Canon Peter Clark spins Ofsted's incompetence
His Grace is saddened that he needs to state the obvious, and he apologises to his intelligent and discerning readers and communicants that he is forced to start at the very beginning.
But this is a Church of England school, where one might expect to find truth, integrity and justice not only the curriculum, but also lived out daily in the incarnational treatment of students, parents and teachers.
Instead, we witness disinformation, lies, incompetence and injustice
This is about motives and morality.
Canon Peter Clark is the Chair of Governors at this Church of England Academy. He assumed the role from the Very Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave: the school has operated under the aegis of the Southwark Diocese since its inception and its governing body has been chaired throughout by Church of England clerics.
Canon Clark is ultimately responsible for the suspension of Katharine Birbalsingh following her speech at the Conservative Party Conference last October, though he obdurately denies that she was ever suspended.
It is a matter of public record that she was instructed to leave the school premises immediately and to ‘work from home’. No procedure was followed: Ms Birbalsingh was not given a copy of the school’s disciplinary policy or its suspension policy.
Ms Birbalsingh was threatened with disciplinary action (for an unspecified misdemeanour); she was bullied, intimidated and forced to resign her position as deputy head just a month into her employment, though Canon Clark is uncompromising in his assertion that she resigned of her own free will.
Since October 2010, there has been a respectful silence observed by both parties, presumably as they attempt to reach some sort of compromise agreement in order to avoid a Tribunal.
Canon Clark unilaterally saw fit to break this silence last Sunday in the Mail on Sunday. In the article, he disparaged and defamed Ms Birbalsingh, effectively framing her by alleging that she was responsible for the school’s declining roll. It was a calculated and barbed attack on her integrity, making it extremely unlikely that a state school in the UK will ever employ her again. Further, Canon Clark denied that Ms Birbalsingh’s observations of systematic failure in the education system could possibly be applied to Saint Michael and All Angels (though they were not, in any case, directed at the school), and the evidence he adduced to support this contention was a further Ofsted progress report dated December 2010.
Ms Birbalsingh left in October 2010.
At best, we have Canon Clark’s cunning chronological sleight, attempting to fob us off with a redacted report retrospectively applied; at worst, we have an egregious example of Ofsted’s own incompetence which permits Canon Clark to spin this report to 'my name is Doctor’ Irene Bishop’s content.
Yet there is one glaring anomaly:
In May 2010, when Mrs Susan Graham was Headteacher, Ofsted found the school to be deficient in so many areas that it was awarded ‘4’ (‘inadequate’) overall. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector was of the opinion that this school ‘requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could reasonably be expected to perform. The school is therefore given a notice to improve’. The sixth form curriculum was judged to be actually preventing students from accessing courses that meet their needs, interests and aspirations; educational outcomes for individuals and groups of pupils was graded ‘4’; the inspectors found evidence of ‘inadequate’ teaching; and pupil behaviour was also graded ‘4’.
In December 2010, Ofsted carried out a progress inspection, in which they found evidence of improvement, and cite the most recent GCSE results as corroborative evidence:
Students’ achievement is improving quickly. GCSE examination results rose sharply in 2010 and these students made more progress than expected given their low starting points in Year 7. Sixth form achievement has also improved: students taking A level examinations in 2010 achieved much more than those who took them in 2009.And so they heap praise upon Mrs Bishop, whom they term ‘a National Leader in Education’ (...upper case).
Except that these are the results are from exams taken last May, during the first Ofsted inspection.
Mrs Bishop could not possibly have been responsible for any quantitative improvement in student attainment: if anyone should be credited for these improved results, it must surely be the longsuffering staff and Mrs Bishop’s predecessor, Mrs Graham, who was headteacher while students were sitting the exams from which these results are drawn.
While Ofsted show themselves deficient if not downright incompetent in attributing raising standards of attainment to Mrs Bishop, it is disingenuous of Canon Clark to attempt to spin this report in a manner he knows to be false.
But, as we have seen, he has a capacity (if not a propensity) for disinformation.
His Grace has still not heard from Canon Clark, but he hopes to do so before too long.
For the next revelation (which may be made at some point today) is not quite sub judice, but the court case is now only days away.
And it constitutes incontrovertible evidence that the St Michael and All Angels Academy has a chronic history of harassment and bullying by its headteachers, apparently with the collusion and cover-up of its Governing Body.
The Diocese of Southwark Board of Education adopts a distinct ethos:
Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the Church at parish and Diocesan level.The Governing Body would do well reflect seriously on these Christian values, and consider the extent to which they are promoted through the experience they offer not only to their pupils but also to all their staff.
The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith and promotes Christian values through the experience it offers to all its pupils.
For if 106 have left over recent years, and whistleblowers (those who seek to bring light and truth) are harassed, bullied, defamed and driven out – such that they are left with no recourse but to pursue their grievance through the courts – what manner of Christian belief and practice is manifest? What witness is this in the world and to the world?
In the administration of justice and the arbitration of truth, Dr Ipgrave and Canon Clark have shown themselves to be deficient, dishonest and disingenuous.
One must hope, with the impending closure and reconstruction of this academy, that it is not only the buildings which are razed.