain a wall of silence.

nlondondad Sun 23-Feb-14 20:34:35

prh47 bridge is entirely right about limited formal powers of intervention. if a school is OfSted outstanding, is not spending money improperly, and is not running a deficit then a formal intervention is not really an option.

BUT

In an LA school there would be some LA appointed Governors on the GB and in this sort of circumstance they would have a rather crucial, and possibly uncomfortable, role thrust upon them. Also if a complaint is made by a parent using the formal complaints process then if the parent not satisfied they can go to the LA.

What this case highlights for me is the need for a "middle tier" which for LA schools is provided by the LA and does not exist for Academies.

nlondondad Sun 23-Feb-14 20:35:27

And in an LA school the OfSted report would be in the hands of the LA at this stage.

prh47bridge Sun 23-Feb-14 22:20:10

In an LA school there would be some LA appointed Governors on the GB

True but they are always in a minority. They cannot dictate to the rest of the governors.

if the parent not satisfied they can go to the LA

Depends on the school and the LA. Some LAs will not intervene so dissatisfied parents have to go to the DfE. The "middle tier" you refer to therefore does not exist universally even if we ignore academies.

FirstVix Sun 23-Feb-14 23:14:18

I have a fair amount of insider info on this school from various past/present staff there.

From what I can gather this head has been a bully who has blatently ignored the law from pre conversion days. It could only get worse under academy rules.

From what I have heard parents and students would be happy - it's the staff who have been shafted.

As an interesting point - check out how many 'deputy heads' there have been and how long they've lasted.

I have to stress though that everything I've heard has been hearsay.

FirstVix Sun 23-Feb-14 23:24:06

(actually having read some of the comments on the petition from students and parents - brave students BTW!!- I retract the part about them not complaining)

ScaredOfReprisals Wed 26-Feb-14 16:38:57

Have you seen the latest developments in this school? The staff are being offered counselling by the LA.

Surely this raises some very serious questions about the governance of academies. Have a look at some of the comments on the petition and newspaper articles.

www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Oldfield-staff-offered-counselling-B-NES-Council/story-20707899-detail/story.html

justaspectator Wed 26-Feb-14 18:36:40

I have been following this with interest. Some of the comments by staff and pupils are quite shocking.

It is interesting that the council claim to have long had concerns about the leadership and governance of the school. If this is the case then why are they only acting now to help the staff and not before it became an academy when the school was under it's control?

The Head and Chair of Governors should be utterly ashamed of themselves and resign forthwith but I know this is unlikely to happen. It is good that the issues have finally become so public as they now won't be able to brush things under the carpet anymore.

Excellent comment by apolitical under that article scaredof linked to. The article itself is pretty damning.

justa, I wonder if the council's inaction prior to academisation is connected to the fact they wanted to close the school?

justaspectator Wed 26-Feb-14 19:06:55

Ah, yes that could explain it johnny. The problem with academisation is that if a Head Teacher is already power crazy and it makes them even worse. Having to answer to only Governors who will do exactly what you ask or tell them to is a recipe for disaster.

Some schools get very arrogant when they receive a good or outstanding Ofsted gradings and think that this in some way makes them untouchable - I know of a few schools like this. One school, that committed several acts of disability discrimination, stated that because of their Ofsted rating it was clear that they were not the sort of school that would ever discriminate against a pupil confused. It is dangerous to believe your own hype.

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