Heads demand independent panel to handle Ofsted complaints

Headteachers have demanded the establishment of an independent review panel to handle complaints from schools about Ofsted.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers have voted to instruct the union’s leadership to campaign for a new independent body which would give schools a statutory right to appeal against an Ofsted judgment “where they believe the outcome is irrational or unfair”.

Under the current system, complaints about inspections or judgments are handled by Ofsted, as are “internal reviews”, the next stage if a complaint isn’t resolved.

If those two options don’t work, complainants can go to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted to review the case, but the organisation cannot change the outcome of any complaints. Heads warned today that the current set-up leaves some schools with no choice but to challenge Ofsted judgments in the courts.

In a conference motion, one of several on Ofsted considered by the union, the NAHT said it was “not right that Ofsted polices its own complaints”.

“This conference calls on national executive to campaign for the establishment of an independent review
panel to give schools the opportunity of a statutory right to appeal against an Ofsted judgment where they
believe the outcome is irrational or unfair.

“The right of appeal should also extend to cover the conduct of the inspection where the school believes this has had a detrimental impact on the overall judgement.”

Heads also passed a motion today expressing concern that proposed changes to the way Ofsted inspects schools could cause problems for schools, because of a perceived over-reliance on inspectors’ professional judgments, which “could be open to misinterpretation”.

Speaking earlier today, Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, sought to reassure headteachers that they have been listened-to during the development of Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which will be published later this month and implemented from September.

“By focusing on the substance and integrity of education, we want to help limit the perverse incentives that can lead to some schools believing they have to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test in order to be judged a success,” she said.

“The NAHT had reservations about the quality of education proposal, although it supports the shift in emphasis towards curriculum. And of course, we respect that and are considering your union’s comments carefully.”

But Spielman has been criticised for her claim in the speech that England has “one of the lightest” inspection models in the western world.

Nick Brook, the deputy general secretary of the NAHT and a former Ofsted staffer, said delegates were “mystified by the suggestion”.

“In fact, England has one of the most highly regulated education systems in the world, which is limiting schools’ ability to deliver a first-class education,” he said.

“If we want to compete with the very best countries in the world, we need to urgently rebalance holding schools to account with helping them to improve.”