3 Role of Ofsted |
30. As the timeline in paragraph 12 indicates, Ofsted
began inspecting schools in Birmingham in March 2014 as a result
of concerns raised with them directly. Ofsted activity then intensified
when the Secretary of State wrote to Sir Michael Wilshaw to request
further investigations and later when Sir Michael took personal
charge of the investigations.
31. The outcome of the Ofsted investigations has
raised questions about the organisation itself, including how
the inspections in Birmingham were conducted and the reliability
of Ofsted inspections more generally.
Conduct of Ofsted inspections
32. Birmingham City Council questioned the way in
which the Ofsted inspections in the city were conducted. The Chief
Executive, Mr Rogers, expressed concerns to us about the speed
at which the investigatory teams had been mobilised and whether
they had sufficient depth and breadth of expertise to address
the specific issues at stake. He also stated that because of the
perception that the inspectorate needed to demonstrate independence
of judgement, Ofsted had refused to share information with the
Council. One result of this was that "their findings are
somewhat the poorer, because they are not as deeply informed as
they might be".
The lack of information-sharing also meant that the Council was
not clear about the accusations levelled at its schools. Councillor
Jones explained that "For some of those concerns [raised
in HMCI's advice note on 21 Birmingham schools] we could find
evidence maybe only in one school that was mentioned explicitly
in that schools' corresponding Ofsted report, and, for some, we
could not find evidence mentioned at all in the Ofsted report".
33. Ofsted did share information with the DfE: the
letters sent by Lord Nash to the four academies placed in special
measures (Park View, Golden Hillock, Nansen and Oldknow) on 9
June 2014 went into great detail about each breach of the funding
agreement or school standards, drawing upon evidence from the
Ofsted inspections which was made available to DfE officials but
34. Lee Donaghy, Assistant Principal of Park View
Academy, told the Home Affairs Committee that the way his school
had been depicted in the media affected the outcome of the inspections,
arguing that "there is absolutely no way that Ofsted inspectors
could have come into the school in that atmosphere and have made
a judgement on a school in an impartial way".
He claimed that the Ofsted inspectors' "lines of questioning
were not impartial. They followed very narrow agendas. Their use
of evidence was very selective".
Reliability and robustness of
35. In several cases the schools concerned had received
previous Ofsted inspections with markedly different outcomes.
For example, Oldknow Academy (the only academy to have received
a full school inspection report since conversion prior to the
Trojan Horse investigations) was inspected by Ofsted in January
2013 and judged to be outstanding in all aspects. Following the
inspection in April 2014, it was placed in special measures. Sir
Michael Wilshaw visited Park View himself in 2012 when it became
the first school to be awarded an outstanding rating under the
new tougher Ofsted framework. He declared "All schools should
be like this and there's no reason why they shouldn't be".
36. In a letter to the Guardian just before the publication
of the Ofsted reports, Sir Tim Brighouse and a group of other
leading educationalists and Muslim leaders argued that:
It is beyond belief that schools which were judged
less than a year ago to be outstanding are now widely reported
as "inadequate", despite having the same curriculum,
the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing
37. These criticisms were picked up by the two independent
reviewers. Ian Kershaw found that "In some schools and academies,
Ofsted has failed to identify dysfunctional governance and instances
of the manipulation of a balanced curriculum when conducting routine
Ofsted inspections, prior to the most recent inspections".
Mr Clarke recommended that "Ofsted should consider whether
the existing framework and associated guidance is capable of detecting
indicators of extremism and ensuring that the character of a school
is not changed substantively without following the proper process".
38. Following the inquiry reports, Ofsted changed
its framework to include checking that schools are actively promoting
British values and that they are offering a broad and balanced
curriculum that prepares pupils for life in modern Britain. The
criteria for unannounced inspections have also been broadened.
39. In his statement to the House on 9 June 2014,
Michael Gove said: "There are critical questions about whether
warning signs were missed [
] the chief inspector has advised
me that he will consider the lessons learned for Ofsted".
When asked about these lessons, Sir Michael Wilshaw told us that,
during a normal Ofsted inspection, "when inspectors are in
for two days, they are looking at progress, outcomes, teaching
and a whole other range of issues; it is possible to miss [warning
signs of problems with governors]".
He argued that "if we are going to do a good job, we need
more time to do it and we need more inspectors".
In January this year he added:
I think the lessons to be learned [...] is that
schools can change very quickly; they can decline very quickly,
and there needs to be careful monitoring by both the local authority
and the Department through the regional commissioners on what
is happening in these schools.
40. He considered that "A lesson for Ofsted
is that we need expertise".
He assured us that Ofsted had "built up expertise in this
area: we have appointed people with expertise in radicalisation
and extremism who liaise very well with the Department and the
police" and that "our intelligence about what is happening
on the ground is a lot better than it was".
inability to identify problems at some Birmingham schools on first
inspection when they were found shortly afterwards to be failing
raises questions about the appropriateness of the framework and
the reliability and robustness of Ofsted's judgements and how
they are reached. Either Ofsted relied too heavily on raw data
and did not dig deep enough on previous occasions or alternatively
the schools deteriorated so quickly that Ofsted reports were rapidly
out of date, or it could be that inspectors lost objectivity and
came to some overly negative conclusions because of the surrounding
political and media storm. Whichever of these options is closest
to the truth, confidence in Ofsted has been undermined and efforts
should be made by the inspectorate to restore it in Birmingham
31 Q281 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 17 June 2014,
HC (2014-15) 352, Q31 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 17 June 2014,
HC (2014-15) 352, Q32 Back
Quoted in "Ofsted inspectors make U-turn on 'Trojan Horse' school, leak shows",
The Guardian, 30 May 2014, accessed 3 March 2015 Back
"Education experts voice fury over Ofsted's 'Trojan Horse' schools inquiry",
The Guardian, 3 June 2014, accessed 3 March 2015 Back
Kershaw report, p.14 Back
Clarke report, p.89 Back
Implementation of recommendations from "Report into allegations
concerning Birmingham schools arising from the 'Trojan Horse'
letter", DfE, 29 January 2015, p.5 Back
HC Deb, 9 June 2014, col 265 Back
Oral evidence taken on 28 January 2015, HC (2014-15) 880 , Q65