Ofsted boss responds to “over-zealous” inspectors criticisms
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has conceded that the organisation’s complaints process has fallen short and is not “satisfying” requirements, as criticism regarding its management of school-related concerns intensify.
At the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the Ofsted boss also acknowledged that opinions based on pupil behaviour may have been overly influential in inspection judgments, an issue Ofsted aims to rectify through training initiatives.
Her comments follow claims by some academy trust heads that some inspectors have made “over-zealous” conclusions based on some pupils’ derogatory language or behaviour issues during inspections.
Acknowledging that improvements to the complaints process are required, Miss Spielman told delegates: “We know it’s not a satisfying process…. it’s not something we’re happy with or complacent about.
“We know that for all the immense amount of work put in and the conscientiousness with which we do it, it still doesn’t lead to satisfaction at the end of the day.”
However, she also claimed that the majority of complaints were not formalised.
She continued: “We do everything we can to make space so that if a school thinks an outcome is not heading in the right direction […] there’s a lot of discussion [and then] opportunities for more senior inspectors to become involved.
“A lot of…things are put right before it ever gets to a point where a formal complaint is recorded,” she said.
Her comments follow criticism from MP, Philip Hollobone, who has claimed that certain inspectors had “prearranged agendas” and sought to engineer reasons to downgrade schools.
Mr Hollobone cited two comments made during an Ofsted inspection to a school in his constituency which was downgraded from ‘excellent’ to ‘requires improvement’.
The MP claimed an inspector had asked a male pupil if he felt “this is a white, middle-class school”, whilst a female student was questioned as to whether she “felt uncomfortable walking upstairs in a skirt”.
Ofsted has also been criticised for its inspectors’ lack of experience, with claims that they have insufficient specialist expertise in the phase of school being inspected.
Responding to the claims, Miss Spielman said: “[we do] everything we can to assign experienced people to where their experience is, as much as we can.
“But we are as constrained on resources as every other part of the education system and…I cannot set up a primary Ofsted and a secondary Ofsted within what we do, so we will have to carry on making the best that we can.”