Inspiration Trust battles Ofsted over special-measures judgement

Dame Rachel de Souza says trust will challenge 'seriously flawed report' via inspectorate's internal procedures

Martin George

Dame Rachel de Souza strongly criticised Ofsted after Great Yarmouth Primary Academy was put in special measures.

An academy trust founded by the academies minister has come out fighting after Ofsted put one of its schools in special measures for the first time.

The inspectorate today published a report that branded Great Yarmouth Primary Academy as ‘inadequate’ in four out of five categories, including the effectiveness of leadership and management.

The school was the first to be sponsored by Norfolk businessman Theodore Agnew, who was appointed academies minister in September 2017. It later became part of his Inspiration Trust chain of schools.

When Lord Agnew was appointed as minister, he stood down as chair of Inspiration, and left his last formal roles with the trust earlier this month.

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Today, Inspiration Trust chief executive Rachel de Souza claimed the report on the primary academy was "simply wrong".

She said: "The inspection team made mistakes from the very beginning, from their joining instructions talking about a school car park that doesn't exist, to claiming key stage 2 results hadn't improved when they went up 9 per cent year on year.

“The report wholly misrepresents minutes of meetings. Most concerningly, we were forced to raise a formal complaint about inspectors' attitude to safeguarding during their visit – a complaint that three months on we have had no proper reply to.”

Dame de Souza said the trust had “tried to challenge these very clear problems directly with Ofsted”, but claimed it had “refused to listen".

The report states that the trust does not have the capacity to improve the school, but Dame de Souza countered that it had invested £2 million in curriculum development.

She accepted that the school was not perfect, but added: “This report does not represent the school I know, or the one seen by a former regional schools commissioner adviser who reviewed it for us just days before the inspection.”

Dame de Souza said that although Inspiration’s legal advice was that there was a case to argue, court action would cost about £100,000, which the trust was not prepared to divert from frontline teaching.

Inspiration would instead “continue to fight this seriously flawed report” through Ofsted’s internal procedures.

The inspectorate said it had a duty to report "exactly as we find when we inspect schools", and that while the school was experiencing leadership changes, "its pupils’ behaviour and educational attainment are simply not good enough".

A spokesperson added: "We understand the significant impact our judgements can have on a school, staff, pupils and the local community, and we know it is particularly difficult when a school is judged inadequate.

"But we do not make such decisions lightly. When a school is placed in special measures or serious weakness, the inspection report is subject to additional checks to ensure the judgements are firmly supported by evidence.

"All complaints about our inspections are taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated."

When Tes asked the Department for Education whether the school would be transferred to a new sponsor, a spokesperson said: "We are working with the Inspiration Trust to explore the best possible options for the future of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, following the school’s inadequate Ofsted judgement.”

News of the report was first reported by the website Education Uncovered.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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