Ofsted is taking a “hard look” at its complaints procedure because of concerns that it is outdated, Amanda Spielman has revealed.
The chief inspector’s announcement comes weeks after headteachers called for the creation of a new independent review panel to consider complaints about “irrational or unfair” reports.
During an appearance at last Friday’s International Festival of Learning at West Suffolk College, a headteacher from Stowmarket asked Ms Spielman whether Ofsted’s appeals process was fit for purpose.
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He told her that a freedom of information request he submitted to Ofsted revealed that no school had successfully overturned an inspection verdict in the past academic year.
The chief inspector said the response was in some ways misleading, because “quite a number” of judgements are changed or inspections are declared incomplete during quality assurance, rather than at the final stage of the complaints procedure.
However, Ms Spielman raised concerns that the appeals process dates from the era before Ofsted stopped contracting out inspections in 2015.
Ofsted looks at its complaints process
She said: “We have a slightly odd complaint process that is really derived from the period when inspection was contracted out to Serco and whoever, so the complaints process is more geared to seeing [if] Serco or whoever had handled the complaint properly rather than being about us.
“So we are having a hard look at it at the moment to see how we make something that is better and that fits the current model better.”
The inspectorate’s complaints process came under scrutiny in 2017 when a High Court judge quashed Durand Academy’s "inadequate" judgement after finding that a key aspect of Ofsted’s complaints procedure was “not a rational or fair process”.
However, that decision was overturned last December when the Court of Appeal found that “looked at overall, Ofsted’s procedure for evaluation and reporting is a fair and reasonable one for schools”.
In May, the NAHT headteachers’ union passed a motion warning that Ofsted should not be allowed to police complaints about its own inspections, and calling for a new independent review panel to be created.
At the festival, Ms Spielman was also asked whether she thought there would be more successful appeals against Ofsted reports under its new inspection framework because of the bigger focus on “subjective” curriculum rather than data.
She replied “not necessarily”, and added that it is a “bit of a myth” that inspection grades are currently tightly linked to a school’s performance data.