Norfolk academy chiefs deny allegations schools were tipped off ahead of Ofsted inspections

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy official opening ceremony. (L TO R) Rachel De Souza with  Dr Liz Sidwell  - Schools Commissioner.  Picture: James Bass Great Yarmouth Primary Academy official opening ceremony. (L TO R) Rachel De Souza with Dr Liz Sidwell - Schools Commissioner. Picture: James Bass

Monday, August 18, 2014
11:01 AM

A leading Norfolk academy chain has today denied allegations that some of its schools were unfairly tipped off about Ofsted inspections before they were held.

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Norwich South MP Simon Wright has called for whistleblowers to come forward if they have any evidence to support claims made about the Inspiration Trust and its chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza, and Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey, which she previously led.

A senior official in a teachers’ union said he was not surprised by the allegations, claiming a number of members had made complaints.

Ofsted guidance states schools should only be told about inspections the afternoon before they begin, but a teacher who worked at Victory when it was inspected in May 2013, when Dame Rachel was executive principal, claimed senior staff knew the inspection dates the previous week.

It was claimed that teachers who did not normally teach at the school did so during the inspection.

Similar claims about advance notice were made yesterday in a national newspaper about Great Yarmouth Primary Academy and Thetford Academy, which are Inspiration Trust schools.

Ofsted said none of the schools were given advance notice, a denial Inspiration repeated for its schools.

Ormiston Academies Trust said that if Dame Rachel had received any prior notification “this was not something that was communicated with the trust leadership” and would have been “out of step with everything we stand for”.

Dame Rachel, who also carries out Ofsted inspections from time to time, was not available for comment.

The teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I was in on the Saturday before the inspection catching up with some marking and making sure my displays were looking good.

“We had all been pushed to get all of our planning and marking up to date in the previous weeks and I was told directly by a senior teacher in the week before the inspection that the inspectors would be in on the following Tuesday and Wednesday - so my classroom wall displays had to be up to date with examples of students’ work.”

The teacher added: “Some teachers had been made to attend lesson planning meetings with more senior staff in the weeks before to make sure our lesson materials were of an Ofsted-beating standard. There were lots of senior staff doing spot checks in lessons and checking our marking and record-keeping was exemplary.”

The teacher emphasised that “the staff and students at Victory are hardworking and doing great at the school”.

The two-day inspection, which began on Tuesday, May 14, judged the school outstanding across the board.

Colin Collis, of teaching union the NASUWT, said: “This story comes as no surprise to me because of comments that have been made to me by a number of members at different locations within the Inspiration Trust, but also Costessey when it was under the auspices of Rachel de Souza.”

Norwich South MP and former teacher Simon Wright said he was surprised by the allegations.

He said: “I would strongly encourage anyone involved in these schools, or who are aware of the basis on which these rumours have been circulated, to come forward and make sure it receives full and serious attention.

“It’s important that Ofsted looks at specific complaints or allegations that are made, because ultimately it will only undermine their integrity if such rumours are shown to have any truth whatsoever.”

In a statement, the trustees of the Inspiration Trust said: “Ofsted has been clear that none of the Inspiration Trust schools were given advance notice of inspections. It is false to suggest otherwise.”

It added: “All of our schools are managed on the basis that an Ofsted inspection could occur at any time. This discipline provides reassurance to pupils, parents and teachers because it means schools are run in the way Ofsted inspectors see them on their visits.

“In England, a school’s progress is validated externally by Ofsted inspections and exam results. We support this.”

An Ofsted spokesman said: “Information about Ofsted’s inspection schedule is tightly controlled. It would not be possible for Associate Inspectors, who undertake occasional inspection work for Ofsted, to access scheduling details. Ofsted did not give any of these schools advance warning of their inspections.

“Ofsted has not received any complaints about these inspections. Should someone come forward with relevant information we would look into this, in line with our complaints procedure.”

Do you have an education story? Email education correspondent martin.george@archant.co.uk

18 comments

  • The dame has been caught red handed. A resignation in the offing, perhaps?

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    Bruce87

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

  • Thank you for that Jacob, well, what of these rumours?If they are true, why are so few teachers prepared to speak out, are they being pressurised not to? or is the teaching profession a knife in the back affair that nobody dares? Is there not a single teacher nearing retirement who will stand up for a principled and fair inspection regime by OFSTED? and who could be supported by other teachers currently dealing in rumours?

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Provide evidence to the investigation then please.

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    Sportswagon

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • I have twice posted but it has not appeared! In the 90s I worked in a high school in Norfolk. We knew a week to 10 days before there was an OFSTED inspection which gave the head ample time to produce a timetable of where and what all staff should be doing. It also gave them time to remove all kids from school who had behavioural problems and send them on a school trip until the inspection was over. OFSTED inspections are not surprise visits. Please print this,

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    samphirelover

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • I was told by a member of staff at Thetford that not only did they have more than two days notice, they were told that if the monitoring visit went well it would become a full inspection to take them out of SM.

