Until Monday afternoon I was under the illusion that Ofsted didn’t inspect academy chains. I knew that it did inspect the schools that were under the control of academy chains, but not, I believed, the management of the chain responsible for the schools. This was unlike the situation with local authorities, where Ofsted has the power to inspect, and has exercised it regularly over recent years.
However, the Hansard record of Education Questions in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon shows how wrong I was. In answer to a question from a Labour member, as to whether it was time to inspect academy chains, Mr Gove, our literary mastermind masquerading as Secretary of State for Education, replied with the statement that:
Michael Gove: Ofsted already inspects academy chains. It has inspected both E-ACT and AET.’
Now assuredly, Mr Gove already knew when taking Education Questions that Ofsted would be publishing a damming report the following day on the standard of education at many schools in the E-ACT chain; and would put several of the chain’s schools into special measures. Possibly the most damming feature of the Ofsted report was the assertion by the heads of at least some of the schools inspected said that the academy chain had required them to top-slice their Pupil Premium cash and remit the top-slice to the administration. This was the very policy that local authorities were castigated for and the reason why budgets were taken away from them and handed directly to schools. In this instance, it wasn’t even apparent to the school leaders how the cash top-sliced had been used to further the aims behind the Pupil Premium scheme of helping with the improvement of the education of disadvantaged pupils.
As Ofsted put the fact in their letter to E-ACT that: During the inspections, senior staff informed inspectors that E-ACT had, until 1 September 2013, deducted a proportion of the pupil premium funding from each academy. It is unclear how these deducted funds are being used to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.
You can read the Ofsted letter to E-Act here: file:///C:/Users/John/Downloads/E-ACT%20Multi-Academy%20Trust%20inspection%20outcome%20letter.pdf
If Ofsted has also inspected the academy chain, as the Secretary of State said, then no doubt there is another report waiting to be published that will clear up the issue of what happened to this Pupil Premium money, and how large the transfer of cash actually was over what might have been a two or three year period. Should the chain be expected to repay this cash to the schools concerned, and also, in this present litigious culture, are lawyers already looking to see whether pupils whose education was regarded as unsatisfactory have a legal case against the chain under some aspect of the civil law that they might not have against a public authority undertaking the same duty?