Ofsted Complaints Handling – you can now pause or defer an inspection 

Ofsted has updated its policies on complaints handling including pausing an inspection in exceptional circumstances.

The regulator hopes that its new policy will make its handling complaints process fairer, thorough and efficient. 

The changes have been brought in following last year’s consultation and now include allowing providers to challenge factual inaccuracies and seek a review of their inspection once they receive a draft version of their report. It also allows a direct complaints route to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO). 

The complete series of changes include: 

  • Enhanced opportunities for on-site professional dialogue 
  • A new opportunity for providers to contact Ofsted the day after an inspection 
  • Formal challenge routes: 
  • Fast-track route for points of clarity or factual accuracy 
  • Formal complaint route to review the inspection findings and judgement 
  • Direct complaint escalation route to ICASO 

Ofsted will submit a selection of closed complaints to a review panel – to include external representatives from all the sectors it inspects – who will provide “challenge and transparency” on how complaints have been handled. 

Ofsted introduced its policy for pausing an inspection earlier this year for state schools but has now (from April 2024) extended this to include early years settings and other educational sectors. 

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 and that the new approach has now been fully implemented.  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. 

“Early years respondents to the consultation and NDNA’s workshops were among the strongest supporters of the proposed changes, which shows the level of feeling on this issue across the sector. 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. 

“Through extending the right to pause inspections and conducting the Big Listen, we hope Ofsted continues to engage with the sector, providers and their staff about the ways we all work together to give children the best possible start to life in safe and nurturing early years environments.” 

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, said: “All inspections should be carried out professionally and with courtesy, empathy and respect. But should anyone have concerns, we will always want to resolve them as quickly as possible, which is why we have already introduced a helpline for providers to call during their inspection. Today’s changes offer a further opportunity to resolve complaints, should it be required. I want to assure providers that we will acknowledge any mistakes made and take steps to put them right. I’m determined that we will learn from complaints to improve the way Ofsted works. 

“We introduced a new ‘pausing policy’ in January for state schools, but today are going further to clarify the steps we’ll take when circumstances mean we have to pause the inspection of any school, further education, early years or social care provider. This includes occasions when leaders require support because of concerns about their well-being. 

“These reforms are all part of our ambition to make Ofsted the best it can be, and a world-class inspectorate and regulator. We will continue to review how we work, including through our Big Listen, which is offering everyone the chance to help us improve.” 

Here’s more about the complaints policy, both before and after 4 April 2024

Read the new guidance on deferring or pausing an inspection  

Read the full announcement

  • England

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