Ofsted makes multiple changes to report after complaints

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.

John Evans

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.”

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Editorial: Well done Ofsted, but…

Paul Offord

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.



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5 Comments

  1. Exactly the same thing happened during our inspection in 2016 and, whilst I challenged the lead inspector robustly and provided scathing feedback to Ofsted in the post-inspection survey, I decided on balance not to raise a complaint. I regret that now. Like Yeovil College, statements appeared in a prominent place on our report that were grossly incorrect and were never discussed during the inspection. Like Yeovil, when I challenged this at the factual accuracy stage, I also got the response of No change required. I was disgusted. I let it go as we got a good grade profile and many positive judgements. In addition to the report fiasco, they got the pre-inspection briefing wrong with many inaccuracies and no mechanism to correct them. There was no leadership shown by the lead inspector, who never got ontop of their game during the week. After holding Ofsted in high regard for many years, I have in recent years come to a position of having little respect for them.

  2. Paul Smith

    What a waste of space Ofsted are. Millions of pounds spent and we still get youngsters leaving school without English and Math skills and now they cant even get their own reports right, surely the time has come to ditch them?

  3. Ian Clinton

    It is good that on this one occasion, Ofsted have admitted that they got is badly wrong. Rarely does this happen, as Ofsted’s normal approach is to ignore, not accept and, of course, investigate any complaint ‘in-house’. The other
    ‘trick’ used by Ofsted, is to say they cannot comment until the report is both published and has gone though any
    intervention process by SFA/FE Commissioner etc, in other words, seek to delay and ‘long grass’ the complaint
    until it is too late.

    However, is it any suprise that this happens because the ‘top’ of Ofsted ie senior staff are more concerned with
    playing politics than evidence and inspections. Two examples being the previous Chief Inspector’s full on support
    for UTC’s, citing evidence, that at the time was a single grade 4! Most recently, we had our new Chief Inspector
    sulking about Grammer Schools and BREXIT!

    Perhaps
    Chief Inspectors could focus more on their job description and maybe also, seek to recruit a few more
    inspectors who have actually taught in the 21st Century and in the era of IT and in multi cultural institutions?

  4. Claire Bradshaw

    The same thing happened to us from our inspection in October. The report did not read as an accurate picture of our provision and the report was clumsy with many contradicting statements throughout and negative statements that were just untrue. Inspectors spoke to 5 of 24 learners and failed to observe formal teaching sessions, the lead inspector was weak and led by others who were negative from the start. One inspector was rude to all staff and she made our learners feel uncomfortable throughout the process. We complained but knew it would not make a difference. After the factual accuracy report was sent and returned some changes were still not made and silly errors still in the report. We believe that even before the inspectors had arrived the judgements were already made. Our funding has been withdrawn resulting in us closing our family business which has been running for 19 years, we are well known reputable provider in our area and many young people simply wont go to the large college in our area. Our learners are being forced to leave on 31st January without a match to a provider so the progress our learners have made since August is being taken away from them and their voices are not being heard, they are being forced to go somewhere or do something they do not want to do, the alternative will be to claim job seekers allowance or become NEET which many of them will. We also have 14 members of staff that are now facing redundancy!! A pre conceived political agenda I believe and I have lost all respect for Ofsted.