Complaints process forced to change

8th December 2000 at 00:00
OFSTED has learnt how to back down in the past fortnight. Warwick Mansell reports on the dawn of an era of conciliation

THE Office for Standards in Education has been forced to change its complaints system following pressure from the independent adjudicator.

Traditionally, OFSTED will not consider a complaint filed by a school or an inspector unless the evidence proves the case "beyond reasonable doubt".

OFSTED argued there would be a risk of unsafe decisions were there to be a lesser burden of proof.

However, Elaine Rassaby, the organisation's adjudicator, pointed out in her annual report, published today, that "compelling" evidence in such disputed cases was rarely available.

She wrote: "Unless persuasive information is considered, for example, the views of oter teachers, team inspectors etc, OFSTED will rarely be able to uphold a complaint." As an example, she highlighted the case of a registered inspector who had complained about the conduct of a senior HMI who had been monitoring him, and found him not to be performing to standard.

The registered inspector offered to produce written support of this from members of his inspection team.

But OFSTED refused the offer, and argued that the inspectors' "perceptions" were unlikely to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Ms Rassaby said that OFSTED should have considered the case. It refused in this instance, but said that in future a lower standard of proof "may be appropriate in some cases".

The organisation's guidance on complaints has been changed accordingly.

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