Doncaster's XP East free school complained after the inspection was led by an inspector from the nearby Delta Academies Trust, just one week after XP’s chief executive hit out at neighbouring schools for excluding pupils and “creating problems in our town”.
Education website Schools Week reported that the school was graded as ‘requires improvement’ in January.
Ofsted rated XP East ‘good’ for both quality of education and behaviour, as well as an ‘outstanding’ grade for personal development.
However, the watchdog found leaders did “not have the required knowledge” of the off-site provision for sixth-form students.
Consequently, it was rated as ‘requires improvement’ in both the sixth-form provision and leadership and management categories – limiting the overall grade.
In a letter sent to parents in January, headteacher Andrew Sprakes contested the ‘good’ grades for quality of education and behaviour, stating they were “world class”.
He added: “Unsurprisingly, Ofsted did not uphold our complaints regarding…the unprofessional conduct of the team and their conflicts of interest.”
The free school is part of the XP School Trust, famous for pioneering an alternative method of education focused on creativity as well as academic progress. Pupils are given increased freedoms, conduct their own research and do not need to wear uniforms.
One week before the inspection, the trust was subject to a lengthy feature in The Times newspaper, in which chief executive Gwyn ap Harri took aim at other Doncaster schools.
He stated that the school had triple the number of permanently excluded pupils on roll and was “picking up the problems that other schools are creating in our town”.
Lead inspector during the visit was Barry Found, who, according to LinkedIn, serves as director of quality assurance for Delta Academies Trust, which operates 15 schools in the Doncaster area.
An Ofsted spokesperson said they “could not find evidence of any wrongdoing” after “investigating the complaint”.
Watchdog guidance states inspectors are expected to “declare all actual and perceived conflicts of interest and have no real or perceived connection with the provider”.
ap Harri told Schools Week that Ofsted has “agreed to reinspect XP East as soon as they are able, and we have both agreed any matters are now resolved”.
Ofsted said the school had requested an earlier inspection “which we have agreed to consider in line with our policy”, but it claimed this “has nothing to do with Ofsted’s conduct or the complaint received”.
However, Ofsted guidance states schools can request an earlier graded inspection. The trust understands the next inspection will take place well before the usual 30-month threshold.
A Delta spokesperson said that “experienced leaders from schools across the country form part of the inspection workforce” and during the inspection “the team was joined by a very senior HMI as part of Ofsted’s quality assurance process”.
The trust said a number of its staff served as Ofsted inspectors and it is “pleased to play our part in supporting the system”.