Ofsted launches new inquiry into superheads schools

Ofsted has significantly announced that it is launching an independent investigation into allegations that schools overseen by a controversial “superhead” shut to former training secretary Michael Gove had advance expertise of inspection dates.

Three days soon after the schools inspectorate had explained it would not reopen an inquiry into allegations concerning Dame Rachel de Souza reported in the Observer final Sunday, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of colleges, said that fresh e mail proof discovered by Ofsted had forced his hand.

In a statement on Friday, Wilshaw mentioned the emails had been unavailable to Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s director of top quality and education, when he examined claims produced by this newspaper in August about 3 schools.

He stated: “Sir Robin conducted a thorough investigation, which incorporated 39 interviews with relevant parties and visits to the 3 academies in question. But I made a public dedication that must any further proof come to light, I would have no hesitation in bringing in an individual from outside Ofsted to examine this. For the avoidance of any doubt, I will be asking this independent reviewer to examine all the proof originally considered by Sir Robin and to create regardless of whether his findings and suggestions even now stand in the light of the new electronic mail proof that has now emerged.”

Underneath the law, schools are only permitted half a day’s observe of Ofsted inspections. The whistleblowers’ claims reported in August and the emails published final weekend recommend colleges overseen by de Souza knew days, and at times weeks, ahead of time what most likely dates would be.

The academy chain denies this, and says the emails published reflect that they had simply engaged in precise guesswork, and that they were in a continuous state of substantial alert. Bosher accepted that explanation in his report and recommended Ofsted appear at implementing a much less predictable strategy to the timing of inspections.

Wilshaw’s announcement on Friday afternoon came on the very same day that this newspaper presented Ofsted with a even more set of emails which recommend that de Souza was in a place to discuss the timing of inspections informally with the senior members of the inspectorate. It is understood that these emails will also be examined alongside Ofsted’s as part of the independent inquiry into “alleged inspection irregularities”.

In these emails, de Souza, who Gove once stated he would like to “clone 23,000 times”, appears to discuss the timings of Ofsted inspections at two of her schools run by the Inspiration Believe in, a chain sponsored by Tory donor Theodore Agnew, a non-executive director at the Department for Training.

In an electronic mail conversation amongst De Souza and a consultant for the Inspiration Believe in, Maggie Hollingsworth, the two girls go over an inspection date for a college due to become an Inspiration Trust academy, Larkman Principal in Norwich. De Souza says she is due to meet the deputy director of Ofsted in the east of England, Paul Brooker, that evening.

On 4 July 2013, De Souza writes: “Do you believe it would be better if they have been inspected before sept? Or not? Be very good to get your guidance as speaking with PB this evening on other matters.”

Hollingsworth responds 20 minutes later: “I am concerned that it is late in the 12 months and Ofsted is pressed to finish its regular inspections. I would dislike for a scratch team to go in and give it RI [a “requires improvement” rating]. That could pull the rug out from beneath your programs completely.

“I would try out to get a deferral till late in the spring term (the very likely rise in maths SATs results should give you a excellent argument for Paul, if you want 1) by which time the college could be moving quickly in the correct course.”

Two days later on, de Souza writes to Hollingsworth: “Spoke to PB who agrees with you re below &amp has mentioned.”

A lawyer for De Souza stated schools that had recently turn out to be academies had been allowed to request a deferral. Even so, Ofsted says that this should be accomplished when a school has been offered its half-day recognize of inspection. The request is also expected to be manufactured to the lead inspector in the get together due to visit. At this stage, Larkman was not an academy, nor had it been notified of an inspection. A lead inspector had not been assigned. Larkman, now recognized as Norwich Primary Academy, is nevertheless to be inspected.

In another e-mail exchange on 18 May 2014 with a DfE official, De Souza, who was angry that a single of the colleges in her academy chain, Great Yarmouth Main Academy, had not been provided an outstanding rating, claims she has acquired a guarantee of an inspection in the autumn from Brooker.

De Souza writes: “Between us Paul has promised they’ll come back in Autumn but what a waste of time actually … and if it can come about to me then imagine schools with much less experience …”

College governing bodies are permitted to request an Ofsted inspection if, for instance, they wish to demonstrate improvement, but it have to be authorized by Wilshaw, who might charge the school concerned, and it would be expected to take location with half a day’s discover.

A attorney for De Souza explained the school did not eventually make a request to Wilshaw for Ofsted to revisit.

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