Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Hit by Complaints after a Fifth of College Visits: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ofsted Hit by Complaints after a Fifth of College Visits: Fe News

Article excerpt

But not one objection over the past two years has been upheld.

One in five college inspections last year resulted in an official complaint being lodged with Ofsted, TES has learned, highlighting the growing dissatisfaction in the sector with how its performance is judged.

Out of the 45 FE colleges inspected in 2011-12, nine institutions formally complained to the watchdog. With two sixth-form colleges submitting further complaints, the overall number rose to 11, up from seven the previous year. Of these, seven colleges raised concerns about the overall judgement they had been given, while the other four complained about "inspector conduct, administration or information".

But it has also emerged that not a single one of the complaints was upheld by Ofsted for the second year in a row, prompting the Association of Colleges (AoC) to raise concerns about the transparency of the complaints process. Ofsted does not publish the details of complaints, which were only made public in response to a parliamentary question.

"It is a very disappointing statistic," said AoC policy director Joy Mercer. "It is unusual that none of the appeals was upheld. When you have an appeals process, there is usually something that is upheld. But with Ofsted there is no transparency about how the case was argued; the results should help the learning process (for colleges).

"It would be highly justified to publish the results of complaints, even if they are not upheld."

Tension between Ofsted and the FE sector has grown in recent weeks. In his first annual report as chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed that colleges focused on vocational courses of "little real value" and that the sector "needs reorientating towards a moral determination to provide high- quality and relevant provision". Last month the AoC hit back, attacking "significant errors" and "important omissions" in Ofsted's criticism.

Last year the watchdog launched a consultation on improving its processes. The proposals included asking schools and colleges to "raise their concerns directly with the inspector or Ofsted member of staff (at the time of the inspection) to support prompt resolution".

Ofsted also proposed slashing 25 days from its time limit for accepting complaints. At present, colleges can complain during an inspection or up to 30 days after the inspection report has been published, but Ofsted proposed that it would only accept complaints within five days of an incident occurring, or within five days of the report being published. …

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