Cambridge primary school to take Ofsted to court after 'inadequate' rating

Queen Emma Primary School in Cambridge. Ofsted inspection.

Credit: ITV News Anglia
Queen Emma Primary School said the Ofsted inspectors had acted 'unlawfully' and the report was 'like a wrecking ball'. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A school is taking Ofsted to court after being downgraded in an inspection.

Queen Emma Primary School in Cambridge was lowered from "good" to "inadequate" - the lowest possible rating - after an Ofsted report found its child protection record keeping did "not meet statutory requirements".

However, the school's head teacher refuted the findings and told the BBC that the inspectors had acted "unlawfully".

Ofsted denied the school's allegations and said it "firmly stands by" the report's findings.

The school has appealed against the report, which comes as Ofsted receives heavy pressure from teachers to reform the inspection process.

In January, Ruth Perry, a headteacher in Reading, took her own life while awaiting an Ofsted report which downgraded her school from excellent to “inadequate”.

Ruth Perry, headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life in January while awaiting an Ofsted report. Credit: PA

Queen Emma headteacher Sarah Jarman said the latest inspection of the Cambridge school felt like "a wrecking ball".

“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 told the BBC.

“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.”

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.”

Queen Emma Primary School said the inspection's findings had a big impact on the mental health of teachers. Credit: PA

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, the report claims that Ofsted took away confidential information about children, which breached data security.

As well as appealing 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 spokesperson denied the school’s allegations.

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

In January, Ruth 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.

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