Parents with children at Linden Grove school in Ashford were shocked to discover that their children's school had been declared failing when they tuned into BBC Radio Kent at lunchtime on Tuesday. Other parents were approached by reporters outside the school gates at going-home time. The radio station and the local press received a copy of the report on Tuesday morning, as did The TES.
This copy of the report, according to the council, contained inaccuracies that OFSTED had agreed to put right in the final version. Linden Grove became the main story on Radio Kent's lunchtime and early evening news on Tuesday.
OFSTED sent the report to the school on March 17. But, according to Kent's assistant director, Keith Jennings, this contained factual errors and the reporting HMI agreed to send revised copies of the document "which are still awaited". "It was to the consternation of both school and local education authority that OFSTED made public the unamended report without any warning", he said, and caused "substantial embarrassment to the governors who were not expecting the flood of enquiries that ensued".
OFSTED has admitted that a mistake was made in releasing the unamended version and a spokesman confirmed that an apology had been made to the council. He said that new regulations currently being processed will establish a set timetable for the publication of reports for parents. But he added that the proposed changes were "extremely minor" and questioned why the council had been "sitting on the report for so long".
The report says that the school, which was found to have serious weaknesses after its first inspection in 1995, had not made enough progress with its action plan since then. Teaching was unsatisfactory in two-thirds of lessons, teachers showed a "lack of clarity" about what they wanted pupils to learn, and spelling, reading and writing were below average throughout key stages 1 and 2.
Roy Pryke, director of education for Kent, emphasised that "the Government has set up a system which denies LEAs the power of intervention until a school is deemed by OFSTED to be in need to special measures".
The school serves one of the least affluent parts of Ashford. So far, the parents have come out strongly in support of the school.