Ofsted: Accountability — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:16 pm on 8th June 2022.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education) 3:16 pm, 8th June 2022

The hon. Gentleman makes an absolutely fair point. He is right: I was coming on to the workload challenge. I think we have to be honest and accept that independent inspections leading to a published report will inevitably be a source of some pressure on schools. I recognise that he and my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer have raised concerns about the workload impact on teachers. I have discussed that many times with Her Majesty’s chief inspector, who is committed to ensuring that pressure is kept to a minimum and that inspectors take all reasonable steps to prevent undue anxiety and minimise stress.

As part of that, Ofsted has taken steps through its new framework—for example, including a section designed to dispel myths about inspections that can result in unnecessary anxiety and workload in schools, and ensuring that inspectors consider the extent to which leaders take into account the workload and wellbeing of their staff as part of an inspection. We at the Department take seriously our responsibilities when it comes to workload. That is why we have worked with the unions on a workload-reduction toolkit for the sector and on a well- being charter.

I recognise that there is a balance to be struck here. My hon. Friend the Member for York Outer raised the issue of the short period of inspections. Of course, under previous inspection regimes, there had been a longer period of inspections, or notice given for inspections, and that was criticised for increasing workload because it required people to spend more time collating and preparing data for Ofsted visits. That is a challenging balance to strike.

There will be some occasions when providers are unhappy with their inspection experience or outcome, and yes, there will be occasions when inspectors do not get everything right first time, despite the quality assurance processes that we all want, but it is important to see that in perspective. Ofsted’s annual report and accounts documents provide interesting data on complaints about inspections. They show that, across Ofsted’s remit in 2018-19, 1.8% of inspection activity led to a formal complaint being received. In 2019-20, that figure was 2.5%, and in 2020-21, which I appreciate was a different year in many respects, it was just 0.3%.