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School counts the high cost of failure

OFSTED has learnt how to back down in the past fortnight. Warwick Mansell reports on the dawn of an era of conciliation

THE school which was wrongly labelled as failing by government inspectors estimates that it has lost pound;260,000 from their mistake.

Crown Woods school, in Eltham, south-east London, calculates that the "failing tag", rescinded last week in a historic move, after the Office for Standards in Education accepted flaws in its inspection procedures, has lost it 100 pupils,who would have bought funding of pound;250,000.

It also missed out on making a bid for language college status because of the inspection verdict, meaning the loss of a further pound;100,000 of potential funds. The 2,000-pupil school lost 38 of its 113 teachers this summer.

The school did qualify for an extra pound;90,000 of support from the local authority after being placed in special measures. This funding continues.

However, the school's governors and local authority have been advised against taking further legal action to recover the money.

OFSTED has admitted that the school was given no warning of the agency's concens before the inspection which was to put it into special measures.

The failing verdict came after a short inspection which a chief inspector can demand if he has concerns about a school. Staff were given two-and-a-half weeks' notice of the crucial inspection.

Reversing its decision, OFSTED admitted a number of "procedural flaws", though it maintains its view that problems within the school damaged the quality of education was correct.

Gordon Smith, deputy headteacher at Crown Woods, said staff had been bemused as well as devastated by the "failing" verdict.

He said: "We had the original report, so we could see what OFSTED had been saying in 1999. We took action and by April 2000 we were confident that we had moved on.

He added: "Some staff send their own children to this school, so there was a complete inability to understand how the school, in which they had such confidence, could be judged in this way."

Governors and OFSTED will now set a time when the school, soon to welcome new headteacher Michael Murphy, England's highest-paid head on pound;90,000, should be re-inspected.

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