Ofsted has come under fire after it emerged this week that a lead inspector working for the watchdog is responsible for running two academies which have been placed in special measures.
Last February, Derek Davies was appointed executive principal at the troubled Richard Rose Federation in Cumbria. This came after one of its schools, the flagship Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle, became the first academy to be placed in special measures for the second time.
Since then, despite two further monitoring visits by inspectors, the school has remained in special measures; in the most recent report, the lead inspector claimed that it was “not making enough progress”.
In January, the federation’s other Carlisle academy, Richard Rose Morton, was also placed into special measures. Both schools were rated inadequate in every single category.
But despite Ofsted’s damning verdict on his own schools, Mr Davies continues to inspect schools himself, working for private provider the CfBT Education Trust.
Mr Davies served as lead inspector when Ofsted visited Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport in February; last week, it was placed in special measures.
Mr Davies’ report was particularly scathing about the college’s leadership team, which, it said, “have failed to secure the safety of the students and essential improvements in teaching and to students’ achievement”.
“Staff,” the report adds, “including leaders and managers, do not always have a clear understanding of what good and outstanding teaching and learning look like.”
One principal told TES that many school leaders in the North-West had expressed “anger and incredulity” about the case.
“If ever there was a compelling case that Ofsted is not fit for purpose this is it: people who lead schools into a category then going out and inspecting other schools,” he added.
Stephen Ball, principal at the New Charter Academy in Greater Manchester, also expressed concerns. "Surely this raises fundamental questions about Ofsted’s quality assurance process and the judgement of the lead inspector; how can he believe that he retains credibility?" he said.
"If his judgement on this most basic of issues is unsound it is difficult to trust any other judgement that he makes. I am quite sure that the general public believes that inspectors are people of the highest possible standing; I am sure they – and politicians too – would be astonished by this.”
The role of additional inspectors (AIs), who are provided by three private suppliers to Ofsted, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks.
Last month, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) announced the watchdog would be hiring a “substantial number” of new inspectors itself, as part of its move to phase out the 3,500 AIs it currently hires from private companies.
The move, he said, would help “eradicate inconsistencies” between inspection teams.
In its recent report on Ofsted, thinktank Policy Exchange called on the watchdog to scale down its use of additional inspectors.
Jonathan Simons, the organisation’s head of education, told TES: “The responses from headteachers around the country for our report was that they were concerned about the variable quality of additional inspectors.
“As part of the reforms to Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector must look hard at the quality of all his inspectors– making sure that they have the experience, skills and knowledge to command the confidence of schools that they are inspecting, especially when making high stakes and difficult judgements.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said his union was of the view that all inspections should be led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, employed directly by Ofsted.
An Ofsted spokesman said: ‘Additional inspectors are often headteachers of good or outstanding schools or have been so in the past. Many have a proven track record of moving schools from special measures to outstanding.
“Often they are or have been national leaders in education. On some occasions headteachers of outstanding schools, who are also additional inspectors, move on to take up new challenges in failing schools as is the case with Richard Rose Academy.”
CfBT declined to comment.