5th September 2017
MSI's London law firm member Lee Monier Bolton-Williams (LBMW) has successfully challenged a report by a government agency on behalf of Durand Academy. That challenge resulted in the High Court quashing a report by Ofsted which is the government appointed schools' inspectorate. They had categorised the academy as needing "special measures", the consequences of which were that the funding agreement under which this publicly funded school operated, could be immediately terminated.
The widely reported decision criticised Ofsted’s procedure and endorsed the academy’s complaint that the more serious and negative Ofsted’s criticisms were in a report, the less chance an academy had to challenge the underlying analysis.
The judge, whilst ordering Ofsted to pay Durand Academy’s costs, stated in his judgment that a “complaints process which effectively states that there is no need to permit an aggrieved party to pursue a substantive challenge to the conclusions in a report, which the aggrieved party considered to be defective as a result of the decision making process, as being so effective that the decision was always unimpeachable, is not a rational or fair process”. The judge then proceeded to pronounce the complaints procedure unfair and concluded that that unfairness vitiated the report.
The decision was made after Ofsted had initially agreed to a court order preventing publication of the report, which unfortunately was inadvertently published by the BBC on its evening news programme (and immediately withdrawn). It was kept in force notwithstanding Ofsted’s appeal to set aside the order restraining publication which application was also defeated by the academy at a further interim hearing prior to the final hearing.
The judge left outstanding the issue of whether the report was so irrational to be perverse on the basis that as he had decided in favour of the academy, on the unfairness of the procedure there was no need to deal with that particular issue.
This decision has far reaching consequences for academies and schools and the Secretary of State for Education has already put in hand seeking tenders for a review of Ofsted’s complaints procedure.
The personnel involved with the matter at LBMW were Clifford Woodroffe, Philip Sergeant and David Whittington.
LBMW represents companies, organisations and businesses across the world in sectors as wide-ranging as education, computer software and wine & spirit.
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