06/01/2012 01:18 GMT

Schools Trick Ofsted 'By Sending Naughty Pupils To Alton Towers To Pass Inspections'

Schools are tricking Ofsted by using a range of underhand tactics to pass their inspections, including shipping unruly children off to Alton Towers, teachers have claimed.

Other allegations, made on the Times Educational Supplement (TES) forum include paying disruptive pupils to truant, telling weak teachers to stay off sick and schools bringing in experienced teachers from other establishments.

Ofsted has confirmed there were 38 complaints about "a school's conduct or activities" during inspections carried out between April and November last year but denied the problem was widespread.

One post from a teacher on the TES forum describes how his last school "sent two coach loads of disruptive pupils to Alton Towers during the two days of Ofsted".

Another said that her colleague at a school that was judged "outstanding" was sent to a struggling inner city school to teach while inspectors were present and had to pretend that she always worked there.

One described how a newly qualified teacher had a nervous breakdown after being told that capability proceedings had been brought against her, just so she would not be observed during an impending inspection.

And another contributor wrote how they heard the most badly behaved children at their school had each been paid up to £100 not to attend while Ofsted was there.

But this is not a new issue; last year Education Secretary Michael Gove spoke of how many schools were hiding pupils' naughty behaviour from inspectors.

Speaking as the government published new guidance for schools on dealing with bad behaviour last April, Gove suggested Ofsted was not seeing the full picture during inspections.

He said he had been told by teachers "weak teachers are invited to stay at home, we make sure disruptive pupils don't come in, and the best teachers are on corridor duty. We put on our best face for inspections".

Ofsted national director Sue Gregory responded to the allegations made on the TES site, saying schools only have two days notice before their inspections so have little time to make changes.

She added that as their records, including attendance levels and staffing details, are thoroughly examined, "any sudden changes are readily observed".

"In over 5,500 school inspections conducted by professional and highly trained inspectors last year there have been only a handful of issues raised with us about possible misrepresentation of the school's position, all of which were looked in to.

"While we do not take suggestions of wrongdoing lightly, it would be a disservice to all those schools who strive to do the best for their pupils to suggest that there is some sort of wide scale problem, based on anonymous and unsubstantiated claims."

Teachers took to the site to vent their frustration at Ofsted inspections, with one saying "How the bloody hell can one guy come in for one day and deem a school unsatisfactory!!"

Another added: "If 'playing the game' brings about the safest and best possible outcome for staff in the school - why would you not do it?"

One contributor went into detail over the measures their school took to "trick" Ofsted:

  • "Sending the worse pupils on "work experience" to another school...
  • "Study leave" for worse behaved pupils...
  • Organising residentials for the worst pupils and teachers!!
  • Buying in supply teachers to work as TAs...
  • Prizes for the classes with best attendance that week....(not as part of a bigger scheme)
  • Bringing in policy documents from another school and changing the front covers...
  • LEA advisors brought in to team teach with poorer teachers....

At the time of Gove's concerns over the issue last April, former Ofsted inspector and ex-headteacher Adrian Elliott took to the Local Schools Network site to discuss the perceived problem.

He reminded critics "as far as staff are concerned, remember schools only get 48 hours notice before an inspection".

"The most shocking thing about this story, which has been picked up by much of the media, is the sheer naivete of believing that a school where behaviour is poor can be transformed by the absence of one or two teachers and half a dozen pupils."

Leslie Gannon, head of campaigns for the National Association of Head Teachers told The Huffington Post UK many of the tales were "apocryphal".

"Few inspectors would fail to notice a sudden drop in numbers of staff and pupils during a school inspection and a cursory glance at an attendance record would usually be enough to trigger alarm.

"In addition, the limited time available to school leaders between the announcement and execution of an inspection does not leave much time for the planning of skulduggery; any notice period is usually taken up with preparing the required paperwork and resources.

"That said misconceptions among those outside the profession on the scope and purpose of inspections and indeed, on teaching in general, can lead to unfair assumptions being made about school performance," she added.

"It’s sad that we are not able to give credit where it is due and accept the great work done by the overwhelming majority of schools.”