Ofsted denies it censored report

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The Independent Online
The school-inspection body has denied political interference after a report highlighting underfunding in a comprehensive school was ordered to be withdrawn.

Jane Rochelle-Towle, head of the Coleshill School, Warwickshire, received a call from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), saying that the report she had distributed to parents was incorrect.

Two days later she was sent a revised version, with comments on the school's budget deleted. Among comments taken out of the draft report were suggestions that its financial difficulties stemmed not from mismanagement or local political decisions, but from national government policy.

Warwickshire county councillors said that the events raised serious questions about the integrity of the inspection process. Last night Eric Wood, the county's chief education officer, wrote to the Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, to demand an explanation of the incident.

Ofsted has denied the county council's charges, saying that the report was altered by the contractor, Open Book, which employed a privatised inspection team, and not by its own officers or by the inspectors. Ofsted puts inspections out to tender, and private companies are among those that bid to carry them out. A spokeswoman said the revised version was the correct one, prepared by the registered inspector in charge of the inspection. Open Book had admitted the mistake.

"The error was made by the contractor who employs the registered inspector and has negotiated the contract. The contractor changed the registered inspector's report. The registered inspector was not consulted and had not agreed with the changed report. We have written to the school explaining the decision," she said.