Ofsted amends report of Harris school at centre of framework row after admitting inspection error


Ofsted has amended the report of a school run by one of its most high-profile critics after inspectors wrongly applied new transitional measures.

Harris Academy St John’s Wood, in north London, was rated ‘good’ by the schools watchdog in January – including ‘good’ judgments for ‘quality of education’ and ‘leadership and management’.

In the wake of the initial judgement back in January, Harris chief executive Sir Dan Moynihan told The Times the report showed the school was “excellent in every way” but “makes clear inspectors took issue with the three-year programme for GCSE”.

He then slammed the new framework as favouring middle-class pupils – launching a row which has led to the Department for Education preparing to intervene.

However, Schools Week can reveal the inspectorate has now upgraded the school’s ‘leadership and management’ rating to ‘outstanding’. They also removed the caveat of transitional arrangements which it had originally applied to the ‘quality of education’ judgment.

Ofsted has also said it will now provide additional training to inspectors on when to apply such arrangements after a complaint by the Harris Federation, which runs the school.

Inspectors use their “professional judgment” to decide whether to apply transition arrangements as a temporary measure under the new framework where a school has taken “appropriate action but is still in the early stages of developing a curriculum”.

In a letter to parents, Harris Academy St John’s Wood principal Graeme Smith said the trust felt that “aspects of the inspection process were flawed” and Ofsted has since apologised for the error.

The school’s overall ‘good’ judgment has remained the same. But Ofsted said the school’s “leadership and management should more accurately be judged outstanding than good”.

They added the evidence from the inspection also suggested the curriculum in place supported a ‘good’ judgment in ‘quality of education’ “without the need to factor in transitional arrangements”.

A spokesperson for the inspectorate added: “Our robust complaints process is in place to allow our judgments to be challenged and then undergo appropriate scrutiny so that everyone can have confidence in our final judgments.”

Ofsted is currently consulting on plans to withhold publication of inspection reports until it has resolved complaints about them. This would mean that schools would have to submit a formal complaint within two days of receiving their final report, rather than the current ten days.

In the St John’s Wood report, Ofsted stated there were year 9 pupils who do not study history, geography, art or music. It added: “Leaders, governors and trust directors have not ensured that all pupils in year 9 receive their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum that is at least as ambitious as the national curriculum.”

However, Moynihan said the extra GCSE year was central to the success of getting good grades for deprived children and called the new regime “a middle-class framework for middle-class kids”. St John’s Wood was in special measures before Harris took over.

Ofsted has consistently denied having a curriculum preference, yet – as revealed by Schools Week – has criticised schools for shortening their key stage 3 to two years.

Elsewhere, the inspectorate has also upgraded a provisional ‘good’ judgment into ‘outstanding’ at Bedford Free School after complaints.

Ofsted said none of the school’s specific complaints were upheld but “our review of the inspection did conclude that the quality of education was outstanding”.

Schools Week reported in January that Ofsted apologised and overturned a provisional ‘inadequate’ judgment at Park Academy West London after a complaint that inspectors had not understood its “innovative” new curriculum.

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  1. When I worked in the same school, our leadership team complained about the injustices of the Ofsted report in 2017 which used flawed DfE data; Ofsted failed to take any action after a laborious 3-month process.

    There’s nothing wrong with real people [inspectors] getting decisions wrong, the problem is they only appear to do so when it is politically pressured and expedient for them, particularly when it fits in with MAT/free school ideology to demonstrate value for money = high standards.

    Interesting that…