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Timing of Ofsted downgrade was abuse of power, parents claim in judicial review threat

Parents at a London school embroiled in legal disputes after its administration resolved to join a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) have launched new legal proceedings against Ofsted for an inspection that downgraded the school to 'inadequate'.

The parents, whose children attend Holland Park School in West London, argue that the timing and effect of Ofsted's downgrade was intended to accelerate the school to join United Learning by taking decision-making powers away from the school's governing body and placing them with the Secretary of State for Education.

The Ofsted inspection, published on 17 June, (https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50186015) changed the school's rating from 'outstanding' (in the last full inspection conducted in 2014) to 'inadequate'.

The report noted that "[turbulence] in leadership and governance has destabilised this school community", adding that the school's leadership is "poor and unfit for purpose".
In its pre-action protocol letter, The Holland Park School Parent Collective, a group of 350 parents and carers, threatened a legal challenge on the following grounds:

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i. Unfair Process/ Failure to put criticisms to the school's leadership
ii. Abuse of Power/ Improper Purpose in the timing of the inspection
iii. Irrational downgrade to Inadequate.

Announcing the move, the group said: "The timing and effect of Ofsted's inspection and report appears intended to accelerate the school to join [United Learning] by taking the decision-making powers away from the School's Governing Body and placing them with [the Department for Education] at a time when that local process was being effectively challenged by way of a Judicial Review.

"That is an improper purpose for an Ofsted Inspection and an abuse of power."

In May, a group of parents at the school joined with the National Education Union (NEU) to file proceedings for a separate judicial review at the High Court.

The challenge was filed against the school's governors over the decision to end the institution's existing single academy status and pass the school over to the MAT, United Learning. The claim contends that there was an unlawful failure by the governors to consult on their decision.

Adam Carey

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