Ofsted wins appeal over quashed Durand inspection report

High Court had previously said the inspectorate's appeal process was 'unfair', as it did not allow the school to effectively challenge the report

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Ofsted has won its appeal against a High Court ruling that quashed an inspection report that would have put a controversial academy into special measures.

The ruling over the inspection of Durand Academy, in south London, represents a victory for the inspectorate.

The inspection took place in late 2016, but Durand took legal action to block its publication.

In August 2017, the High Court overturned the report after Judge McKenna said that Ofsted’s complaints procedure was “unfair” because it did not allow the school to effectively challenge the report.

Ofsted's appeal against this verdict was heard earlier this month, and the outcome was today announced by the Master of the Rolls, England's second most senior judge.

Today's ruling states: “…in my judgment the judge was wrong to conclude that Ofsted’s complaints procedures are unfair in serious weakness/special measures cases and to quash the report.

"In particular, I consider that the judge erred in focusing exclusively on the complaints procedures and not considering the overall fairness of the process of inspection, evaluation and reporting.”

It adds: “The short answer to the issue of law and principle is that, looked at overall, Ofsted’s procedure for evaluation and reporting is a fair and reasonable one for schools, which are provisionally judged to have serious weaknesses or to require special measures because although such schools cannot challenge substantive judgements through the CP [complaints procedure], once the report has been finalised, additional safeguards have been provided for them at the stage prior to finalisation of the report.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “We have always maintained that our complaints process, especially for inadequate schools, is fair and rigorous. Naturally, we are delighted that the Court of Appeal has unanimously endorsed that assessment today. 

“All judgements of inadequate are subject to additional scrutiny and an extended quality-assurance process before being finalised.

"Schools are engaged in this process and have the opportunity to challenge the inspection findings.

"We are very pleased that today’s judgment has confirmed that these procedures are fair and reasonable for schools, and that the judge was wrong to quash the report.”

Today's ruling is the culmination of one of a series of controversies that has swirled around Durand for a number of years.

The school had been under intense public scrutiny about the £390,000 earned in a single year by its former head, Sir Greg Martin.

It has also been involved in a long-running dispute with the Education and Skills Funding Agency over its complex governance arrangements. This eventually saw the academy's funding agreement terminated, and in September it was transferred to Dunraven Educational Trust and rebranded Van Gogh Academy.

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