Ofsted refuses to release conference slides

A teacher has questioned why Ofsted refuses to release presentation materials about maths teaching that he claims should be publicly available.

The inspectorate’s national lead for mathematics, Jane Jones, presented a session at Cheshire East Council’s
“Better Mathematics” conference
in December.

But when Andrew Smith, a teacher in Birmingham, used the Freedom of Information Act to request her presentation slides, Ofsted refused on the grounds of commercial interest.

Mr Smith argues that any general advice given by HMI to teachers should be available to all, “not just those who pay. We should also be able to scrutinise whether they are giving advice that conflicts with the Ofsted handbook.”

In its response to Mr Smith, Ofsted last week said: “The conferences are hosted by local authorities. Delegates are expected to pay a fee to attend, and are usually either partially or fully subsidised by the authority on a non-profit basis.

“The Information Commissioner’s guidance is clear that the FOI Act is not an intended method for individuals to circumnavigate paying for information.

“Individuals who attended this particular conference are able to obtain the course material via their local authority.”

Schools Week contacted Cheshire East to ask if it would be happy to provide the resources to Mr Smith, or if it would be happy for Ofsted to do so.

However, a spokesman said: “We are not releasing this information for understandable reasons. These courses are still being run at other locations around the country.

“It sounds like a copyright issue to me and as a local authority we might not have paid for that.

“It is up to the local authority whether they release the information, and while these courses are being run we are certainly not releasing it.”

An Ofsted spokesperson confirmed that the Better Mathematics conferences “aim to give headteachers and subject leaders insight into how to improve leadership, teaching and learning in mathematics. They do this through sharing evidence of what works well and providing opportunities for delegates to develop strategies for improvement in their individual schools.”

In 2013, Ofsted was criticised for allowing additional contracted inspectors to sell services to schools. However, Ms Jones is an HMI inspector and therefore cannot sell consultancy services.

Ofsted confirmed it received no remuneration for the event.

Learning of this Mr Smith said: “If this is information is being presented as part of an Ofsted role then it isn’t obvious where the commercial interest arises.”