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.