New Clause 4 - Complaints Procedures

Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 22nd March 2005.

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‘(1)The Secretary of State shall make regulations establishing procedures whereby persons who may be prescribed by such regulations under this Chapter as having an interest in an inspection shall have the right of complaint to an independent adjudicator appointed for the purpose that—

(a)the inspection has been conducted in a manner inconsistent with the requirements of this Act or with regulations made under this Act;

(b)a member of an inspection team has in carrying out an inspection behaved in a manner which may be considered unreasonably prejudicial to the interests of the complainant; or

(c)the inspection report of an inspection contains material prejudicial to the interests of the complainant which cannot be considered justifiable by reference to the evidence available in the course of conducting the inspection.

(2)Upon receipt of the findings of an independent adjudicator made in accordance with the regulations referred to in subsection (1), the Chief Inspector shall take such action consistent with such findings as appears to him to be necessary in order to satisfy any complaint found to be justifiable including without limitation the modification of any report published under section 11 and the re-publication of such report with such modifications.’. —[Angela Watkinson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 7—Complaints procedures (Wales)—

‘(1)The Assembly shall make regulations establishing procedures whereby persons who may be prescribed by such regulations under this Chapter as having an interest in an inspection shall have the right of complaint to an independent adjudicator appointed for the purpose that—

(a)the inspection has been conducted in a manner inconsistent with the requirements of this Act or with regulations made under this Act;

(b)a member of an inspection team has in carrying out an inspection behaved in a manner which may be considered unreasonably prejudicial to the interest of the complainant; or

(c)the inspection report of an inspection contains material prejudicial to the interests of the complainant which cannot be considered justifiable by reference to the evidence available in the course of conducting the inspection.

(2)Upon receipt of the findings of an independent adjudicator made in accordance with the regulations referred to in subsection (1), the Chief Inspector shall take such action consistent with such findings as appears to him to be necessary in order to satisfy any complaint found to be justifiable including without limitation the modification of any report published under section 11 and the re-publication of such report with such modifications.’.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education)

New clause 4 relates to England. New clause 7 is an identical clause that refers to complaints procedures in Wales.

The new clauses are designed to protect schools, head teachers and others involved in the inspection process from what they feel to be an unfair result. As we all know, occasionally, there is a clash of personalities between the management of the school and the Ofsted team. Head teachers of schools in my constituency have commented to me that their Ofsted inspectors were wonderful. They came in, they did not interfere with the school, they said hello and good morning to people. Unfortunately, some Ofsted team members do not have the interpersonal skills that smooth the passage of an inspection and put people at ease. The problem may be something as trivial as that. It may be a serious complaint or some dissatisfaction that arises from the inspection. The new clauses provide a mechanism for appeal against what the school may consider an unjustified or unfair outcome.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I support the new clause. I should make it clear that I need not declare an interest. In God knows how many years of teaching, I was not once inspected by anyone. I managed to be in the right place at the right time, so I bear no grudge myself. They never got me.

I have no axe to grind, but I know of inspections that have gone awry in one way or another: for example, whole-school inspections in which people felt that the inspection got off to a bad start and deteriorated further, and inspections of individual departments. A competent and well-staffed language department was inspected by a fairly professional inspector. They had different views on how language should be taught and exactly what the procedures should be to provide children with a better education in French, German and so on. As a result of what one might call an ideological clash between the inspector and the staff, a satisfactory inspection did not take place. As the whole-school inspection was regarded as something of   a success, the individual teachers who suffered as a result of the judgment passed upon them simply had to grin and bear it.

Such situations always strike me as slightly unfortunate. Some inspectors enter the world of inspection as fellow professionals and partners in education. They have the aim of producing a better, more coherent curriculum or better pupil performance. Unfortunately, there are other inspectors—they are a rarity—who relish their new power as an opportunity to wreak professional havoc on their peers. One would hope that such people were identified fairly early and eliminated from the inspector cohort, but serious injustices occur from time to time. In some cases, people on whom the most adverse judgments are passed are, in fact, some of the most dedicated professionals. I know many teachers. Some of the people who fret most about inspections, who become most nervous under their influence and who are likely to under-perform are the most committed, dedicated and worried about failure. Some people can sail through, adopting a slightly more casual approach.

The general thrust of the new clause is right. We must give teachers, who ultimately are the people being inspected, an assurance that we are mindful of such concerns. If such a provision is not included anywhere else in the Bill, the new clause will be a useful adjunct.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Wales), Department for Constitutional Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) (also in Wales Office)

The new clauses seek to establish procedures for schools or others in England and Wales with an interest in a school inspection to complain to an independent adjudicator. There is already an independent complaints adjudicator for Ofsted. The adjudicator is appointed by the Secretary of State.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o’clock, the Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o’clock.