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High Court judge warns over future of Ofsted inspections

Ofsted at Court of Appeal in bid to overturn judge's decision to quash Durand Academy's damning Ofsted report

Royal Courts of Justice

Ofsted at Court of Appeal in bid to overturn judge's decision to quash Durand Academy's damning Ofsted report

There are “concerns for future Ofsted inspections” if the decision by a High Court judge to quash a school’s damning report is allowed to stand, a senior judge has said.

Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Atherton today presided over a Court of Appeal hearing which saw Ofsted appeal last year's ruling which quashed its “inadequate” rating on Durand Academy in south London.

Judge McKenna said in August 2017 that Ofsted’s complaints procedure was “unfair” because it did not allow the school to effectively challenge the report.

But Sir James Eadie, acting for Ofsted, told today's hearing about “procedural safeguards” outlined in the Ofsted inspectors’ handbook which had been adhered to during the inspection, and which had allowed the school to provide feedback following the inspection process.

Sir James said the school had responded to a draft of the Ofsted report with “a pretty detailed attack” which was 31 pages long.

He said that Ofsted had provided a detailed response by way of a “sideways document” and that on some points Ofsted had been willing to make amendments.

He added: “In principle, what fairness requires is that the school should have a fair opportunity to participate in the inspection and to make representations on the potential findings and grades in the report – and that duty was amply and entirely satisfied."

He added: “For the judge to say there has been no ability to challenge the report is simply wrong.”

The two-day Ofsted inspection took place at end of 2016 at the school, formerly run by the controversial Durand Academy Trust but since taken over by the Dunraven Educational Trust. The school has now been renamed Van Gogh Academy.

Also sitting at today’s hearing were judges Lord Justice Hamblen and Lord Justice Green.

They heard that schools that were facing an “inadequate” rating, such as Durand Academy, were denied the right to complain under stage two of Ofsted’s complaints process.

Representing Durand, Gemma White QC said this was “discrimination".

She said: “This was not available to my client and is not available to schools whose interests are most adversely affected by judgements.”

Sir Terence, who is head of civil justice and the second most senior judge in England and Wales, said: “There are concerns that if the approach by the learned judge stands there could be concerns for future inspections.”

The court is expected to reach its decision about whether to uphold the appeal before Christmas.

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