Lawyer clears De Souza schools of Ofsted tip-off allegations

Allegations that three Norfolk schools run by Dame Rachel de Souza were tipped off about impending Ofsted inspections have been rejected by a lawyer in an independent review.

Julian Gizzi was appointed in November by Ofsted to review an original investigation by Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted’s director of quality and training, into an allegation that Thetford Academy, Great Yarmouth Primary Academy and Ormiston Victory Academy in Norwich were given more than the usual half-day notice of an impending inspection.

But Mr Gizzi has concluded in his report that, on the balance of probabilities, no-one associated with any of the three schools received “more than the requisite half a day’s notice of the date of their inspection”.

Sir Robin’s investigation was launched in August after the Observer newspaper alleged that they were unfairly alerted to the Ofsted inspections.

The original investigation found “no evidence to substantiate the allegations that the three schools in question had improperly received prior notification of the dates of their Ofsted inspections in order to put them at an unfair advantage”.

Mr Gizzi, a partner at international law firm DAC Beachcroft who was commissioned to review the investigation after new emails came to light, said Sir Robin had carried out his original investigation “with an open mind, that he acted with fairness and integrity and that his overall approach was methodical and diligent.”

His conclusion was that Sir Robin’s investigation “was, overall, appropriate” and the conclusions he reached “were reasonable”.

Dame Rachel said: “I welcome Julian Gizzi’s exceptionally thorough report and its conclusions. We have always maintained that these were false allegations and we cooperated fully with Mr Gizzi and Sir Robin to prove that to be the case.

“Our schools have worked incredibly hard to improve results in their Ofsted inspections and I am pleased that this report means that there is nothing to undermine those excellent outcomes.
I would like to thank all those, especially staff, parents and pupils at Inspiration Trust schools who have been so supportive.

“I do hope we can all put this issue behind us so we can all redouble our focus on the important matters at hand: driving up educational achievement in our schools and giving the children of Norfolk the best start in life.”

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  1. There are some interesting statements in this report.

    36.2: “It was the habit of all three schools to maintain a high level of preparedness throughout the ‘inspection window’ during which a visit by Ofsted was due or expected.”

    How much time are schools spending preparing for audits?

    41.6: ”… ‘Ofsted 100 point plan’..”

    Do schools really need a 100 point plan in a particular inspection window?

    Is there too much emphasis on preparing for Ofsted?