Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ofsted - Clarifying the State of Affairs

In 2005 the government completed a review (the Hampton Review) of inspection and regulation with the purpose of establishing and embedding in law best practice in regulators fulfilling their duties to:
- drive improvement
- protect against bad practice
- report to the government regarding the state of the organisations they regulate.
The Hampton Principles which were established from this review were embedded in law in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006), the salient point of which is point 21 which legally obliges regulators to act in ways which are transparant, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases where action is needed. The Hampton Principles sit behind that law to provide explanations of the types of regulatory activity which meets these standards.

I have, for the last couple of years, been exploring why Ofsted uses methodologies which directly contradict best practice as defined by Hampton (see for example blogs her for August and September last year).  I was very shocked by the way in which those in authority refused point blank to engage in intelligent discussion about the component issues.  

In January this year I came to believe that Ofsted have in fact been obliged to these standards.   I knew that the last government had intended to get them under it as can clearly be seen in this document (see point 4.11 and onwards), I knew it made sense for them to be under it, I knew that public and private schools were under it (part 1A point 21) and Ofsted themselves had said it didn't feel it could/should run different systems for different types of school (point 4.8) and then I heard on the BBC TV news that Ofsted were subject to judicial review due to a judgement related to their behaviour at Furness Academy.  This couldn't be the case unless that academy was also covered by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act as without this law Ofsted remain unaccountable to everyone but themselves and the SoS for Education.  However it turned out that the BBC report was incorrect.

So while all other regulators are required to the principles of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (shown in green above), Ofsted have a special exemption from it in the case of State Schools.

The main consequence of this exemption from the law is that it allows Ofsted to operate in ways which serve the interests of politicians and itself rather than requiring that it works to the benefit of society and the customers of the organisations it regulates.  The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) was the mechanism by which organisations can hold their regulators accountable if they are failing to implement good practice in their own activities.  While all other organisations have the power to hold their regulator accountable, state schools do not.  They have no power at all.  This means that when the regulator behaves in ways which are clearly detrimental to education nobody can stop them.

The consequences of this on the ground are horrific.  When inappropriate regulatory behaviour occurs scapegoats have to be created in and around the school affected because everyone knows the regulator cannot be held to account.  For those of you who haven't seen what it's like when that happens and how good schools, teachers and high quality education are destroyed - all I can say is - lucky you.  Far too many people in education have experienced firsthand the extreme behaviour which is required to try to do everything possible avoid such a situation occurring and have direct experience of how ludicrous and counterproductive much of this behaviour is. 

This could be corrected so easily.  All that's needed is an order to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act which clearly makes Ofsted accountable to it for all its activities.  It could be done in just a few weeks.

Ofsted and those associated with them put forward many objections to them being obligated to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act.  They are all just smokescreen.  As soon a I get the time I will write a blog which lists them and counters each so that those who wish to pursue this issue can do so effectively and efficiently.


  1. Many thanks for this. Much to think about here.

    1. A brilliant resume of what is happening today and the nightmare awaiting state schools tomorrow if Ofsted continues to be used as apolitical stick, and it clearly is, when one examines the rhetoric from both the leadership of Ofsted and the DfE; Mr Gove's dedication to 'Academise' all state schools and 'freeing' them up from local authority control and losing the support afforded by LAs; in essence creating a privatisation by the back door using the reduction in school budgets and the lure of extra funding from conversion - bribery by any other name;strangly John Major employed the same tactic in the early 1990s. sadly the present administration have more resolve.

      Some years ago I was governor representative on a commission to examine the reasons why my local authority failed Ofsted. The outcome was that the provision for education was taken out of the hands of the elected and administered from the private sector - there was a great deal of joy when the contract came to an end. Le me say, because I am a service provider for education, there is a place for the private sector to provide quality services to schools.

      Some days ago before reading your submission I posed the question on Twitter "can state education afford Ofsted?" after reading what you have said I am more convinced that Ofsted must go - as Chair of Governors of a inner city primary school your comment "good schools, teachers and high quality education are destroyed" ring true and is happening now.

      Terence Ayres

  2. Thank you both for you comments.

    Just to clarify that I am not arguing for the end of Ofsted. I am only arguing that it should be obliged to the same principles and laws in its interaction with state schools to which all other regulators are obliged and to which Ofsted is already obligated in its actions with public and private schools.