Ofsted confirms shake-up of redress system - but will give schools longer to complain

Ofsted has confirmed it will proceed with a shake-up of the redress system for inspections, but will give schools five working days to complain, rather than two.

The watchdog has published the outcome to its consultation on changes to complaints, which was launched in March.

The consultation proposed that formal complaints raised by schools within two working days of receiving their final report would effectively delay publication of the report until the complaint is dealt with.

Under the current system, schools have to submit formal complaints within 10 days of an issue of concern, and Ofsted does not normally withhold publication of reports while it considers complaints.

But Ofsted proposed changes after admitting the current approach has led to it having to take action after it has published a report “when a complaint investigation highlights an error in the inspection process”.

However, in its response to the consultation, Ofsted said it had “taken on board comments stating that two working days is not sufficient time to submit a formal complaint”, and said it “decided to extend the period for providers to submit a complaint to five working days from when we issue them with the final report”.

The plan for Ofsted to consider and respond to formal complaints from inspected providers before it publishes their inspection report will be taken forward, as will a proposal to give schools five working days to review their draft report and submit concerns about issues of “factual accuracy and the inspection process”. At the moment, they only receive one.

The current system of internal reviews, which are the last step for those not satisfied with the way their complaint has been handled, will be retained, as proposed in the consultation.

Ofsted said the responses to its consultation had been “very positive”. Of the schools that responded, 87 per cent agreed with the proposal to give them five working days to review draft reports for accuracy, and 91 per cent agreed with the proposal to delay the publication of reports until after complaints are resolved.

However, only 45 per cent agreed with the proposal to retain current internal review system, whereas 36 per cent disagreed.

But Ofsted said retaining the current system “will continue to provide important challenge, independence, transparency and an insight into our complaints-handling process”.

Some respondents complained that Ofsted was biased against faith schools, but the watchdog said there was “no evidence” of this, “either from inspection grades or from within complaints information”.

“In fact, the inspection grade profile is more positive for faith schools than for non-faith schools. Latest inspection outcomes show that 88 per cent of faith schools are graded good or better compared with 85 per cent of non-faith schools.

“We strongly refute any assertions of systemic bias of any sort in our inspection or regulatory work. If an allegation has been made through a complaint in relation to any aspect of our work, we deal with this fairly, thoroughly and efficiently, and we take prompt action to put things right if an error has been made.”