Ofsted forced to visit school twice after ‘flawed’ report

Forge Valley School, in Stannington
Forge Valley School, in Stannington
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A Sheffield secondary school was visited twice in a rare move by Ofsted after claims an initial inspection was flawed.

Forge Valley School, in Stannington, has been judged as ‘requires improvement’ after Ofsted inspectors visited in April – and then took the unusual move to visit again in June.

Headteacher Dale Barrowclough

Headteacher Dale Barrowclough

The rating is an improvement on the school’s last inspection in 2013, which placed it in special measures.

But headteacher Dale Barrowclough said he has ‘well founded concerns’ regarding the process and the final report is based on an ‘incomplete, partial and flawed’ inspection.

Sources close to the school, which has been hit by three tragedies this academic year including the death of a teacher, said inspectors lost vital safeguarding documents and breached its own guidelines by looking at pupils’ predicted ‘Progress 8’ scores – which judge their progress from leaving primary school to finishing secondary school.

Mr Barrowclough said it was apparent the initial inspection was ‘insecure and incomplete’.

Ofsted said it was investigating the circumstances which led to inspectors having to visit a second time to ‘gather additional evidence’.

Mr Barrowclough said he was concerned about the validity of any evidence gathered during the first visit and its impact on the final report.

He added: “It is demonstrably apparent that the initial inspection was insecure and incomplete, resulting in Ofsted having to pay a further visit to the school to secure the inspection evidence base.

“It is also my view, and that of staff, that some inspectors did not conduct their business in a manner as outlined in their code of conduct, ‘without fear or favour’.”

Mr Barrowclough said although he is pleased the report positively reflects the school’s vast improvements, he felt it focused on the ‘minority rather than the majority to justify a less than good grade’.

He said the school was ‘disheartened’ about the ‘enormous impact’ a very small number of low-attending, disadvantaged pupils have had on the final judgement.

“Despite unrelenting and recognised efforts by the school to encourage this group of pupils to attend regularly, under the current Ofsted framework, schools are held to account for such factors that are often beyond their control,” he said.

“However, at the same time, Forge Valley has improved the progress of disadvantaged pupils, who attend regularly, to the extent that they now outperform other pupils. It is regrettable that this is not an overt message in the report.

“Both teaching and behaviour are much improved at Forge Valley and we continue to drive further improvements.

“It is disheartening to read in the report comments focusing on the minority rather than the majority to justify a less than good grade and not reach a conclusion based on typicality.

“It may be the case that our Progress 8 scores fall this year.

“This will be a result of increasing numbers of pupils who are ill or dealing with tragedy.

“This inspection and its report have told us nothing about our school that we did not know already.

“The process has added unnecessary work and pressure, leaving us with a judgement that is based on a demonstrably incomplete, partial and flawed inspection, under a framework that affords inspectors the discretion to label schools based on factors often beyond the influence of school leaders.”

The school’s sixth form provision was judged as good and inspectors also praised Mr Barrowclough and senior leaders for improving the school since it became part of Tapton Academy Trust.

The report said that under ‘determined and decisive leadership’ and ‘despite many obstacles to overcome,’ the school has improved.

Inspectors also praised the positive relationship between teachers and pupils and the ‘constructive and purposeful atmosphere’ created by staff through praise and humour.