A senior Ofsted inspector has apologised after the inspectorate accepted multiple challenges to the wording of a report on Yeovil College, which included factual inaccuracies and insulting comments.
The words “college leaders have tackled the lack of pride and ambition that existed in the college” appeared on the front page of the ‘good’-rated report, which was first published in November and which has since been amended.
Principal John Evans, who took up the reins in January 2014, lodged a number of appeals to change the report’s wording, including a comment alluding to criticism of the leadership team that had been in place before he arrived, which had offended a number of remaining staff.
Following an investigation, Ofsted upheld three of the seven complaints, as Mr Evans also explained in an exclusive expert article.
In the letter Ofsted sent to report on the outcome of the investigation, seen by FE Week, senior inspector Rieks Drijver apologised for the trouble the original report had caused the college.
In regard to the comment on lack of pride and ambition, he wrote: “On behalf of Ofsted I am sorry that you have concerns about the wording on the front page of the inspection report and that it may cause offence to managers and governors who were employed at the time.”
Ofsted conceded that the inspector’s conclusion needed to be reworded to “better reflect the leadership and management” at the college.
The wording has now been amended to read “college leaders have improved the quality of provision.
“They have created a culture in which staff work resolutely in the best interests of their learners and the college is a purposeful community.”
However Mr Evans, who is himself an Ofsted inspector, admitted that he had mixed feelings about the outcome.
“I am pleased that Ofsted has proved to be what I always thought it was – a quality-assurance organisation,” he said.
“However, I am disappointed that the initial report went public with an unfair flavour.
“I had asked to have the report suspended until the investigation was completed, as I felt the emotive words would upset many of the excellent existing staff and governors.”
Mr Evans also said that Ofsted’s assertions on low attendance in English and maths did not “reflect the situation at the time of inspection”, and that claim was also overturned.
He successfully argued that although attendance in the subjects had been low in the previous year, it had increased and was no longer a weakness in the current one.
“There was no evidence base for the assertion about poor attendance in English and maths,” he writes.
He also complained about the prominence of a separate recommendation, that there were “lower levels of success for the small group of 16- to 18-year-old learners with mixed heritage”.
The total group of mixed-heritage learners at his college was small at 22, and that the percentage difference in success rates to other groups was down to just two learners.
“This is important but hardly significant,” he said; as a result of the complaint, the mixed-heritage recommendation was also removed from the report’s front page.
An Ofsted spokesperson told FE Week that “this is still a live complaint and as such, Ofsted doesn’t comment until all stages of the complaint process have been completed.”
Editorial: Well done Ofsted, but…
Ofsted should be congratulated for admitting that it got it wrong with the wording of important extracts of its report on Yeovil College.
No individual or organisation is flawless by any means, and while Elton John may have said in his famous song that ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’ – it shouldn’t be.
Questions need to be asked though about the complaints process, if publication of reports such as this one go ahead before a decision has been made on whether the content is indeed inaccurate and insulting.
This is wrong.
It would save both the inspectorate future embarrassment and providers unwarranted upset if the rules were changed.
I sympathise with the view that reports should be published as soon as possible after inspection.
They shouldn’t be delayed unduly while concerns are considered.
But this shouldn’t be a problem, so long as there’s a strict time limit on the appeals process.