'ID? But we are Ofsted, of course we are safe'

11th June 2010 at 01:00
Inspectors turn up without accreditation then get shirty when principal denies them access

Ofsted's crackdown on pupil safety has led to schools being marked down on everything from low fences to offering inspectors coffee before checking their ID.

But this week it emerged that the watchdog does not always follow its own rules. Two Ofsted inspectors arrived at Hartlepool Sixth Form College last month expecting to be admitted without any accreditation.

Worse still, one of the errant pair, who forgot to bring the Ofsted cards that prove they have been Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checked, was the inspector whose specific duty it was to check the college's safety regime.

Rick Wells, college principal, said: "I find it astonishing that members of an inspection team would turn up without accreditation.

"I do think safeguarding is an important issue and Ofsted should be ticked off for not doing its job properly. It really needs to get its own house in order and with this team that clearly wasn't the case.

"One of the inspectors treated my reception staff with incredible arrogance, basically saying, `We are Ofsted, of course we are safe'."

Mr Wells refused to let the inspectors - two of a team of five - past reception without their ID until the lead inspector arrived.

"There was annoyance that they had been picked up on something that was so elementary," the principal said. "The whole thing coloured our inspection I think. The attitude from then on was full of nitpicking and curmudgeonly."

Unable to spare the staff to accompany the ID-less inspectors around the school, after consulting Ofsted, Mr Wells eventually allowed the inspection to go ahead.

He is expecting an "outstanding" mark for safeguarding but fears the college may not have achieved the top ratings he believes it deserves in other areas.

Ofsted's new emphasis on pupil safeguarding began with the school inspection framework, introduced in September.

Stories quickly surfaced of schools being penalised in inspections for everything from having public footpaths running through their grounds to inside reception doors being left open.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector, reassured schools that they would not be failed on safeguarding if they showed how they mitigated risks.

An Ofsted spokesman said all its inspectors were required to carry official photo identification badges to show they had CRB clearance. He confirmed that two inspectors had arrived at the college without the badges. "Ofsted has apologised to the school and action has been taken to ensure this does not happen in future," he said.

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