Burwood School assaults – Ofsted shows its inspections are worthless

In January this blog focused attention on the background to the serious assault on two teachers at Burwood School in Orpington, and the media’s failure to report the story in a fuller context.

The Daily Mail later looked deeper into the story and obtained an interview with the father of one of the seriously injured teachers, Diane Whithead.  In that interview, Ms Whitehead’s father shared the previously unreported news that she had suffered another assault at the school in 2009 that resulted in two broken ribs.  Although I carried out a detailed search for news of this incident, there were no reports about it in the archives of the local or national press.  Not only did was this incident hushed up, but it took place in in the very year that Ofsted took Burwood School out of special measures, having been placed in them after the 2007 inspection.

Clearly Ofsted had questions to answer about this – and as the media has lost interest in the story and moved on to its usual diet of celebrity fayre and tittle tattle, I duly submitted a Freedom of Information request asking the following:

  • Did the assault in 2009 take place before or after the Ofsted inspection?
  • If the assault preceded the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, was it taken into account when lifting the school out of special measures?
  • If the assault followed the inspection, were Ofsted told about it?
  • If Ofsted were told, did they consider another inspection?
  • Were the Ofsted inspectors conducting the 2011 inspection aware of the 2009 assault?
  • If they were aware, why did the school get a satisfactory rating despite safety concerns of several parents and carers and evidence of issues around behaviour management?
  • If they were not aware, why did the inspectors not investigate the parental concerns more vigorously?

Although the reply came in February, I’ve delayed returning to this story as I tried another avenue to get more information.  However, now seems as good a time as any to revisit the story and publish Ofsted’s reply following a written answer to a question about violent crime in schools in Parliament that was published yesterday in which no mention was made of Ofsted and its role in assessing safety and behaviour in schools:

Ofsted’s reply which amounts to ‘nothing to do with us, guv’.  It is staggering that documents are destroyed after only six months so there is no way of looking back at evidence collected during previous inspections.  How on earth is an inspector supposed to accurately assess a school’s change performance from its previous inspection when all that is available is what amounts to a brief summary report?  This only reinforces the belief that Ofsted inspections are largely cosmetic and ultimately worthless.

There is no point having Ofsted assess and share information about safety and behaviour in schools if it is incapable of being held to account for its reports when events show them to be flawed or hopelessly out of kilter with the day to day reality in our schools.

There was a hoo last year when Ofsted’s budget for 2014/15 was announced as £143 million.  This is down from £198 million in 2010/11 and £266 million in 2004/05.  For all the use Ofsted is and lack of value it provides, it would seem reasonable to argue that even £143m is far too high a price for taxpayers to pay.  It may have the motto ‘raising standards, improving lives’ but it clearly failed spectacularly when it came to Burwood School, with serious consequences.  Ofsted simply isn’t fit for purpose.

10 Responses to “Burwood School assaults – Ofsted shows its inspections are worthless”

  1. 1 Shevva 08/03/2012 at 1:54 pm

    Funny enough read this int he Daily Wail this morjning, not sure if you have seen it so link below.


  2. 2 james higham 08/03/2012 at 2:30 pm

    From Zenna Atkins to the way they inspected schools – it was amazing just how incompetent an organization could be.

  3. 3 Junkk Male 08/03/2012 at 3:00 pm

    ‘It is staggering that documents are destroyed after only six months so there is no way of looking back at evidence collected during previous inspections.’

    Exsqueeze me?

    As a veteran of dealing with such entities, at least a few starting with OF and then the risible State Ombudsmen that in theory oversee them, I be keen on that being;

    a) Verified
    b) Explained

    As it is jut possible our zero accountability establishment has perfect the means to get paid gazillions and do nothing other than cover up for each other.

    And it’s getting to be a bit tiresome.

    Lesson are not being learned, Ministers, and the people of the UK may soon get less than tolerant of being conned, patronised and/or lied to.

  4. 4 Steve Brown 08/03/2012 at 5:53 pm

    I do not believe for one moment that records of inspections of schools are destroyed after only six months. This would be contrary to the reasons for the very existence of OFSTED, to inspect schools on a regular basis and compare the results of the present inspection with those of previous inspections to gain some idea as to how the school is changing.
    I believe that you have been fobbed off with something very close to an outright untruth.

  5. 5 Annon 09/03/2012 at 9:08 am

    ESKTN TV – live webstream 13th March 2012

    On Tuesday 13th March, ESKTN will be in London to cover the morning plenary sessions from ”

    Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services for Business: new collaboration
    opportunities”, a joint event with the Natural Environment Research Council
    which has been generating a lot of interest. In fact, registration to attend
    in person has been so poular that we have filled up an overspill room –
    which will be screening the webcast coverage for those who can’t squeeze
    into the main Council Room at the Institute of Materials, Mining, and

    The purpose of the day is to link up key academics working in the ecosystem services area with businesses interested in refining their understanding of their dependencies on environmental goods and services, the opportunities opened up by new policies and developing better tools to manage the associated risks. There will be presentations from both academics and businesses. The Valuing Nature Network ,
    Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services
    and Natural Capital
    Initiative programmes will be
    presented by their directors, and there will be a number of case studies
    showcased by business of relevant existing work in this area. Defra will
    present its policies with an emphasis on the follow-up from the Natural
    Ecosystem Assessment
    and the Ecosystem Knowledge Network
    , which are both highly relevant to businesses.
    There will also be an introduction to the proposed NERC internship
    programme, and possible follow-on work, followed by a presentation on a
    ‘model’ project for which funding has already been agreed.

    I suggest the name for this new industry be “Subsidy Farming”

  6. 6 John Page 09/03/2012 at 10:56 am

    Give Sir Michael a chance – he’s not been there long. try contacting him direct?

  7. 7 Steve 11/03/2012 at 9:02 am

    Ofsted don’t ‘inspect’ schools. Schools inspect schools. Ofsted just rubber stamps it. The system was emasculated by the Brown-Blair criminal conspiracy in their buying-votes years at the behest of the NU(Sod education-give me the money)T.

  8. 8 AJC 11/03/2012 at 2:31 pm

    An appeal over Ofsted’s reply to the FOI copy to Sir Michael Wilshaw would seem to be in order.

  9. 10 DP 18/03/2012 at 2:06 pm

    Dear Autonomous Mind

    Sounds like there is scope for a WikiSchools (WikiSkools?), listing staff, governors, links to school and staff websites, with space for staff and parents at add comments and grade the school on aspects of its performance.

    And save £143 million.

    Strange how all my web surfing, emails and telephone calls are held for 12 months, and tax records for 6 years. Six months for a school inspection? That’s ridiculous.


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