Investigator finds no evidence Thetford Academy had advance warning of Ofsted inspection

Thetford Academy, Croxton Road. ENGANL00120130909151703
Thetford Academy, Croxton Road. ENGANL00120130909151703
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Independent investigations have concluded that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ Thetford Academy did not receive prior warning of an inspection by watchdogs.

In August 2014 The Observer newspaper reported the school, along with two others managed by the Inspiration Trust, had received advance warning of Ofsted inspections as far back as May 2013.

An investigation was conducted into the accusations by solicitor Julian Gizzi, who examined visits including a monitoring inspection at Thetford Academy in July last year.

In his report published this week Mr Gizzi concluded no written evidence or interviews corroborated claims the academy had known of its upcoming inspection up to a fortnight in advance.

“I conclude on the balance of probabilities no one associated with the Thetford Academy received notice of the date of its inspection,” he said.

Mr Gizzi was appointed to conduct his review following an initial investigation by Ofsted’s director of quality and training, Sir Robin Bosher.

The fresh invstigation was prompted by emails from the Inspiration Trust’s CEO, Dame Rachel De Souza, which were published by The Observer in October and provided ‘compelling evidence of advance knowledge’ at all the schools.

However, Mr Gizzi was told that in September 2014 all of Dame Rachel’s Inspiration Trust account emails from March 2013 were ‘irrevocably deleted by accident’, which he said ‘hampered’ his enquiries.

He referred to a number of Dame Rachel’s remaining emails as ‘troubling’.

Despite this he concluded Dame Rachel’s assertion that Thetford Academy’s inspection may be in the second half of June ‘does not pin point any precise dates and was, in any event, wrong’.

Mr Gizzi considered reports of ‘feverish activity’ in the school on June 28, two days before the inspection date was officially announced, to also be ‘troubling’.

But he said the school’s understanding that its sixth form would be the inspection’s focus narrowed the possible window, and he would ‘not consider it unusual for staff to be preparing during a weekend’ within this period.

Dame Rachel said she welcomed the ‘exceptionally thorough report and its conclusions’.

“We have always maintained these were false allegations,” she said.

“Our schools have worked incredibly hard to improve their results in Ofsted inspections and I am pleased this report means there is nothing to undermine those excellent outcomes.”