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School wants review after three Ofsted visits in two years

A Surrey primary school is demanding a “lessons learnt review” from Ofsted after eight inspectors visited three times over two academic years.

Inspectors first visited Kensington Avenue Primary School in Thornton Heath in July last year. The school is part of the Manor Trust.

However, they said more evidence was needed, so made a rare revisit in October (just 37 revisits were made between September 2019 and March 2023).

A third visit followed in March this year to allow inspectors to gather yet more evidence.

Their report, published in March, rated the school ‘requires improvement’.

Clare Cranham, the schools’ headteacher, said the school wanted to meet Ofsted to discuss what lessons could be learnt.

The saga “took up valuable staff time”, she said, while adding Ofsted must ensure its “decision-making is robust and evidence-based” and its “internal moderation process is fit for purpose”.

Ofsted said the extra visits were to “gather additional evidence to ensure our evidence base was secure”, which ensured the “right judgment was ultimately reached”. It has apologised.

‘Many shortcomings’

But Alan Chambers, chair of The Manor Trust, claimed there had been “many shortcomings”.

“These had a damaging impact on our staff and pupils’ wellbeing that we believe was both unacceptable and avoidable; at a minimum we expect key learnings can be taken so other schools do not endure a similar experience,” he said in a letter to parents last week.

Inspectors found that “pupils enjoy attending” the school and that they knew that staff “care and want them to do well”.

But they needed more help “to achieve the academic success they are capable of” and that “too many are regularly absent from school”, among other issues.

Cranham said the school had “concerns” after the first visit and flagged a “number of inaccuracies” with Ofsted about its subsequent draft report.

After moderation, Ofsted told her elements of its inspection evidence base were found to be “not sufficiently secure”, she said.

The school said it requested a new full inspection at this time, but was told this was not possible.

Instead, two different inspectors carried out thee first revisit in October last year. The school again raised concerns about the inspection process and the content of the second draft report.

Eight of 14 complaints were upheld, Cranham said.

Final report ‘from three visits by eight inspectors’

An Ofsted regional director later told the school a third visit would take place, led by a team from a different region.

“The final report has been complied from evidence gathered over all three visits by a total of eight inspectors over three consecutive terms and two academic years,” Cranham said.

“The impact on a school when Ofsted get it wrong is immense and impacts at every level… [we] do not want any other schools to go through this.”

She was critical of Ofsted undertaking its own complaint investigation, which “relied completely on the notes made by the inspectors at the time of the inspection; there was little attempt to talk to staff or parents.”

Ofsted recently made changes to its complaints process, following a review last year.

‘Extremely unusual’

Adrian Gray, an education consultant and former Ofsted inspector, said the case was “extremely unusual”, adding: “The key issue is how long can you be incomplete.”

“When the time span is as long as it was between the start and the end, schools change… The point of incomplete inspection is to return because inspection is still live.”

He suggested Ofsted should have voided the inspection after the second visit, although there is no guidance on how long an inspection can be incomplete.

The school was rated ‘good’ in 2017 before it became an academy two years later.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “All of the judgments we make about a school are important and we have processes in place to make sure they consistently and accurately reflect the evidence collected.

“Where our quality assurance process identifies gaps in evidence, we will return to gather additional evidence.

“We rightly apologised to the school for the inconvenience caused.”

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