Ofsted plans complaint change

Ofsted is looking at slashing 25 days off its time limit for accepting complaints about inspections and publishing reports even if a complaint has been lodged.

A complaint can currently be made during an inspection or up to 30 days after a report comes out.

But Ofsted is reviewing the procedure with a view to closing the complaints window to just five days of the incident or report publication.

Inspectors will also be expected to finish a visit and publish their report before more serious complaints are investigated — allowing the public to get the inspection result “as soon as possible.”

The proposals have already come under fire from FE leaders, who warned against a five-day complaints window and urged Ofsted to delay reports where complaints had been lodged.

Five days is far too short a timeframe to be able to take sound advice and gather all the evidence required by Ofsted to validate a complaint”

The consultation comes five months after inspectors were ordered off the premises at NCG (formerly Newcastle College Group) mid-visit.

The incident meant the inspection report, which graded the previously-outstanding college as good, was delayed by around two months.

However, an Ofsted spokesperson declined to say whether the NCG incident had triggered the review or would be considered as part of the consultation.

She said Ofsted was looking to “ensure our approaches are closely matched to the needs of those making complaints while recognising our public duty to reduce our costs wherever possible”.

Ofsted’s consultation document reads: “To ensure concerns can be investigated promptly and while issues are fresh in the mind, complaints will only be considered if submitted within five working days of the incident.

“In the case of complaints about inspection, this means within five working days of the publication of the report. Complaints submitted after this will not normally be considered.”

It adds: “In future we will normally only accept complaints about an inspection after the publication of the inspection report.”

But Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, rejected the five-day proposal.

“Five days is far too short a timeframe to be able to take sound advice and gather all the evidence required by Ofsted to validate a complaint,” he said.

“A standard timeframe for lodging complaints is ten working days and we think this would be far more reasonable.”

And Joy Mercer, policy director at the Association of Colleges, said: “We would want to see a delay in reports being published if a complaint is pending.”

She added: “There is an issue about whether or not a complaint can be fully investigated by the inspector carrying out the inspection – there is no independence there.”

Ms Mercer also suggested the publication of complaints, with any identifying details removed, that had succeeded or failed to give colleges a clearer indication of how Ofsted might rule.

Ofsted’s consultation, which is listed on its website, will also see it look at the way it handles complaints about providers. It has called for input on the consultation to be emailed to consultations@ofsted.gov.uk before the October 29 deadline.

A spokesperson for NCG declined to comment.