Education secretary speaks out over latest Ofsted tip-off allegations
- Credit: PA
Allegations that an academy chain in charge of a raft of Norfolk schools had prior knowledge of inspections should be re-investigated amid any new evidence, education secretary Nicky Morgan has said.
Questioned on the case of the Inspiration Trust, which has denied fresh claims that a Norfolk 'superhead' had advance notice of Ofsted inspection dates, Mrs Morgan said she was sure all those named in a national newspaper article would be looking at the allegations further.
But asked if there was a 'cosy coterie of well-connected people' who were given tip-offs of schools inspections, she said: 'I don't think there is'.
She was pushed on the case by chairman of the influential Education Select Committee Graham Stuart during an inquiry into acadmies.
He told Mrs Morgan the apparent 'forewarning' around Ofsted inspections at the Inspiration Trust - run by Theodore Agnew who is a non-executive board member of the Department for Education, did not look 'terribly good'.
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Mrs Morgan initially said Sir Robin Bosher - national director for quality and inspection training at Ofsted - had investigated the allegations and 'found there was no evidence whatsoever that advanced notice had been given'.
But pushed by Mr Stuart on new reports in a national newspaper, saying 'further information seems to have come to light', Mrs Morgan said: 'That is a matter for the Trust to follow up.'
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But she maintained that the report over the summer 'could not have been clearer' and there had been a subsequent unannounced inspection.
But questioned on whether if the evidence was new, Sir Robin should look again at the case, she replied: 'Absolutely. I'm certain that all those involved and named in the articles will be looking at it further.'
The allegations surfaced in May when a teacher who worked at the Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey at the time of its May 2013 inspection, when Dame Rachel de Souza was executive principal, had claimed that senior staff knew the exact dates the week before.
A national newspaper claimed Thetford Academy and Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, which are part of the Norfolk-based Inspiration Trust which Dame Rachel now leads, also received tip-offs ahead of inspections this year.
Ofsted denied the schools received advance notice and the Inspiration Trust said it was 'false to suggest otherwise'.
But at the weekend a Sunday newspaper published an investigation which it said contradicted the claims in Ofsted's inquiry that the schools had just benefited from good guesswork.
The paper said emails sent by Dame Rachel, together with testimonies from sources close to the school, provides compelling evidence of advance knowledge.