Summerhill accuses inspectors of bias

24th March 2000 at 00:00
OFFICE for Standards in Education inspectors have been accused of "incompetence" and "bias" in compiling a report which has thrown into doubt the future of Summerhill, the progressive Suffolk school.

Geoffrey Robertson QC told an independent schools tribunal that closing the 78-year-old independent school would be an "act of educational vandalism".

The school's proprietor, Zoe Readhead, is appealing against a notice of complaint by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, issued after an OFSTED report found serious weaknesses.

The inspectors reported that accommodation at the boarding school in Leiston was inadequate and that children's non-attendance of lessons undermined their learning. But Mr Robertson, acting for Ms Readhead, said the children's freedm to decide whether to attend lessons was not negotiable.

Mr Robertson claimed that the report was based "on the briefest of snap shots" of morning class. Analysis by independent experts had "left no doubt whatsoever that the work of OFSTED was incompetent, biased and distorted".

Inspectors had taken no account of the voluntary learning that went on outside lessons, had not mentioned small class sizes and had taken no account of the achievements of ex-pupils.

Alison Foster, counsel for Mr Blunkett, told the tribunal that the Secretary of State said the school should work to make lessons attractive, to encourage attendance without compelling it.

The tribunal, which began on Monday, is expected to conclude next week, though judgment will be reserved.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today