High Court Set To Hear Legal Case As Ofsted State ‘It Is Not There To Help Schools Improve’
A school in Dunstable has been granted permission to challenge Ofsted in the High Court on the grounds that an inspection was flawed as they had not provided sufficient evidence, explanations or reasons for the judgments made in their latest report on the school.
Irwin Mitchell’s specialist public law team is supporting All Saints Academy Dunstable in bringing the judicial review against Ofsted, arguing that they had not provided sufficient evidence, explanations or reasons for their latest report concerning the school. The case for permission to proceed was fully argued before Mr Justice Linden in the High Court last month.
All Saint’s Academy Dunstable had a graded inspection that took place over two days on 22 and 23 November 2022. Senior leaders were advised that the school would likely be rated as ‘requires improvement’ despite being noted to be ‘good’ in four of the five areas being inspected.
Ofsted then decided to send a second set of inspectors into the school on 24 January 2023 to conclude the inspection.
Radically different judgements were then reached by the second inspection team and the case alleges that Ofsted failed to explain the new judgements or the basis for them. Schools are able to challenge and appeal Ofsted inspections in appropriate cases where they are provided sufficient information from Ofsted.
The school argues it is concerned about the content of the report and the procedure by which it was produced, with questions over how the second set of inspectors came to their very different views, as well as the refusal to provide evidence to the school.
The school has followed the Ofsted complaints procedure and is currently awaiting the result of a step 3 internal review. The school have raised matters regarding the inspection regime, which it considers are of national importance.
The school is contesting the inspection report on several grounds, which include the need for feedback, so any concerns can be understood and addressed.
In court, Ofsted stated they are not there to help the school improve but to inform parents only.
The challenge follows campaigners instructing Irwin Mitchell to investigate a further legal challenge against Ofsted procedures following the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry, who died awaiting an Ofsted report downgrading her school.
Expert Opinion“We’ve been instructed to bring a legal challenge in respect of the process undertaken during Ofsted’s inspection of the Academy. The inspection involved two teams consisting of 8 inspectors, who took two months to reach very different judgements.
“Schools should be supported to promote improvement. The inspection regime should be supportive and follow a fair, lawful and transparent process. These cases involve hardworking teachers, and inspections are of such importance that they must be fair and the reasons for conclusions clear. In this case the school has concerns over the process and result and we have brought a judicial review to try and gain answers and reach a suitable conclusion.
“In respect of Ofsted’s approach to inspections and where two sets of inspectors visited the same school and came to very different conclusions, this case will be of national interest.
“The School argues that clarity is needed on the extent Ofsted are obliged to explain their judgments and the evidence for them. Given Ofsted’s high-profile role and recent scrutiny of it, it is more important than ever that correct decisions are arrived at and schools understand the reasons for the judgements.
“The school are pleased that their concerns have been recognised and we all now look forward to these being examined in greater detail and scrutinised by the judicial review.” Rachael Louise Smurthwaite - Associate Solicitor
Irwin Mitchell’s case on behalf of All Saints Academy Dunstable will be put forward by a barrister Paul Greatorex from 11KBW chambers, with the judicial review expected to take place in the Autumn 2023.