I’ve contributed to some confusion today around IES Breckland’s pre-Ofsted monitoring visit. Completely my mistake and given that I’m always banging on about things being clear, I thought it best to sort it out.
Feb 25th – I blog about free schools receiving DfE monitoring visits which result in being given reports that look exactly like Ofsted ones. This is after a Freedom of Information request for the visit documents where I am told I can only have a blank one. To release the secret ones would be too detrimental.
March 11th – IES Breckland Free School receives a lot of press due to a pending ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating. Education Minister Matthew Hancock is interviewed on ITV and is asked why a report from the DfE in October describes the school as ‘excellent’. Hancock can’t answer but says that being transparent about free schools is “far better than not”, and intimates that the report has (or at least should be) published.
March 12th – I write a second freedom of information request for the documents. This is where I screw up the first time. I suggest that there are concerns that the documentation of the October visit states the school is ‘outstanding’ not ‘excellent’. These, of course, are different terms – because one has an Ofsted meaning and the other doesn’t. I was involved conversations on Twitter raising this concern but am now wondering where the leap was made.
April 2nd – The DfE responds to my FOI request and says there was no visit in October, the school was never labelled as outstanding, and that they still won’t release the forms.
Still not releasing the ‘excellent’ vs. ‘outstanding’ issue, I screw up a second time when I tweet:
Contrary to media reports, IES Breckland Free School was not told it was outstanding in DfE visit before Ofsted. http://t.co/EqytfiLFnR— Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney) April 2, 2014
@miss_mcinerney Out of interest, who was reporting this? ^PN— EFS (@EFSFreeSchools) April 2, 2014
@EFSFreeSchools ITV, thought tbf i've just gone back and checked and they did say the DfE said it was 'excellent' not 'outstanding'.— Laura McInerney (@miss_mcinerney) April 2, 2014
Thankfully, Elodie Harper at ITV explains the background to the interview in full:
So IES Breckland was not suggested to be outstanding by the DfE nor ITV. But it seems to have been called ‘excellent’, And in December, not October, which seems even closer to the inspection date.
So….some questions remain:
- Was the school called excellent? I guess I’ve lost my chance on this one as the DfE are hardly going to respond to a follow-up (and don’t need to).
- Why did Matt Hancock not deny the ‘excellent’ label, or say that the report had shown many problems? Could it be that he actually didn’t really know anything about what the report said?
- Why did parents feel that the report suggested the school was ‘excellent’? How was that information passed to them?
As Elodie says, we can’t know for certain unless the reports are released by the DfE and I can’t see that happening any time soon. One thing is for certain though, I’ll be listening out more carefully for the use of the word ‘excellent’ in the future.