Justice for Parents and Children Harmed by OFSTED

by Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

Justice for Parents and Children Harmed by OFSTED

by Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families
Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families
Case Owner
PLEASE help us in this noble cause, which is being taken on behalf of the emotional and educational well-being of all England’s children, teachers and schools. Thank you for your support.
Funded
on 26th March 2020
£24,335
pledged of £40,000 stretch target from 372 pledges
Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families
Case Owner
PLEASE help us in this noble cause, which is being taken on behalf of the emotional and educational well-being of all England’s children, teachers and schools. Thank you for your support.

Latest: June 27, 2020

Wynstones closure case withdrawal

Dear supporters,

We’re writing with an update on the Wynstones parents’ legal case against Ofsted, for which we have received a great deal of support and positive publicity – not lea…

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• The Wynstones Parent Initiative is a group of over 50 parents who feel harmed by the summary overnight closure of Wynstones School on 27th January 2020.

• We consider the action of Oftsed / the Department for Education both disproportionate and ill-considered.

• No provision was made for the families who have been left abandoned and bereaved by their actions.

• We are in a process of preparing a legal case against Ofsted / DofE, and have wide support from eminent educationalists and agreement from Michael Mansfield QC to take the case.

• We are an independent group with no formal link to the school.

• We have produced a report that details the awful effects of the school closure on children and families, and a detailed ‘counter-report’ that challenges and refutes many of the judgements in the inspection report that was used as the pretext for closing the school.

Summary – We believe that OFSTED has been operating in a high-handed manner without regard for real educational principles, using ‘safeguarding’ pretexts to close schools and acting in an unreasonable manner without taking consideration of parents’ educational rights and associated choices. Correspondence with the DfE substantiates this. The effect on children and families has been devastating and completely unwarranted. OFSTED has not followed normal procedures in this and other cases, but has arguably pursued a bullying agenda that has the effect of intimidating schools and depriving parents of an education of their choice.

Background – There have been a number of legal cases brought over the years against OFSTED, and the UK Department for Education – some of them famously successful, some less so. In the view of many – including a phalanx of eminent educational experts [Spielman, A. (2019). Correspondence: Steiner schools: Amanda Spielman writes to Damian Hinds, 31 January; available at https://tinyurl.com/ukud32s (accessed 14 March 2020)] – OFSTED has been bullying schools and teachers across the land with its compliance-demanding ‘enforcer’ attitude since it was founded under Chris Woodhead in 1992. There exist well-documented cases of head-teachers having been driven to suicide under undue pressure from OFSTED and the government’s unforgiving, high-stakes accountability regime. The influence of OFSTED has also had an adverse effect on staff morale in many schools, and one can surmise an adverse knock-on effect of this on children throughout the country. After nearly three decades of this brutalising behaviour, it has to stop.

What has happened – The whole Wynstones school community has been deeply traumatised by this experience, with teachers demoralised and facing redundancies,, working and single-parent families massively inconvenienced, and children thrown into diagnosable anxiety and depression – with many having had their preparation for life-changing public examinations massively disrupted. Moreover, parental contacts made with the DfE about their families’ desperate plight have been met with little more than indifference.

Call to action – We are pursuing a judicial review to highlight the fact that while OFTSED has great power to judge and regulate others, it is arguably itself above the law. At the very least, a PAUSE is urgently needed on its modus operandi, which is widely experienced as being demoralising and unhelpful.

What are we trying to achieve? – To seek recompense for the harm caused by this forced school closure, and to put the case for a different, more sympathetic approach to assessing educational outcomes.

What is the next step in the case? – Issuing a claim for judicial review.

How much are we raising and why? – £4,000 which would enable us to build the case and put a team in place then £50,000 for the further case if legal aid is not available.

Please help us hold OFSTED / the Department for Education to account. A healthy future for England’s education system necessitates the confronting of politicised bullying which seeks to impose a standardising high-stakes Audit Culture and mould our schools and our children in its single vision.

We believe that a story urgently needs to be told about what OFSTED leaves in its wake after it condemns schools. It pays lip-service to educational values and safeguarding, while arguably acting like a brutal bully. As one of the school’s parents memorably said, “OFSTED are the safeguarding issue in this country”. And as co-head of the National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted, was recently quoted as saying, OFSTED is driving teachers out of the profession, and destroying the reputation of schools (“Don’t work for Ofsted, teachers’ union tells members”, i newspaper, 10 February 2020, p. 9).

