Safeguarding grade fears ‘out of proportion’, says Ofsted director

Chris Russell also said Ofsted recognised schools 'could not be everything to everyone' post-Covid

Chris Russell also said Ofsted recognised schools 'could not be everything to everyone' post-Covid

22 Nov 2023, 16:26

More from this author

Fears about the safeguarding judgment in Ofsted inspections are 'out of proportion' to the number of schools with ineffective grades, Chris Russell has said

Schools’ fears about the safeguarding judgment in Ofsted inspections are “out of proportion to what the reality is”, the watchdog’s national director for education has said.

Chris Russell emphasised that just 1 per cent of inspections in the 2022-23 academic year resulted in an ineffective safeguarding judgments, during an address to the Schools and Academies Show in Birmingham today.

He added that it was “extremely rare” for the “only issue” in inspections to be safeguarding – accounting for less than 0.1 per cent of inspections last year.

Russell said he did not think safeguarding being a particular concern for school leaders anticipating inspections was “a new issue”, but that the inspectorate was trying to address this through clarifying its handbook and presenting webinars to the sector.

“I’m not saying we’re there yet, and we are very keen to do more because what we don’t want is for people to be unnecessarily worrying about safeguarding,” he said.

“We’re always interested in…other ways that we might get those messages out so people see it in proportion

“I think that’s the problem, they worry about it to an extent which is actually out of proportion to what the reality is.”

Ofsted has ‘no interest’ in causing stress or anxiety

Back in June, the watchdog announced a raft of changes to inspections following an outpouring of anger in the aftermath of the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

This included faster reinspections for schools graded ‘inadequate’ overall due to ineffective safeguarding.

Ofsted has also since updated its definition of the “culture of safeguarding” in a school in its inspection handbook.

Among the other changes announced, the watchdog said it would consult on a new complaints procedure for schools, following prolonged criticism the current system was “not working”.

Russell told the audience that the outcome of the consultation would be published in the coming days, with changes put into practice in the coming “months”.

They are likely to be installed after his retirement, with Lee Owston taking over the role from January.

Speaking about rising absence and behavioural challenges in the aftermath of Covid, Russell said Ofsted “recognised” issues could not “be shifted overnight” by schools, which “can’t be everything to everyone”.

Inspectors were looking at “to what extent have schools done all that can be reasonably expected in the timeframe that’s available” and within the context they work.

They also had “no interest” in the inspection process causing stress or anxiety to school staff, while Russell said an “important part” of inspector’s jobs was to “reduce stress around inspection”.

But a “bigger challenge”, he added, was for Ofsted to address “misconceptions” about its process, such as leaders’ believing they needed to do “certain things” to make grades.

“The inspection framework and the handbook – that’s what inspectors use – we’re not hiding anything,” said Russell.

Ofsted will publish the first part of its evaluation of the current inspection framework over the next few weeks, which will look at its implementation.

More from this theme


Ofsted: Employers lack skills to help SEND pupils on work experience

Leaders 'prioritised work experience and many were building relationships with employers', but with 'mixed results'

Freddie Whittaker

School wasn’t gaming as it can do ‘pretty much anything’, court hears

High court judge criticises Ofsted for 'entirely erroneous understanding' of 'gaming' as city technical college downgraded to ‘good’

Lucas Cumiskey

Ofsted to examine how SEND pupils are prepared for adulthood

Inspectors will visit a 'small number of areas' to look at a 'particular aspect of SEND in-depth'

Lucas Cumiskey

Ruth Perry: Reading council to survey heads’ wellbeing and challenge rogue Ofsted inspections

Actions follow coroner report into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, but sister says it shows council has ‘not...

Lucas Cumiskey

Ofsted orders review into wiped evidence claims

Schools Week revealed how technical glitches force inspectors to re-record inspection evidence, sometimes from memory

Freddie Whittaker

Ofsted’s digital inspection system glitch revealed

Electronic evidence gathering system has faced technical issues since it was launched in 2019

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

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


  1. Sandy Cameron

    Ofsted may “have no interest” in causing stress…but it does, and no amount of tinkering will overcome one of the main weaknesses of this model of accountability (it’s not about school improvement).

    Another is that, as Ofsted already knows, it is simply not possible to maintain quality control over all inspectors and inspections. There will always be inspections that Require Improvement!

    Lastly, there is the inbuilt paradox of a nationally prescribed inspection structure, so everyone knows what to expect, but undermined by the alleged responsiveness to each school’s individual circumstances. You cannot have both and expect (e)quality in implementation.

    It’s time it was scrapped.

    • Scraping Ofsted would be dangerous for children, contextual safeguarding is ignored in my children’s school.There is so much bully and abuse done by the very people that suppose to educate our children and this is not looked at as it should. Schools have much power and authority and it is always a wise choice to have independent agency to keep those with power in check otherwise we would find many powerful people turns into dictators. If schools are confident with the quality they provide why should they worry? I do not turn up to work worrying about how others judge the quality of my service, do you? If you are then perhaps you need to prepare yourself better!