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    TheTruth

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • This is another obvious consequence of Mr. Gove’s policy to give Principals and Head teachers the power to give out deceitful information and in some cases not the full truth to parents and the general public to protect their large salaries and bonuses. One of the underperforming academies in Norwich has a SMT and principal who is constantly manipulating the figures to try and show they are making progress not for the benefit of the pupils but to protect their own salaries and bonuses. Surely after six years of being an academy The Open Academy, one of the underperforming academies in Norwich with large amounts of money being wasted on senior manager’s salaries and bonuses and still in Ofsted terms, “requires improvement” there should be an investigation into the organization of this establishment.

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    GreyMan

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

  • I live in Spain and I read about the forthcoming Ofsted visit to Thetford Academy on the internet 2 weeks before it happened

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    Jacob Burns

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • I'm surprised it's taken the local press so long to pick up on this story which was reported on the Guardian Education website on 7 July. Look it up online (google Thetford Academy inspection and it will come up) it makes interesting reading.

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    Row71

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • Of course they do. Some might wonder about the extraordinarily sudden turnaround of inspection reports and meteroric rise in exam results at the former sink school Oriel High and question if they were all above board and not the result of manipulation of school rolls and-or the massaging of statistics by careful choice of which exams were taken by which children. But I couldn't possibly comment....

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • deSouzagate! The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Apparently she has not commented because she is on holiday. That's the first time she hasn't offered a comment on something!

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    Johnboy

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • Ofsted deny any tipping off to the schools (but what about to DeSouza herself? And the schoolstrusts deny being tipped off. What does DeSouza herself say? So far, I understand it's been "no comment"...? A bit stinky, this...

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    PaddyNR1

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • Nowhere here do I read, "we were never given early notification." Instead "Ofsted says it didn't give us early notification..." is hardly a denial. Many people involved with education in Norfolk will know of RDSInspiration Trust stories, but few will be brave enough to come forward. This lady is well connected, and if (or when proven) true, this story goes high up into government. There will be many people hoping this goes away quickly. Who knows, this may be behind certain decisions recently made in government. Lots of people know about what has gone on in RDS led schools, with staff turnover being incredibly high, but this has always been brushed off as getting rid of under performers to improve outcomes for students. Yes, we all know how Victory academy scored the results they scored, and when those qualifications are no longer valid, we'll all see where that academy goes. Unfortunately, when you have a government determined that their academies programme succeeds, these sorts of tip offs will be alleged. What better way to help certain schools get the required result! All we need to hear from RDSIT is a clear "we did not receive early notification" which they've avoided so far and tried to brush over it with nonsense about schools knowing roughly when things might happen. At the moment. Most of Norfolk have worked it out. Perhaps people here aren't quite as naiive as some may think!

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    OldSchool

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • It's the academies program they had more money to start so of course all looked really good as could deploy resources to get to the standards set, soon as the money dried up back to similar attainment levels, Gove was desperate to get academies and decentralise education so it is not surprising something's in impartial ofsted are a little dodgey - I don't think this is the only case of ofsted bending the rules for organisations that are pushing govs agenda of privatisation of education

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    Jimmy Hupperby

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • I agree with Sportswagon. This has been a significant Norfolk story in the national press this weekend. Come on EDP - make sure this doesn't remain as a rumour. Some real investigative journalism could help make sure it is resolved one way or another.

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    gilded beams

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • Will be interesting to see how far up the trail leads!

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    TheTruth

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • With so much of Norfolk being sold off to academy trusts it will be interesting to see how far down the rabbit hole goes. Surely the close relationships with politicians should come under some scrutiny. However who would want to whistle blow in the current climate? There are two FACTS which might be worth addressing. (1) In the original Costessey inspection before their outstanding judgement (when RDS had stepped in) the school was visited on the second day of the inspection by some very important looking people. Does anyone know who they were? (2) Teachers in Thetford Academy knew of the inspection long before the two days. Just ask them!!!!

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    TheTruth

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • Every teacher in Norfolk has heard these rumours, as well as the ones about certain dubious exam results and recruitment procedures. Unfortunately, until someone is prepared to go on record (and potentially damage their own career) , they will probably stay as rumours. If the allegations can be proved with hard evidence, it would be a massive blow to the Inspiration Trust.

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    Jon

    Monday, August 18, 2014

  • I bet they do!!!!!This has been an open secret for months among Norfolk head teachers and it is totally disgusting if true. The DfE and Mr Gove especially have been taken in by this power and fame seeker and both along with Ofsted are wholly discredited if prior notice was indeed given. Whilst some people are out to get DeSouza it is a story that appears to have substance and it MUST be fully investigated. Come forward whistle blowers and EDP do some excellent investigative journalism and nail this once and for all.

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    Sportswagon

    Monday, August 18, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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