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ASA Adjudication on The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust t/a Beccles Free School

1 Seckford Street
Woodbridge
Suffolk
IP12 4LY

Date:

9 January 2013

Media:

Circular

Sector:

Education

Number of complaints:

2

Agency:

Artavia Advertising Ltd

Complaint Ref:

A12-208824

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad

A leaflet, for Beccles Free School, gave a range of information about the school. Text stated "As a former inspector and Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire the Headteacher appointed to lead Beccles Free School is highly experienced and qualified" and "Our Ofsted pre-opening inspection has taken place and we passed with flying colours!".

Issue

1. Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools challenged whether the claim that the school's headteacher had been "Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire" was misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood he had been Director of Learning at one school rather than for the entire county.

2. A member of the public challenged whether the claim "Our Ofsted pre-opening inspection has taken place and we passed with flying colours!" was misleading and could be substantiated.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Beccles Free School (BFS) said its headteacher had been Director of Learning for 14- to 19-year-olds at a school in Cambridgeshire from September 2011, a job which involved working with Directors in other Cambridgeshire schools. Previously, he had spent three years as a General Inspector with the Cambridgeshire Standards and Effectiveness team, which was a county-wide post. They said the wording of the leaflet was intended to indicate the breadth of the headteacher's previous experience. They said they would be happy to change the phrase to "Director of Learning in Cambridgeshire".

2. BFS said an Ofsted pre-registration inspection was carried out in June 2012. They said free schools were legally required to have an Ofsted pre-registration inspection before they are registered on the independent schools register. The inspection judged the extent to which a free school was likely to meet the relevant Independent School Standards. They said the results of the inspection were reported directly to the Department for Education, and they provided a copy of the relevant report.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA considered the claim "Director of Learning for Cambridgeshire" implied that BFS's headteacher had previously held a job which involved Director-level responsibility for the whole of the county of Cambridgeshire. Because we understood that was not the case, we concluded the claim exaggerated the extent of the headteacher's previous roles and was therefore misleading. We considered the suggested alternative wording of "Director of Learning in Cambridgeshire" would also create a similar impression and would also be misleading to consumers.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

2. Upheld

We understood the complainant had interpreted the claim to mean that Ofsted had inspected and approved of the quality of education at BFS, but when they had contacted Ofsted they were mistakenly informed that Ofsted did not carry out “pre-opening inspections”. However, we understood that Ofsted did carry out pre-registration inspections of free schools to check that they were likely to meet specific standards in welfare, health and safety, suitability of the proprietor and staff, the school premises, the provision of information for parents/carers, and the manner in which complaints were handled. The inspection did not include checks on the proposed curriculum or expected educational standards of the school.

We considered the term “passed with flying colours” implied that the report judged schools on a sliding scale, such as a grade system, and that BSF had received a particularly high grade or score overall. We noted, however, that the pre-registration inspection judged only whether schools were “likely to meet” or “not likely to meet” each criteria relevant to the school. We considered the term “passed with flying colours” therefore exaggerated the nature of the pre-registration inspection and its judging criteria. We concluded the claim was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BFS to ensure they did not make claims which exaggerated the extent of the headteacher's previous roles or the role and/or outcome of the Ofsted pre-registration inspection.

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