Ofsted wipes academy convertor reports after 5 years

A state-school campaign group wants Ofsted to make reports on schools that convert into academies to become accessible “in perpetuity”, rather than removing them from its website after five years.

Schools that become academies after December 2013 have previous Ofsted reports wiped from the web five years after they convert. For those that converted before then, the window is just three years.

The Local Schools Network is concerned the rule means “history can be erased”.

“You need to be able to see how schools have changed over the years,” said Janet Downs, a representative. “People make remarks about how schools were as part of their marketing, and it’s important to be able to check.”

Ofsted labels schools that become academies as having closed, so their inspection history starts afresh. Past reports are linked to the new school on the inspectorate’s website through a tab labelled “related providers”.

However, these reports are deleted after five years, effectively erasing a new academy’s backstory.

You need to be able to see how schools have changed over the years

Academies transferring between sponsors are also granted three years’ respite from further inspections.

Professor Colin Richards, a former senior Ofsted inspector, told Schools Week the rules were unfair.

“I strongly believe that as a matter of natural justice the same rules should apply to all schools including academies,” he said.

“Each of their inspection histories should be publicly available. Why should academies have their records wiped clean?”

In July, Schools Week found the ratings of 718 schools had been wiped clean after becoming an academy or rebrokering. We estimate these schools are teaching more than 300,000 young people – or about four per cent of the 8.67 million pupils who attend England’s schools.

Downs described the system of hidden reports for some schools as “a mess”.

“The reports should be there to check, whether they are predecessor schools or not, because people make claims and these claims need to be verified,” she said.

Barry Smith, the new principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in Norfolk, apologised last month after he made comments in a local newspaper that the school had once been like a “war zone”.

The school’s former headteacher, Ivan Pegg, said the remarks were “very unfair”. An inspection report from 2005, still available on Ofsted’s website, shows the school was rated ‘good’ at one time.

Downs said the incident highlights how important it is for a school’s past to remain available: “It’s important the data remains accessible so there are facts to rely on.”

Historical analysis of Ofsted reports also enabled Schools Week to catch a “copy-and-paste” inspector in 2014.

David Marshall, an inspector hired by Ofsted from a third-party contractor, repeatedly used the same paragraphs throughout his reports for several years. If the reports were not available across the timeframe, this repetition would never have been discovered.

Ofsted said the policy has existed since 2010 for any school that counts as ‘closed’.

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  1. In theory, academies are new schools with no Ofsted history. But this doesn’t apply to those which were judged outstanding before conversion. Records on GetInformationAboutSchools for academy trusts often list pre-conversion/pre-takeover judgements when schools were good or better. This gives a false impression of Ofsted inspection results for an academy trust.
    This inconsistency adds to the mess.

  2. Mark Watson

    For once I agree wholeheartedly with Janet (I have often gone back to previous Ofsted reports to show why I think statements made by Janet and others are incorrect or misleading).
    In an age where keeping these reports accessibly online through would cost next to nothing what is the point in removing them? All it achieves is to stoke the conspiracy theories, and it’s not as though they are deleted from history – a quick FOIA request would result in all requested reports being provided.

    • Mark – you’re right that Ofsted will produce deleted reports on request. Unfortunately, news has moved on by the time they arrive despite Ofsted being quick in providing them. Long enough for a myth to take hold especially if it appeared in the national media (eg Michael Gove’s Evening Standard article which said Patricia Sowter had turned round Cuckoo Hall from special measures to outstanding – this was not true ).
      It’s also important that any comments about an Ofsted report which isn’t publicly available should be able to be checked as these comments could equally be misleading.
      You say you have used Ofsted to show I have been misleading in the past. You have also said elsewhere I am quick to issue corrections. I am not intentionally misleading and am grateful for any corrections.

  3. Tony Parkin

    I also wholeheartedly agree that removing old reports serves no purpose, and merely impedes research studies.
    I would also endorse the comments from Ivan Pegg, former headteacher at Great Yarmouth High School (now Charter Academy). Having had the pleasure of visiting the school and working with Mr Pegg at the time, it was far from being ‘a war zone’, and clearly deserving of its ‘good’ status with a caring leader.
    However it was one of the schools feeling the impact of coastal economic blight that was causing concern both at the school, and at the DfE at the time. This continued, and worsened through even greater neglect, after the change of government.