School challenges Ofsted inspection procedures after being rated ‘inadequate’

A school is set to take Ofsted to court for not following the correct procedures after an inspection found that the school was “inadequate” over its safeguarding systems.

Queen Emma Primary School in Cambridge was downgraded from “good” to “inadequate”, the lowest possible rating, after an Ofsted report found that its child protection record keeping did “not meet statutory requirements”.

Speaking to the BBC, Queen Emma head teacher Sarah Jarman said the inspection felt like “a wrecking ball had come through our school”.

“If somebody comes into your school, and, without foundation, says there are widespread safeguarding issues in your school, all the hard work you have strived for pales into insignificance,” she said.

“You begin to doubt every single thing you have ever done and you begin to question whether or not in fact you can do the job.”

Ofsted protest
Ruth Perry took her own life in January (Andrew Matthews/PA)

In its report, Ofsted said that while safeguarding systems are in place, “swift action is not routinely taken to keep pupils safe”.

The report adds that “record-keeping related to child protection concerns is not robust”.

“Leaders and governors are not tenacious enough in following up, monitoring, and recording incidents of concern,” the report said.

“Leaders are not persistent in following up concerns raised or making links between risk factors such as poor attendance, and sharing information appropriately with relevant staff.

“This hinders leaders’ ability to identify patterns of concern and share information effectively. This is a risk for pupils, especially the most vulnerable.”

In a letter to parents and carers, the school said “we totally refute the findings of this report”.

“We wish to be clear that our objections are not simply a dispute over the interpretation of the evidence,” the letter said.

“Our contention is that the inspection team repeatedly breached Ofsted’s own procedures and acted unlawfully in a number of respects.

“We have also submitted a Freedom of Information request for Ofsted to make public the evidence base for their report; to date they have not agreed to disclose this information.”

The letter adds that safeguarding procedures “have been inspected in depth by the local authority and found to be exemplary”.

According to the BBC’s report, part of the school’s complaint is that inspectors inappropriately handled a child welfare concern raised to them by investigating it instead of leaving it to social services.

The complaint adds that Ofsted took away confidential information about children, which breached data security.

As well as appealing against the inspection, the school’s complaint also challenges Ofsted’s policy of judging the whole school as inadequate if concerns are raised about child welfare.

An Ofsted spokesman denied the school’s allegations.

“We completely refute these allegations and firmly stand by our inspection and published report,” the spokesman said.

“Ensuring that children are safe in school is one of the most important elements of our inspections.

“We only give an inadequate judgment to a school for safeguarding reasons if we have serious cause for concern.”

It comes after the death of Ruth Perry, headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, who took her own life in January while awaiting an Ofsted report which downgraded her school from excellent, the highest rating, to “inadequate”.

Ms Perry’s death sparked an outpouring of anger and grief from head teachers around the country, with many questioning the impact of Ofsted’s inspections on the mental health of teachers.