Gavin Williamson

Ofsted received fifty times more reports from parents praising schools’ remote education offer than those complaining about it after Gavin Williamson urged parents to flag concerns to the watchdog.

Figures obtained by Schools Week show that since Williamson’s statement two weeks ago, Ofsted has received 13,000 emails praising schools – and around 260 complaints.

The flood of positive reports followed a social media campaign that turned the tables on the under-fire secretary of state and encouraged parents to use the process to praise teachers instead.

On January 6, Williamson told the House of Commons that schools’ remote education duty will be “enforced by Ofsted” following the partial closure of schools – announced just two days prior.

He said while issues should first be raised with a teacher and then headteacher, if they remain unresolved the parent should report the matter to Ofsted.

The watchdog had been forced to pull in extra staff last week to help sort through the influx of emails.

The roughly 260 complaints will now be considered. Concerns were raised last week that the flood of emails sent from parents increased “the chance of a genuine safeguarding risk taking longer to be resolved”.

Ofsted may contact the school and reserves the right to inspect, but it is hoped that follow-up inspections won’t be necessary in the vast majority of instances.

Inspectors to join online lessons

Elsewhere Ofsted today released new guidelines for how its remote monitoring inspections will take place this term.

The schools watchdog revealed that inspectors could join online lessons so they can “understand how education is being provided by the school”.

Inspectors may also have discussions with staff and pupils – remotely or in person – about their work and experiences.

However the guidance clarified: “Cameras will normally be used in remote meetings. When observing remote education, inspectors will ask the school whether cameras should be used. Inspectors will not record calls and will ask that the school, and individual staff and pupils, do not do so either”.

Inspections will last for two days and will involve two Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). The inspection’s format will be reviewed and Ofsted will confirm before the February half-term what inspections after the break will look like.

Ofsted had originally planned to conduct the inspections in-person starting from this week but U-turned on plans “in light of a change in emphasis from the government and clear advice to ‘act as if you have the virus’ over the next few week”.

Ofsted inspectors who are members of the FDA union had “voted overwhelmingly” to call on chief inspector Amanda Spielman to suspend routine on-site visits “as a matter of urgency”.