Fairness and transparency central to Ofsted’s updated complaints and pausing policies

Ofsted has updated its policies for making complaints about inspections, and pausing inspections under exceptional circumstances

  • New complaints process allows providers to seek a review of their inspection when they receive their draft report.
  • Providers now able to directly escalate complaints to Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO) if they are dissatisfied with Ofsted’s formal response.
  • Policy on pausing an inspection in exceptional circumstances now applies to all types of providers.

Ofsted has today published an updated policy for complaints about inspections, which aims to handle providers’ concerns more fairly, thoroughly and efficiently.

More detailed guidance on the process for pausing an inspection has also been published today, and now applies to all childcare, education and social care inspections and regulatory visits.

Read the ‘Complaints about inspections policy’.

Read the ‘Ofsted inspections and visits: deferring, pausing and gathering additional evidence policy’.

The new complaints process comes into effect today and applies to inspections and regulatory activity carried out across all education and care provider types after 4 April 2024.

The changes follow last year’s consultation on proposals to make the complaints process as clear and simple to use as possible. Responses to the consultation showed strong support for each of the proposals. Ofsted has already introduced enhanced professional dialogue to help address any issues about an inspection on site, and a new helpline for providers to call and speak to a senior Ofsted inspector if they have concerns about inspectors’ conduct.

The changes coming into effect today apply when concerns about Ofsted’s work cannot be resolved informally. 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 a provider remains dissatisfied with Ofsted’s response to their formal complaint, they will now be able to directly escalate it to the ICASO. This service is provided by an external organisation, which will review Ofsted’s handling of the complaint.

In addition, Ofsted will periodically submit a sample of closed complaints to a panel for review. This panel will include external representatives from the sectors Ofsted inspects, who will provide challenge and transparency on how complaints have been handled.

The updated policy on pausing an inspection expands on guidance published in January for state-funded schools. It sets out the steps inspectors will take when it is necessary to pause activity during childcare, education and social care inspections and regulatory visits.

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.

The policy also sets out how long an inspection could be paused for, depending on the type of provider. Where an inspection is paused for longer than this period, it will be deemed incomplete and inspectors will return to gather additional evidence at a later date.

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.

2We 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.

"These reforms are all part of our ambition to make Ofsted the best it can be, and a world-class inspectorate and regulator. We will continue to review how we work, including through our Big Listen, which is offering everyone the chance to help us improve."

From: Ofsted