May 23 2013 Latest news:
Ben Bloom , Reporter
Friday, May 18, 2012
The independence of school inspectors Ofsted has been questioned after it was revealed that a controversial Queen’s Park school inspection was conducted by the same company that supplied the school’s headteacher.
Earlier this month an Ofsted report rated Wilberforce Primary School school as “inadequate” but praised the new headteacher Michael Larkin for his “inspirational, determined and skilled leadership”.
Eleven members of teaching staff left the school within three months of Mr Larkin arriving at the school last September and an independent investigator has upheld allegations that he bullied staff.
Four of the teachers who left are currently awaiting employment tribunal dates over claims for unfair dismissal.
Now major concerns have been raised over the legitimacy of the Ofsted report, which had been outsourced to education company Tribal.
While outsourcing Ofsted inspections is a regular occurrence, the Wood&Vale can reveal that the school inspection body has been asked to investigate a potential conflict of interest after it became clear that Mr Larkin was originally recruited from Tribal last year.
Ofsted says the recruitment arm of Tribal is separate from that which deals with inspections.
But Westminster Teachers’ Association secretary Michael Parker said he was “very surprised” to hear about the company’s link to Mr Larkin.
“We wonder about a potential conflict of interest,” he said.
“It is the first incident that we have ever come across where this has happened.
“We have no idea whether this happens widely but we do feel that it’s potentially open to abuse and it’s a practice that would be best avoided.”
One of the teachers who left Wilberforce within months of Mr Larkin’s appointment told the Wood&Vale that action needs to be taken to prevent Ofsted from allowing such conflicts of interest to arise.
“Something should be done about it,” said the teacher. “How are teachers supposed to feel protected by Ofsted if they can’t trust it?”
An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “Ofsted has strict protocols in place to ensure there are no actual or perceived conflicts of interest for Inspection Service Providers.
“We are satisfied those protocols were followed in this case.”
A Tribal spokeswoman declined to comment.