Ofsted has “fiercely” defended its actions during the Trojan Horse scandal after a panel of MPs suggested the watchdog had “lost objectivity” when inspecting several schools in Birmingham.
The controversy blew up last year after accusations of a plot by Islamic extremists to take over the running of several schools in the city, including Park View Academy (pictured). Ofsted was one of several institutions to come under scrutiny in the fallout from the affair.
In comments published today, Ofsted argues it did not miss problems in Birmingham schools it had previously given a clean bill of health to. The issues emerged after it had visited, the watchdog says.
Ofsted’s comments have come on the same day as prime minister David Cameron places tackling extremism at the top of the political agenda, outlining plans to introduce extremism disruption orders to restrict those who seek to radicalise young people.
In its report into the Trojan Horse affair, the Commons Education Select Committee questioned the “reliability and robustness of Ofsted’s judgements and how they are reached” as many schools judged to be outstanding were quickly downgraded to failing once the scandal broke out.
“Either Ofsted relied too heavily on raw data and did not dig deep enough on previous occasions or alternatively the schools deteriorated so quickly that Ofsted reports were rapidly out of date, or it could be that inspectors lost objectivity and came to some overly negative conclusions because of the surrounding political and media storm,” the select committee report states.
“Whichever of these options is closest to the truth, confidence in Ofsted has been undermined and efforts should be made by the inspectorate to restore it in Birmingham and beyond,” it adds.
But the inspectorate has now hit back, stating that changes in the running of the schools led to significant problems in the period after the initial inspections.
The defence states: “Ofsted fiercely guards our reputation as an independent inspectorate that reports without fear or favour. As was explained to the committee last year, sudden changes in governance and leadership can have a significant impact on the standards of education in schools. These Birmingham schools were no exception.”
Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told the committee while giving evidence last year that a “culture of fear and intimidation” had developed in some of the schools, in which headteachers had been “marginalised or forced out of their jobs”.
Mr Cameron is expected to give a speech on the subject of countering extremism in Birmingham today, which will include plans to introduce new legislation to combat the growing radicalisation of young Muslims in Britain.