“It does seem to be an enormous amount of coincidence” - MP on missing emails and minutes that “hampered” Ofsted tip-off probe

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, urged schools to maintain a sense of proportion. Photo: Bill Sm

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, urged schools to maintain a sense of proportion. Photo: Bill Smith

An MP has described the deleted emails, inaccessible emails and missing minutes that 'hampered' an investigation that cleared three Norfolk academies of receiving tip-offs about inspection dates as 'an enormous amount of coincidence'.

Bill Esterson MP was questioning Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw this morning during a hearing of the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

Yesterday, the independent report by Julian Gizzi found that, on the balance of probabilities, no-one at Ormiston Victory Academy, Thetford Academy or Great Yarmouth Primary Academy received more than the requisite half-day's notice.

However, Mr Gizzi wrote that his search for information had been hampered by emails on an old Victory Academy server being 'inaccessible' as it was 'currently disconnected'; minutes of the school's senior leadership team from May 2013 going missing, and Dame Rachel de Souza's emails on her Inspiration Trust account from March 2013 onwards being 'irrevocably deleted by accident in September 2014'.

Mr Gizzi wrote that he had received 'acceptable explanations' about the Victory server and Inspiration emails, but 'the whereabouts of any May 2013 SLT meeting minutes remains unclear'.

Speaking at the committee hearing, Mr Esterson said EDP coverage 'mentioned loss of emails, a missing server, missing senior leadership team minutes, and troubling emails, and very accurate predictions of the dates of inspection'.

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Addressing Sir Michael, he added: 'Obviously you are completely satisfied that is just coincidence, but it does seem to be an enormous amount of coincidence.'

Sir Michael replied: 'All these issues were investigated thoroughly by Robin Bosher who spent weeks in Norfolk talking to the different schools and different leaders and various staff, and the independent person we appointed did exactly the same. They would have gone through those issues and come to the conclusions they came to.'

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In response to further question about whether Ofsted will inspect those schools 'as a matter of priority', the chief inspector said: 'Yeah, when their turn comes up we will inspect them, but not before them.'

Yesterday, The Inspiration Trust said the report confirmed it and Dame Rachel were 'innocent of these false allegations', and called for The Observer, which made the original claims, to retract them and apologise.

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