Ely College: Data release could “put pressure” on Government – Ofsted officials claim

Ely College. Picture: Steve Williams.

Ely College. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Ofsted has claimed that releasing key documents about its inspection of Ely College could “put pressure” on the Secretary of State for Education to take harsh action against the school.

Using Freedom of Information powers, the Ely Standard requested Ofsted releases all documentation it holds in relation to its two-day inspection of the college, which placed it in special measures.

In a ruling issued last month, Ofsted said doing so would “distract attention” from turning the school around but the Standard appealed the decision and the request was sent to a formal review.

This week, Ofsted’s Elizabeth Banks, who carried out the review, announced she is upholding the refusal, saying that the release of the “minutiae of the raw evidence” could unduly influence the Government.

She said: “Disclosure will cause a range of local reactions.

“It is inevitable that people opposed to action being taken against a school or its governing body will use selected aspects of evidence to cast doubt on any decision to place a school in special measures.

“Or those opposed to a school’s leadership may use other parts of the evidence to put pressure on the secretary of state to make harsher interventions than she otherwise would.

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“Whether or not any particular snapshot of evidence will accurately reflect the evidence base as a whole, there is a high potential for Ofsted’s evidence to be misrepresented, because people using it will be strongly motivated one way or another.

“It does seem very likely at the very least that the secretary of state, who is required to carefully consider interventions, would have to move resources away from making intervention decisions to deal with any issues that would arise from the disclosure of evidence at this time.

“It would likely have the effect of interfering in her duties, distracting and reducing the time available to make decisions, as opposed to making it easier to make the correct decision.”

In its original report, Ofsted said standards in numeracy and literacy had dropped, targets for pupils were unrealistic and changes in staffing had reduced the quality of teaching.

Inspectors also said that “too many students” were being removed from lessons during the day because of behavioural problems and blamed the school’s zero-tolerance policy on “many days of learning being lost”.