This legal case also has international reverberations. Reports are coming in from across the globe that the free educational philosophy and pedagogy of which Steiner Waldorf education is just one exemplar are increasingly coming under attack from a control-fixated Audit Culture, seemingly determined to ‘discipline’ and curtail educational freedom, and to standardise and emasculate pedagogies that challenge neoliberal ideology and its control-fixated managerialist ethos.

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Update 5

Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

June 27, 2020

Wynstones closure case withdrawal

Dear supporters,

We’re writing with an update on the Wynstones parents’ legal case against Ofsted, for which we have received a great deal of support and positive publicity – not least from all those who have supported our case with great financial generosity in these difficult times. We are very grateful to everyone who has travelled with us on this challenging and sometimes painful process, and we are aware of the extent to which our case has struck a chord.

When we set out, we sought some redress for the outrageous and irresponsible overnight closure of a much-loved school. There is no functional or effective complaints or oversight process for OFSTED as an organisation, and our lawyers advised us that the only realistic remedy was Judicial Review, which needed to be submitted within a 3-month time-limit. Our aim was to challenge the closure of the school by the DfE, however we were advised that although the DfE sent a letter to the Trustees ‘requiring immediate closure’ and threatening prison and unlimited fines for non-compliance, the DfE still maintained that in a strictly legal sense, they did not actually close the school themselves and were therefore not culpable.

We then looked at the case against OFSTED as being ‘irrational’ in its conclusions on ‘safeguarding’; in its previous report just a few academic weeks before the new judgements were made, OFSTED found the school to be compliant in ‘safeguarding’ terms. It added great difficulty to our case that OFSTED were not willing to release the original reports upon which their inspection conclusions were based until the last moment.

On the advice of our legal team, we have recently been advised to withdraw the case, as it would be very hard to fight purely on those narrowly-defined ‘rational’ grounds – whatever we might think of the underlying reality of what the report alleged, which in our view remains highly contestable. Indeed, our expert consultant on safeguarding law still felt that we may well have grounds to challenge Ofsted’s judgements around safeguarding. However, time constraints, along with the level of restriction of access to the confidential documents, were such that it was made logistically impossible for us to pursue the case any further.

We’re sure you will understand that our case, along with many others which have suffered a similar outcome, raises fundamental questions about how a fair outcome is achieved in the context of school inspections, let alone how justice is sought.

We’re sorry to be bringing you this difficult news; but we want to thank you again for supporting and having faith in us. In taking on Ofsted-DfE in the way we have done, we have also given a strong message that our education will no longer be a compliant punch-bag – and that message alone to these organisations will be of an inestimable value for the future. The email address newsfromwynparents@gmail.com will remain active for those who want to stay in touch or find out more.

An outcome from this process is that we want to help other Steiner Schools, and indeed any other schools, to better understand the current ‘safeguarding’ culture, with a view to improving outcomes for children and families who love their schools, benefit from being there and feel safe at them.

Hoping this finds you well.

Kind regards

Wynstones Legal Action Core Group

Update 4

Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

May 18, 2020

The Claim for Permission to seek JR has been issued!

We have reached the first hurdle and the case is now attracting more publicity - particularly due to Michael Mansfield's involvement. In the case of the Steiner Academy Bristol, the judge Justice Holman ruled as follows: “In my view, the Claimants raise an arguable case ….that HMCI [Ofsted] was deliberately targeting the academy because it was a Steiner school. In my view, this is not a frivolous, hopeless or misconceived claim. It is a very serious one from the perspective of the Claimants, and is sufficiently timely and sufficiently arguable. So, I grant permission.”

The Crowd Justice crowd-fundraising site has just reached £20,000! This is a great step. It shows there is a will and support behind it. Thanks to all so far who have made this possible!! You might want to visit wynsted.org to see in greater depth what the case turns on.

We still need to do more fundraising, even for this initial stage. The state throws continual little obstacles in the way, so it seems, which need further solicitor time to get over - which we do get over! But it adds to the costs. We are still in the process of seeking legal aid but this only covers costs incurred after it is granted.

The total costs to date are thus over £30k, and we need to be ready to meet the costs from the other side (Ofsted) should initial merit judgements not be in our favour (at initial stages we estimate this at £10k). We are confident it WILL be in our favour, but we need to cover bases so that the principle child/parent claimant are not at all liable for this. It needs to be a collective effort. Hence we have now raised the fundraising need to £35-40,000 on the Crowd Justice site.

