EXCLUSIVE: DfE launches £100k tender to independently review complaints against Ofsted

EXCLUSIVE: DfE launches £100k tender to independently review complaints against Ofsted

The Department for Education has this week started the hunt for an organisation to review complaints made against Ofsted, FE Week can reveal.

The three year contract is valued at £100,000 and will run from 1 January, 2018 to 31 December, 2020, something Ofsted spokesperson told FE Week is “a routine retendering by the DfE for providing Ofsted’s existing independent adjudication process.”

The move follows a Judicial Review lost to Ofsted, after the Durand Academy challenged their inspection and the way their subsequent complaint was dealt with by the inspectorate.

As reported early this month in FE Week’s sister title Schools Week, the judge concluded that the lack of opportunity to “effectively challenge” the report rendered Ofsted’s complaints procedures unfair, which, he said, “in my judgment vitiates the report”. 

At the time Ofsted responded to the judgement by saying: “Our complaints process is longstanding and has previously been commended by the independent adjudicator,” said a spokesperson.

“However, as an organisation we always keep policies and practices under review and regardless of the outcome of the appeal application will consider whether any clarification of our complaints procedure may be required.”

This evening an Ofsted spokesperson responded to enquiries by saying: “This [independent adjudication] process has existed since 2009. The current contract is coming to an end. As a result and in line with government contracts that are due to expire, a tender exercise has been advertised.”

The DfE, however, has not responded to a request for comment.

Tender information, seen by FE Week, states: “The Department for Education require a supplier to provide an independent adjudication service in relation to Ofsted’s handling of complaints including: handling individual complaints, the provision of advice, regular reporting regarding the volume and nature of the complaint and publication of an annual report.

“The successful supplier shall be required to review Ofsted’s handling of individual complaints where the complainant remains dissatisfied after Ofsted’s internal complaints process has been exhausted and offer written impartial findings and recommendations to complainants and the Chief Inspector.

“The adjudication service is independent of Ofsted and the conclusions and the recommendations of the service provider are independent of both DfE and Ofsted.”

The winning supplier will take over the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO).

The tender specification says: “DfE require the supplier to review Ofsted’s handling of individual complaints where the complainant remains dissatisfied after Ofsted’s internal complaints process has been exhausted. The role of the ICASO service is to review and adjudicate on Ofsted’s handling of complaints concerning the work of Ofsted and offer written impartial findings and recommendations to complainants and the Chief Inspector”

The ICASO will also “produce an annual report at the end of each calendar year based on its handling of cases in that period. The final report must be published by the ICASO on its website by 31 March of the following year.” 

The DfE anticipates 25 referrals will be made to ICASO each year and the Key Performance Indicator performance standards are:

Interested organisations have less than a month to respond, as the deadline for applications is midday on 28 September, 2017.

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