Ofsted will go ahead with four proposed changes which will make its post-inspection complaints process “quicker” and “increase transparency” following a consultation with the sector.
It follows the inspectorate admitting its current policy wasn’t working, as first revealed by FE Week, amid widespread criticism.
The consultation, which ran from June to September, received more than 1,500 responses from providers in all sectors it inspects.
In a report published today, that watchdog said this was an increase of over 150 per cent from a consultation it ran on the same subject in 2020.
Of the respondents, 934 were from schools and 85 were from further education and skills providers.
The changes include “enhanced” on-site “professional dialogue” during inspections to address any issues and the scrapping of its internal review process.
They will come into effect from January and April next year.
Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said the inspectorate had piloted enhanced professional dialogue and allowing providers to contact Ofsted the day after the inspection “and these worked well”.
“I’m confident these changes will help resolve complaints more quickly, reduce the administrative burden on those making a complaint, and increase transparency in the process.”
Enhanced on-site professional dialogue
Ofsted said it would provide all inspectors with guidance on “developing and formalising” enhanced professional dialogue during inspections.
Under the change, inspectors will be asked to check with headteachers at specific stages of the visit “where appropriate”, including at end-of-day meetings and the final feedback session.
It said this would help inspectors “address any queries, misconceptions or concerns as soon as possible”.
It added that responses to the proposal were “very positive”, with 84 per cent of FE and skills respondents agreeing it should enhance professional dialogue during visits.
This will be rolled out from January.
Contacting Ofsted the day after inspection
Providers will be given an opportunity to call Ofsted the day after the end of an inspection visit if they have “unresolved issues”.
Previously the watchdog said this may include raising informal concerns about the process and its “likely outcome”, or queries about what happens next.
Ofsted said that “noting the comments received and wanting providers to be confident in contacting us”, it believed the call should be with an experienced inspector who is independent of the inspection in question.
“Where appropriate, this inspector may contact the lead inspector to help understand the context of any issues raised”.
Of the FE and skills providers who responded, 84 per cent agreed with the proposal.
It will also come into effect in January.
New arrangements for finalising reports
This change will see a new first step in the complaints process, with two routes, introduced.
Heads can either highlight “minor points of clarity or factual accuracy”, which will be considered “promptly” before the report is finalised.
Or they can submit a formal complaint.
Ofsted said some respondents acknowledged “the benefits” of separating existing processes and that most cases “are likely to involve providers raising minor points”.
But some were concerned they would not be able to make a formal complaint if they already chosen to highlight only minor points.
The watchdog said it would offer “clarity” so that providers could understand how the new arrangements will work “in new policy documents in due course”.
Three-quarters (78 per cent) of FE and skills providers agreed with this change.
It will come into effect from April.
Ofsted internal review process scrapped
The watchdog will scrap internal reviews of how it handles complaints, which currently form step three of its process.
Under the new scheme, providers concerned their complaint did not correctly follow the right process will be able to go directly to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO).
Ofsted will also introduce periodic reviews of how it handles complaints.
Its consultation report said many respondents said this would make the process “easier to navigate” and “reduce the stages that they have to go through”.
But some noted that ICASO’s role was to “review whether the complaints process was carried out properly, not to review the inspection itself”.
Ofsted said it welcomed the “independent scrutiny” the changes will bring, and believed that removing the internal process would “reduce the burden” on providers.
Of the FE and skills providers which responded, 88 per cent agreed with this change.
It will also come into effect from April.