Help us to reach this! Spread the word.

If someone needs a Gift Aid form, or wishes to contribute by cheque, or wishes to pledge rather than donate, this can be made separately from the Crowd Justice page. See our website for details. www.wynsted.org

Update 3

Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

April 20, 2020

We have good news!

Dear Supporters,

Today we broke through the £10,000 barrier with our Crowdjustice campaign. Thank you all once again for your generosity, and for the wonderful comments of support, too. It's so affirming for us to receive this support on the sometimes challenging path of bringing ‘public bodies’ to account, and your support reinforces our determination to bring this legal case and to seek justice for what we consider an egregious abuse of power. Approaching 200 kind people have already supported this just cause with many small donations and a few generous larger ones.  Gift aid is now available to UK taxpayers to boost the power of your donation – just send an email to admin@culturalfreedom.org

Please do continue to share the link and consider making a further donation if you feel moved -  https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-parents-and-childr/

The other exciting news is that we've just had a long conference-call consultation with Michael Mansfield QC and our legal team, which affirmed the strength of our case for the judicial review claim; and we're delighted to have Michael's full support for the case, his enthusiasm and insight has lifted our spirits and injected new energy into the campaign. At present we are still hoping and planning on a successful application for legal aid to fight the actual case, but until then we need still to meet the costs of gathering testimony and all the other facets of building a case. In a couple of weeks we will know the result but until then we will need to enlist the social-networking world to cascade news about our cause far and wide - so do please help with this if possibly you can; thank you.

There are also plans being hatched, as I write, about a fund-raising walk from Stroud to the DfE offices in London - so watch this space!

We also have a new web site soon to be launched –

at http://wynsted.org/

Please feel share this, together with our Facebook page link >> https://www.facebook.com/Wynstones-Parents-Legal-Action-114127803559871

We simply wouldn't be able be bringing this legal case without your support - so every one of our supporters knows that you are making a great contibution for seeking justice both for Steiner education in England and all those who have suffered under OFSTED’s regime. Thank you again from us all.

Kind regards

Arthur Edwards

Update 2

Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

April 18, 2020

Gift Aid for Justice for Parents and Children Harmed by OFSTED

We are in the process of making arrangements, via a Charitable Trust,  for Gift Aid Donations which add 25% to the value of the donation. Please contact newsfromwynparents@gmail.com if you would like to do this and we shall send details. 

More news to follow soon and thanks for your support - keep spreading the message among contacts and social media if you would like to help us build our campaign.

Update 1

Arthur Edwards on behalf of children and families

April 9, 2020

Thanks to you all! Progress Report.

UPDATE I:

Dear supporters,

Thank you all for so generously supporting our proposed legal action against the DfE and Ofsted.

We were delighted to reach our initial target so quickly, which enabled us to get started with the preparatory work for the proposed judicial review claim. A key challenge we face is of having to bring action within the statutory 3-month deadline since the school was closed.

It is our aim to bring together as much expert witness testimony as possible to prove the merit of the claim and so put us in a favourable position to make an application for legal aid. This has involved extensive work in contacting parents, teachers, educational and safeguarding experts etc. It is time consuming and also costly – however, we think that with another £10,000 we can do everything we need in order to issue the claim and hopefully make a successful legal aid funding claim that would then cover the whole costs of the actual review. For this reason we have lowered our initial stretch-target though that is not showing on the site.

We would therefore like to ask everyone who has supported us so far to share this appeal far and wide (especially on social networking) among friends of Waldorf Education and those who consider that a challenge to OFSTED / DofE is now needed. And anyone who feels able to is invited to make a further donation. 

We hope that you will have seen the parents summary questionnaire (see here https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SnKX0eezYTillfiWGCd-988TIvZF8HH1/view), the reviews of Pushing Back to Ofsted (and the free download of the book – available here https://tinyurl.com/Pushback-to-Ofsted) and the articles about the case published in the latest issue of New View magazine (soon to be available on our website, currently being developed, at Wynsted.org). We now also have a Facebook page here at https://www.facebook.com/Wynstones-Parents-Legal-Action-114127803559871 .

Please stay in touch and join us in the fight for educational diversity upon which a healthy culture depends. And thank you again for your much-valued support, without which we would not be in a position to bring this principled legal challenge, and to be speaking truth to power.

Kind regards

Arthur Edwards


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