Ofsted Complaints Handling – all proposals accepted

The DfE has responded to the Ofsted complaints handling consultation and agreed to implement all four proposals.

These will be introduced in the first few months of 2024 with more details on how they will work in practice to follow.

NDNA responded to the consultation following webinars with members, who broadly supported the plans but with some reservations. The four proposals had the most support from the early years and care sectors.

From January 2024 Ofsted will:

  1. Enhance on-site professional dialogue during inspections to help address any issues

Ofsted proposes three formal points where inspectors should check with providers if they have any concerns rather than after inspection process:​

  • During pre-inspection call or on arrival​
  • At end-of day meeting​
  • At final feedback session​​

84% from the early years sector ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with this proposal.

  1. Introduce a new opportunity for providers to contact Ofsted

Ofsted

This would be a chance to discuss unresolved issues the day after an inspection with an alternative early years inspector.​ Providers could:

  • raise informal concerns about the inspection or likely outcome​
  • query the next​ step
  • highlight information they feel was not fully considered  ​

91% from the early years sector ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with this proposal.

From NDNA’s webinar, members were concerned that 24 hours would probably be too short a timeframe. Ofsted recognised this concern in its response but countered: “We recognise that inspections are busy and that, despite our planned further on-site professional dialogue, some providers might reflect afterwards and think of important points that they want to raise with us without needing to make a formal complaint. However, the inspection visit cannot be open-ended.”

From April 2024:

  1. Introduce new arrangements for finalising reports and considering formal challenges to inspection outcomes

Two new routes of challenge following the draft report would be:​

  • A fast-track route for minor points of clarity or factual accuracy​
  • A formal complaint route to review the inspection findings and judgement​

83% from the early years sector ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with this proposal.

NDNA members broadly agreed to this but had concerns that the two routes for challenges could stop some people from complaining. NDNA will raise this with Ofsted to make sure it is reflected in guidance that will be published in the coming weeks.

  1. Direct escalation to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted

Ofsted would appoint staff independent of the inspection to investigate the complaint, involving discussion with the provider. Outcomes include no change; change to text but not grade; change to grade; inspection deemed incomplete. The outcome would be communicated clearly and provided before report is published.

85% from the early years sector ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with this proposal.

NDNA would want experts from all sectors involved in this appeals process and early years represented.

Stella Ziolkowski, NDNA’s Director of Training and Quality, said: “We are pleased to see that the sector has been listened to through this consultation.  The new opportunity for providers to contact Ofsted to raise questions or concerns post-inspection is welcome.  We receive many calls from our nursery members who are unhappy at how their inspections have been conducted or with how they and their staff are treated by inspectors. While not everybody’s inspections experiences are bad, it’s important that Ofsted complaints processes are fit for purpose to support those providers who feel they have been treated unfairly.

“Respondents to the consultation from the early years sector were among the strongest supporters of the proposed changes, which shows the level of feeling on this issue across the sector. NDNA held workshops with our members to help shape our own response to the consultation. We are happy that these changes have been accepted and will be brought in quickly. In our Blueprint for Early Education and Care we called for a review of Ofsted to ensure it is supporting child development and the early years workforce. These changes will hopefully be a step in the right direction for early years providers and we hope will lead to more constructive and professional relationships between inspectors and those working in early years, which can only be good for our youngest learners.”

  • England

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