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How to challenge Ofsted reports

What can a school do to prevent publication of an Ofsted report? Liz Timmins, an associate at Doyle Clayton, offers some advice

Posted by Lucinda Reid | September 02, 2017 | Law, finance, HR

In short, a school may now be able to obtain an injunction from the court preventing publication.

The recent case of Interim Executive Board of X School v Ofsted has cast some light on the ability of a school to challenge an adverse Ofsted report. The school was granted an injunction which prevented Ofsted from publishing its report on the school, as well as an anonymity order, and the High Court has recently ruled on the report’s contents.

The background to the case is that the Islamic voluntary aided school had been placed in special measures and had a number of Ofsted inspections in late 2014 and throughout 2015 which had reported that things were improving. However, the school was then inspected twice in June 2016, with Ofsted assessing the school as “inadequate” and highlighting concerns with the school’s segregation policy, which had not been raised as an issue before. Ofsted refused the school’s request that it refrain from publishing its report on the last day of the Summer term and so the school applied for an interim injunction.

The case is a reminder that although not granted readily, injunctions can sometimes be an useful way to prevent an Ofsted report being published

Despite the strong public interest in inspection reports, which generally means that a compelling case is required to prevent publication, the High Court noted the disparity between the June report and previous reports, the tensions that the report could cause within the community if published and the poor evidence provided by Ofsted and decided to grant the injunction.

At the final hearing, whilst finding that teaching boys and girls separately does not amount to a breach of equality legislation, the High Court chose not to quash the report in its entirety and so Ofsted published a revised report. Ofsted are lodging an appeal against the High Court’s decision and we are awaiting the outcome of this.

The case is a reminder that although not granted readily, injunctions can sometimes be an useful way to prevent an Ofsted report being published, especially in cases where there is evidence that publication would cause widespread and irreparable damage to the school and wider community. However, even where a court agrees that parts of Ofsted’s findings are wrong, having a report overturned completely remains a challenge.

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