Dozens of complaints about Ofsted inspections in Surrey

Dozens of complaints about Ofsted inspections in Surrey have been dealt with since 2020, new figures show.
File photo dated 03/01/21 of a general view of a school safety zone sign. Ofsted's plans to prevent further deaths following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry have been welcomed by her family and union leaders, but they have called for more work to be done. The proposals, which include new guidelines showing school leaders how to stop an Ofsted inspection if staff show signs of distress, have been published in response to senior coroner Heidi Connor's prevention of future deaths report. Issue date: Friday January 19, 2024.File photo dated 03/01/21 of a general view of a school safety zone sign. Ofsted's plans to prevent further deaths following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry have been welcomed by her family and union leaders, but they have called for more work to be done. The proposals, which include new guidelines showing school leaders how to stop an Ofsted inspection if staff show signs of distress, have been published in response to senior coroner Heidi Connor's prevention of future deaths report. Issue date: Friday January 19, 2024.
File photo dated 03/01/21 of a general view of a school safety zone sign. Ofsted's plans to prevent further deaths following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry have been welcomed by her family and union leaders, but they have called for more work to be done. The proposals, which include new guidelines showing school leaders how to stop an Ofsted inspection if staff show signs of distress, have been published in response to senior coroner Heidi Connor's prevention of future deaths report. Issue date: Friday January 19, 2024.

Dozens of complaints about Ofsted inspections in Surrey have been dealt with since 2020, new figures show.

New data shows hundreds of complaints were logged across England about the conduct of Ofsted inspectors last year – with a union for school leaders warning the inspectorate may have "lost the trust of the profession".

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Figures obtained by RADAR show 49 complaints were recorded about Ofsted inspections from providers in Surrey over the three years to March 2023 – 18 of which were registered last year.

Ofsted's inspection process has come under greater scrutiny in the past year, following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry. In December a coroner ruled an inspection "likely contributed" to her death, after her school was downgraded from the highest to the lowest rating over safeguarding concerns.

Of the 1,199 complaints about Ofsted across the country last year, 502 included concerns regarding the behaviour of inspectors.

In Surrey, 15 such complaints were dealt with over a three-year period.

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Ofsted is responsible for inspecting various educational and childcare settings, such as schools, early years and social care providers.

The Association of School and College Leaders said the large number of complaints "strongly suggests Ofsted has lost the trust of the profession".

Last year, the number of complaints rose as inspections returned to pre-pandemic levels – with one complaint for every 40 inspections.

Tom Middlehurst, inspection specialist at the ASCL, said it was "particularly concerning" so many complaints were about the conduct of inspectors.

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He hopes recent mental health training and a more supportive approach from the chief inspector could bring the number of these complaints down.

In January the House of Commons Education Committee recommended Ofsted conduct an in-depth review of its complaints process, after hearing evidence the inspectorate was "marking its own homework".

The committee further heard evidence from school staff that the workload required to prepare for inspections can feel "crushing" and "relentless".

Just 18 complaints were fully upheld last year across England.

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However, Ofsted was found to be partially in the wrong in 263 cases. Of these, five were for complaints made in Surrey.

NAHT, a union for school leaders, said it welcomed measures to improve the complaints process last year – but it would still like to see an independent body handling them.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the union, said: "More broadly, fundamental reform of the way Ofsted operates is urgently needed to improve the reliability and usefulness of inspections, while reducing the unacceptable toll on the wellbeing and mental health of leaders and teachers."

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "We want to make sure that our work is always carried out with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect. In the vast majority of cases it is – but we take all complaints very seriously.

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"We understand that some have found our complaints process difficult to navigate, so we recently introduced a new, more transparent process, including the option for leaders to call a senior person at Ofsted if they have any concerns during their inspection. We consulted on these measures and they were strongly supported by the sectors we inspect."

Ofsted said it will respond to the Education Committee's findings in the coming weeks.