The ISI report for St. Augustine's Priory School still hasn't been published. I was discussing this extraordinary state of affairs with friends, and about the only thing we can think of that would cause such a delay is if the school has taken legal action against the ISI to prevent or at least delay publication. There's no reason to think that the DfE has lost confidence in the ISI, since they are intending adding to ISI's responsibilities, by transferring the responsibility for inspections for welfare of boarding school pupils at ISC member schools from OFSTED to ISI.
So I phoned Durell Barnes at the ISI to ask him about the current situation. The conversation was brief, but in its own way most illuminating. This isn't a verbatim transcript, but it went something like this.
JW: I notice that the St Augustine's report has not yet been published?
DB: No it hasn't.
JW: Do you know when it will be?
JW: Do you know why it hasn't been published yet?
DB: All I can say is that it will be published as soon as possible.
It has been suggested to me that the reason for the delay is that the school took legal action against the ISI to prevent or delay publication. Can
you tell me whether that is true?
DB: I can't add to what I have already said.
JW: I'll take that as a "yes" then.
Quite clearly, the publication date is not under the control of the ISI. If there were no court action, I'm sure that Durell Barnes would have had no difficulty in saying that there was no action. For one reason or another, it seems that Durell Barnes is unable to confirm the action, but to deny it would put him and the ISI in an impossible situation. His only option therefore was to remain silent.
The only situation that I can think of that fits the facts available at the moment is that the report is so devastatingly bad that the school (despite the headteacher suggesting in July that she was urgently looking forward to publication) has decided to take the ISI to court to suppress the report. If this is the case, then the judgement will be published in due course and a copy will undoubtedly be made publicly available.
If this has happened, then the school must already be in possession of an advance copy of the report, otherwise they wouldn't have known that they would want to take action.
If the school thinks that the ISI report is unfair, then they could and should have told the parents what they thought. After all, it is charitable funds, ultimately coming from school fees, that would be paying for this legal action.
Let's have a think about the timing. The inspection took place in April. Under normal circumstances the report is made available about 3 months after the inspection, so that would be sometime in July. Two weeks notice of publication. That would be sufficient to get a quick temporary injunction against publication, with a date set for a hearing as to whether the report was so unfair that publication should have been prevented. Maybe three months provided for both sides to prepare their cases, which would mean a High Court hearing in October, perhaps November. It usually takes three months or so for the judgement to be published - this wouldn't be an unduly complex case. So we may be expecting publication any day now. I shall be keeping a close eye on the publication of judgements from the relevant division of the High Court.
But all this is theorising. I don't have any certain knowledge of any legal action. But any parent could reasonably phone the school and ask what is the cause of the delay, whether the school has received an advance copy of the ISI report yet, and whether the school has taken any action that will have contributed to the delay in publication. If you ask, I would be fascinated to learn what the answer is. So I suspect would the other parents.