Ofsted

Ofsted admits its complaints policy ‘isn’t working’

Officials have been asked to make the process more human and less bureaucratic

Officials have been asked to make the process more human and less bureaucratic

13 Jan 2023, 5:00

Ofsted
Exclusive

Ofsted senior leaders have admitted its complaints policy “is not working” and will be reviewed.

Officials have been asked to make the process more human and less bureaucratic, Schools Week understands.

During an invite-only briefing to trust leaders this week, the watchdog also revealed that inspectors have been trained on how to see “the big picture”, following complaints about inconsistent grades.

Trust bosses have said that some inspectors made “over-zealous” judgments based on some pupils’ derogatory language or behaviour issues during inspections.

The rare admission from Ofsted – and action – has been praised in private by some trust leaders, who feel the watchdog is listening.

The percentage of complaints about inspections that were at least partially upheld fell to its lowest level in eight years last year (see table).

Just 17 per cent of 718 complaints closed in the 2021-22 academic year had aspects upheld. This followed a record high of 26 per cent out of 320 complaints closed in the previous year, but this was heavily impacted by Covid.

Ofsted’s admission was made during a meeting with members of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST).

Ofsted officials Chris Jones and Lee Owston addressed trust leaders on Tuesday before the pair spoke again to about 400 CST members at a Wednesday meeting.

‘Enhanced oversight’ considered

Ofsted leader Chris Jones
Jones

They admitted the complaints process was “not working”, both for schools and the inspectorate.

Ofsted officials are now reviewing policy to see how it can be improved.

One change includes a new “enhanced oversight”, Schools Week understands, which should lead to “problematic” inspections being picked up before issues arise with contentious judgments.

Caroline Derbyshire, the chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, welcomed any review, but said this should be shared with “everyone else in the profession”.

Schools Week understands the NAHT school leaders’ union was also informed of the changes.

Derbyshire said many heads believed that any issues picked up during inspections could often be “dealt with”, but issues occurring post-inspection and requiring the complaints process “rarely result in a different outcome”.

Caroline Derbyshire
Derbyshire

The meeting followed the CST last year sharing its concerns about inspections.

A major concern was inspectors jumping to snap judgments based on what pupils said. Until recently, Ofsted inspectors have not had external results data to inform their judgment.

Trust leaders said a resulting over-focus on comments made during the pupil voice part of inspections – particularly relating to behaviour and derogatory language  – were given too much weight in final judgments.

Ofsted admits inconsistency in judgments

The watchdog admitted to leaders there had been inconsistency in judgments across these areas. They also said they were aware of allegations relating to inappropriate questions to pupils.

Last month Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, claimed that inspectors visiting his child’s Bishop Stopford’s school asked a boy if he thought it was a “white, middle-class school”.

A girl was asked if she felt uncomfortable walking upstairs when wearing a skirt, the MP claimed.

Hollobone was due to meet Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, this week to discuss the concerns.

Amanda Spielman
Spielman

Trust leaders were told new training called “seeing the big picture” started last week.

This was to ensure inspectors knew the framework should not be taken verbatim and that inspectors must not leap to snap judgments that any such issues were endemic in the school.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “The landscape in which inspectors and school leaders work is always evolving, which is why we run a continuous training programme for all our inspectors.

“We also make every effort to engage with people from the sectors we inspect and act on their feedback where we can.”

They added that any “formal proposals for changes to our processes, such as complaints, will always be subject to wider consultation”.

Latest education roles from

Internal Quality Assurance Employability and Distance Learning

Internal Quality Assurance Employability and Distance Learning

Capital City College Group

Distance Learning Tutor

Distance Learning Tutor

Capital City College Group

Event Support Team Leader

Event Support Team Leader

MidKent College

E-Sport Technician

E-Sport Technician

MidKent College

Digital Technician

Digital Technician

MidKent College

Student Welfare Officer

Student Welfare Officer

MidKent College

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Ofsted

Councils ‘hamstrung’ from supporting school leaders, review claims

But Ruth Perry's sister criticises council review for 'failing to ask key questions'

Lucas Cumiskey
Ofsted

Ofsted ‘not fit for purpose’, finds ‘alternative big listen’

Organisers of sector-led survey say inspectorate facing ‘existential crisis’

Freddie Whittaker
Ofsted

ASCL: Base Ofsted report cards on ‘slim set of statutory standards’

The heads' union sets out key principles of how Labour's proposed report card should work if they win next...

Lucas Cumiskey
Ofsted

‘Don’t scapegoat leaders over bad Ofsteds’, says top trust boss

United Learning chief's blueprint for Ofsted reform also calls for end of ungraded inspections and 'simplified' primary visits

Lucas Cumiskey

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *