Secret Ofsted files: Martins Wood school was spared special measures

Martins Wood Primary Ofsted memo

Secret Ofsted memos, obtained by the Comet under the Freedom of Information Act, show Ofsted originally proposed putting Martins Wood Primary School, Stevenage, into special measures - Credit: Archant / Google Streetview

A Stevenage primary school was not placed into special measures because it was providing a good standard of education, according to documents obtained by the Comet.

An initial report sent by Ofsted to the Department of Education said Martins Wood Primary School was “provisionally judged to require special measures”.

But despite Ofsted later u-turning, Martins Wood is still being forced by the government to become an academy, with some staff facing redundancy.

Parents have raised concerns with the Comet that staff cuts will worsen their children’s education, not improve it.

Confidential documents, obtained by the Comet following legal action under the Freedom of Information Act, show Ofsted initially suggested placing Martins Wood into special measures over “serious” safeguarding failures.

Martins Wood Primary School Ofsted memo

The Comet used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain previously secret communications between Ofsted and the Department for Education about Martins Wood Primary School - Credit: Charles Thomson

The Comet revealed in April how reports of sexual activity between pupils were recorded on a computer system but not reported to the children’s guardians or Social Services.

Ofsted ultimately decided not to place Martins Wood into special measures, despite a regional director writing in a memo that the school “has serious weaknesses and requires significant improvement”.

Questioned about the u-turn, Ofsted said that in order to be placed into special measures, Martins Wood had to meet two criteria.

First, that the school’s leadership was “not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school”.

Second, that the school was “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education”.

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“This is known as the twin test,” an Ofsted spokesperson said.

“When aspects of the school’s provision is judged inadequate but the twin test is not met, as in this case, then the school is judged to have serious weaknesses.”

In its final report, Ofsted deemed Martins Wood’s leadership “inadequate”, but rated its education “good”.

Martins Wood Primary School, Stevenage

Martins Wood Primary School, Stevenage, was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted and is being forced to become an academy - Credit: Google Streetview

But Herts County Council (HCC) said that because Ofsted rated Martins Wood “inadequate” overall, a law introduced in 2016 demanded that it become an academy and obligated the council to facilitate the change.

“The school and HCC have always been clear that they accept the findings of the Ofsted report, including that systems and processes for safeguarding at Martins Wood haven’t always consistently been robust enough,” a council spokesperson said.