Q: The primary school that my children attend recently had a light touch inspection. When the report came out it was glowing. However, a sizable number of parents wrote to the team, as we are dissatisfied with the care that some of our children receive. The wisdom of the headteacher is that as long as the children are bright and compliant then they are valued. Children that do not fit this picture are sidelined. There are concerns about pastoral care, high numbers of NQTs and other issues. None of these were mentioned in the report. We wonder if our questionnaires were filed in the bin so that inspectors never saw them.
A: I cannot comment on your individual inspection, but it might be helpful to explain the process for collecting and dealing with parent questionnaires. These are sent out with an invitation for them to be returned in a sealed envelope. Schools are told that they should not open them, so there should not be an opportunity for the head to know which contain favourable and which have unfavourable comments.
Inspectors will make use of questionnaires, and sometimes conversations with parents, to help focus the inspection. Often parental comments are quoted in reports. Although inspectors tend to make more liberal use of positive comments than negative ones, this should only be where this broadly reflects the balance of views expressed. Reports are short (just two pages for light touch, reduced tariff inspections) so you cannot expect that all the views expressed by parents will be referred to in the report.
If you believe that inspectors have ignored serious concerns to the extent that the report conveys a misleading picture of the school, it is possible for parents to lodge a complaint. Where a complaint is made about an inspection, the evidence will be examined, and that will include the parent questionnaires.
Q: Our inspection report has just been published and the wording includes some factual errors. How can we get these altered?
A: As part of the routine process, your headteacher will have been sent a copy of the draft report for a factual check. In most instances, they will be given 24 hours to come back with comments (the period is extended to five days when a report puts a school into special measures or issues a notice to improve). This should be explained clearly by the company that sends the report to the school on Ofsted's behalf. If you remain unhappy about the wording after a report is published, you may want to refer to the complaints procedure on the Ofsted website. This indicates that a complaint may be considered up to 30 days after the publication of a report.
Selwyn has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at email@example.com.