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Head was 'mistakenly' warned ahead of inspection, Ofsted admits

A headteacher at the centre of a row over an alleged inspection tip-off was “mistakenly” warned of an impending Ofsted visit while she was training as an inspector, the watchdog has admitted.

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) launched an investigation last month following reports that three Norfolk academies had “improperly received prior notification” of their inspections.

Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s director of quality and training, has concluded there was “no evidence” that the Ormiston Victory, Thetford or Great Yarmouth academies had been tipped off “to give them an unfair advantage”.

However the report revealed that Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust academy chain which runs the Thetford and Great Yarmouth schools, had inadvertently been informed about the impending inspection of Great Yarmouth during her training as an additional inspector.

“As a result of a lapse in information-sharing procedures, the then chair of governors of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, Dame Rachel de Souza…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,” a statement from the watchdog said. “The date of the inspection was subsequently changed after this error was identified.”

Prior to joining the Inspiration Trust, Dame Rachel was executive principal at Ormiston. She quickly became a favourite of former education secretary Michael Gove, who said in 2012 that his "ideal education policy" would be "to clone Rachel 23,000 times". She was appointed a dame in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to education.

Sir Robin has recommended 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”.

The inspectorate should also consider “where it could adopt a more flexible, risk-based (and therefore less predictable) approach to the timing of certain types of inspection”, he said.

An unannounced inspection of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy has also been conducted this week “in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the inspection process”, the statement added.

Earlier this month, Ofsted revealed it would be carrying out a wave of around 40 no-notice school inspections. Sir Michael admitted he was “giving thought” to whether more no-notice inspections should be carried out.

Last week, TES revealed that Ofsted was also considering more snap inspections in the FE sector, although its director for FE and skills, Lorna Fitzjohn, said there would be “clear disadvantages” to using the approach for all inspections.

Related stories:

Ofsted launches wave of no-notice inspections - September 2014

Ofsted scraps grades for individual lessons - August 2014

Ofsted must scrap 'quality of teaching' from inspections - July 2014

Ofsted to drop grades for teachers' individual lessons in new trial - June 2014

Ofsted should no longer judge quality of teaching, says former Gove aide - May 2014 

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