Following the ruling in the Shoesmith case, chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: “I am pleased that the judge’s conclusion is clear – Ofsted’s inspection process has been vindicated.”
However, Mr Justice Foskett’s judgment strongly criticised the inspectorate, particularly over its failure to disclose key documents until after the hearing had closed.
He stated: “I am still not happy that I have received a full explanation for the initial failings and I indicate that I am proposing to take the matter up personally with the Treasury solicitor”.
He also pointed out that it was not part of his remit to decide whether the final emergency joint area review (JAR) report into Haringey had been “beefed up” from the original.
Despite this, he highlighted evidence showing the final report was changed “in a way that shifted the responsibility…from a combined failure on the part of members of the council and officers to an entirely managerial failure”.
Mr Justice Foskett also raised concerns that Gilbert made “unfair” comments about Shoesmith to children’s secretary Ed Balls, when the report was submitted.
The future for Ofsted now lies in the result of the election. The Tories have said they would make changes to its role while Labour’s Barry Sheerman, current chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, has said, if re-elected, he will call an inquiry into Ofsted’s handling of the JAR report.
“With the result of the judicial review, I think there are some very hard questions for Ofsted to answer,” he said.
Ofsted’s defiance over the Shoesmith case is also unlikely to smooth relations with directors of children’s services who are already seething over changes to the unannounced inspections process.