This is a short article to remind clients that there is an open consultation (extended to 30th April 2020) being run by Ofsted on proposals for post-inspection arrangements including how Ofsted handle complaints. At present, schools have to submit complaints as soon as possible and with a final deadline of 10 days of the publication of the final report. One of the principal concerns that a school has with the current system is that Ofsted sets a very high threshold on the withholding of publication of a report, no matter how sincere and valid a complaint is. As a result it is exceedingly rare that Ofsted will withhold publication.
This approach puts the school in an invidious position given that an unfavourable report has potential adverse PR consequences, is damaging to morale for both staff and pupils/parents, and – depending on the final grading – can result in strict measures being placed upon the school. The school is therefore faced with putting up with those consequences or taking legal action to try and force Ofsted not to publish. Legal action of this type is invariably unsuccessful and, even where the school subsequently forces Ofsted to withdraw the report, some damage may well have been done.
The consultation is for a new, more reasonable (and fair) approach. Ofsted is proposing to allow all schools 5 working days to review a draft report (currently for Good or Outstanding schools it is 24 hours), and crucially, to “consider and respond to formal complaints from inspected providers before we publish their inspection report”. Any such formal complaint would need to be submitted “within 2 working days of [the school] being issued with their final report”.
Subject to the outcome of the consultation, it is proposed that these changes will commence as of September 2020
If you wish to respond to the consultation, you will find it on the gov.uk website.
Stone King has a strong track record in advising schools on complaints against Ofsted. For further information please contact Michael Brotherton