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Ofsted publishes updated policies for complaints about inspections and when it will pause inspections

Pausing an inspection in exceptional circumstances now applies to all types of providers, in accordance with Ofsted’s updated complaints and pausing policy.

The watchdog has published an updated policy for making complaints about inspections, which aims to handle providers’ concerns more “fairly, thoroughly and efficiently”.

The new process allows providers to seek a review of their inspection – including the conduct of inspectors and the judgements reached – by submitting a formal complaint when they receive their draft inspection report.

If the provider remains dissatisfied with Ofsted’s formal response, they are now able to directly escalate complaints to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO).

The updated policy on pausing an inspection expands on guidance published in January for state-funded schools.

The guidance states that, under “exceptional circumstances”, Ofsted may agree to formally pause an inspection, for example, when leaders require support due to concerns about their well-being, or an incident prevents inspectors from gathering sufficient evidence.

Last year, a coroner ruled that an Ofsted inspection “contributed” to the death of Ruth Perry, who took her own life while waiting for a report that downgraded her school, Caversham Primary, to “inadequate”.

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.”

Last month, Ofsted launched its ‘Big Listen’ – to hear from the people it works for, and the professionals it works with. “The Big Listen will help us to explore what further steps we can take to improve inspection and regulation in the future”, said the watchdog.

Lottie Winson

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