Ofsted has refused to release the full findings of post-inspection surveys under its new framework, claiming they would be “potentially misleading”.
This is despite its own publication of some of the findings last month that showed nine in ten school staff were “satisfied” with their inspection.
Publication of the positive figures followed growing criticism of the watchdog’s new curriculum-focused inspections. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, claimed the published “snapshot” – the results of selected questions to staff – showed the dissenters were a “small and vocal minority”.
But when Schools Week, under the freedom of information act, asked for the full survey results, Ofsted refused. It said releasing data for the first five months of the new framework would be “inappropriate” and “potentially misleading”.
Stephen Tierney, the chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, said the refusal was “ridiculous” and questioned Ofsted’s “motive in releasing partial data rather than the full data set”.
Tierney, a vocal critic of the inspectorate, added: “Releasing the data will not be ‘potentially misleading’ – the data is what the data is – but would allow for a fuller debate around the newly imposed framework.”
Before Covid-19 halted inspections, Ofsted was under fire from influential academy trust leaders who claimed the new framework favoured middle-class children.
At an event on March 7, Spielman referred to the then unseen survey figures and said she didn’t think the “ratio of positive to negative is coming through”.
On March 12, the snapshot – based on three questions – was published online, just days before the chief inspector was due to face school leaders at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual conference.
The figures showed nearly nine in ten respondents agreed they were satisfied with how the new inspections were carried out, that their report was clear, and that feedback given by inspectors would help the school improve.
Just 7 per cent disagreed with the statement they were satisfied with the way the inspection was carried out. No further breakdown of the findings – for instance how responses varied by the grade issued – were released.
The results were based on survey responses between September 1 and February 29.
Ofsted justified its refusal by saying it intended to prepare and release a wider set of survey data “in the future”, although it did not confirm when this would be.
Schools Week’s request for the past academic year’s survey was also refused.
For this year’s survey results, Ofsted said “it would be inappropriate and potentially misleading to release incomplete statistical data part-way through the academic year”.
The response added that the first set of inspections “may have been prioritised for reasons that influence responses to the surveys” and that “responses may also be impacted by an inspection being carried out early in the academic year”.
The response read: “The data would be incomplete and not directly comparable with survey responses for the full academic year of 2018-19. We are satisfied that to release a partial set of data in this way would be potentially misleading and would prejudice our inspection function.”
It would not comment when asked why this did not apply to the March snapshot.
Tierney added: “The inspectorate having released partial data – in what it terms a transparency snapshot – should do the decent and reasonable thing and release the full data set it has available without delay.”