Ofsted has won its appeal against a decision by the High Court to quash its negative report into the troubled Durand Academy in south London.
The Court of Appeal ruled today that that the judge was “wrong to conclude that Ofsted’s complaints procedures are unfair in serious weakness/special measures cases, and that it was wrong to quash the inspection report”.
The original judge had “erred in focusing exclusively on the complaints procedures and not considering the overall fairness of the process of inspection, evaluation and reporting”, the Court of Appeal said.
Ofsted hailed the ruling as an endorsement of its “fair and rigorous” complaints process.
“All judgements of inadequate are subject to additional scrutiny and an extended quality assurance process before being finalised. Schools are engaged in this process and have the opportunity to challenge the inspection findings.
“We are very pleased that today’s judgment has confirmed that these procedures are fair and reasonable for schools, and that the Judge was wrong to quash the report.”
The original High Court case ended last August, and the ruling in Durand’s favour was heralded as a victory for the under-fire school, which had been involved in a protracted dispute with the government over its management structure.
The school’s leadership claimed at the time that challenges to reports that place schools into special measures are “specifically precluded” by Ofsted’s complaints procedure, giving it no chance to change the outcome of the inspection. Ofsted argued that its processes are “fair and reasonable”, and the Court of Appeal today agreed with the watchdog.
“The short answer to the issue of law and principle is that, looked at overall, Ofsted’s procedure for evaluation and reporting is a fair and reasonable one for schools which are provisionally judged to have serious weaknesses or to require special measures because, although such schools cannot challenge substantive judgements through the CP once the report has been finalised, additional safeguards have been provided for them at the stage prior to finalisation of the report,” the judgment said.
Durand Academy ceased to exist earlier this year after being rebrokered to new sponsor the Dunraven Educational Trust and rebranding as Van Gogh Primary school.
It followed years in the public eye for the school, which famously came under fire for the £400,000+ earnings of its former headteacher, Sir Greg Martin, who was paid an annual fee by the commercial leisure facilities on the school site on top of his headteacher’s salary.
Durand mounted its legal challenge in February 2017 after receiving a copy of its damning inspection report.
It also obtained an injunction banning publication of the report, but only after a draft version was uploaded to Ofsted’s website in error.
Last August, Judge Martin McKenna ruled in Durand’s favour, overturning the inadequate rating and calling into question Ofsted’s approach to complaints.
Report reveals extent of failure
The Durand Academy Ofsted report, finally published today following the ruling in the watchdog’s favour, reveals how inspectors raised concerns about safeguarding, teaching, leadership and governance at the school.
The school’s leaders were not “fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure pupils’ welfare”, the report warned, and “cannot account for the whereabouts of all pupils or ensure an appropriate education for everyone”.
Leaders and governors also did not have a “detailed enough overview” of the school’s performance. Their systems to check quality lacked “rigour and precision”.
Inspectors described the school’s leaders and governors as “weak”, and warned they did not have to capacity to “challenge deficiencies and drive improvements”.
Teaching was “too variable” and sometimes “weak”, and while many pupils did well in year 6 tests, others, including the most able and disadvantaged, “underachieve significantly”, the report said.
The school also failed to meet the minimum standards for its off-site boarding school provision.