Ofsted purges 1,200. Now schools want to know who
Ofsted is being hit by a stream of Freedom of Information requests as schools demand to know whether they have been visited by one of the 1,200 inspectors the watchdog decided were not up to scratch.
TES revealed last month that after conducting "robust" assessments, the watchdog chose to purge more than 40 per cent of its previously contracted "additional" inspectors.
Ofsted said it wanted every headteacher to "be assured they have a good inspector walking up the path". Now leaders of schools that have received critical reports are anxious to know whether these were written by inspectors the watchdog has since rejected.
The stakes are high because a bad Ofsted judgement can be devastating, leading to the dismissal of staff and governors and making it harder for the school to attract teachers and pupils.
TES has learned that headteachers and governing bodies from across the country are submitting requests under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act asking Ofsted to reveal the identities of the inspectors whom the watchdog has deemed not good enough to receive in-house contracts.
Ely College's Ofsted rating dropped from "good" to "inadequate" in May, plunging the Cambridgeshire secondary into special measures. Only weeks before, a Department for Education adviser, working on behalf of the local regional schools commissioner, had written to the school praising its leadership.
The Ofsted report led directly to the dismissal of the school's principal and two vice-principals, as well as the dissolution of the governing body.
Ben Gibbs, the school's former chair of governors who is acting on behalf of the dissolved governing body, has submitted an FoI request to discover whether the inspectors who visited the school were among those culled by the watchdog.
"I want Ofsted to be held accountable," he told TES. "They have to take some responsibility if we now know that nearly half their [contracted] inspectors were not good enough. It's totally unjust.
"We, as a former governing body, feel really strongly that the whole inspection was deeply flawed and now three people have lost their jobs because of it."
Other schools are using similar tactics as they look for ways to fight unfavourable Ofsted verdicts. Russell Hobby, pictured right, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said he had heard of several schools putting in similar FoI requests. He suggested that Ofsted had made the situation worse by denying previous inspections were substandard. "It has all gone over very badly, mainly because Ofsted didn't just take it on the chin," Mr Hobby said.
But he doubted that the schools involved would have much success: "I don't think it will make any difference, because it will be quite hard to prove."
Sir Robin Bosher, Ofsted's director of quality and training, was quick to point out to TES last month that the reduction in inspector numbers "did not equate" to Ofsted being deficient up to this point. He also said he did not anticipate any complaints from schools.
The watchdog has since confirmed that it has received FoI requests about which inspectors did not make the cut.
"We have received correspondence from a number of sources about inspectors who will not be continuing to work for Ofsted from next term," a spokesperson said. "Any requests received will be dealt with in line with our obligations under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection acts.
"As Sir Robin has made clear, Ofsted has every confidence that all previous inspection judgements are sound.
"We have a robust quality assurance process in place to ensure that inspection findings are thoroughly reviewed before final judgements are made.
"We also have confidence in the inspectors who have been delivering a professional service under the current contractual arrangements."
For more on this story, read an article by former chair of governors Ben Gibbs at www.tesconnect.comnews
Ofsted was using 3,000 "additional inspectors" supplied by outside contractors.
After complaints about the quality of inspections, the watchdog has decided to use only direct employees as inspectors.
About 200 additional inspectors decided not to apply to for in-house positions.
Of the 2,800 or so who did apply, only 1,600 were successful.
The other 1,200 did not pass Ofsted's "robust" assessment.
Reasons given by the watchdog for rejection included lack of qualified teacher status or other relevant qualifications, lack of leadership experience and lack of writing ability.