Thursday, 27 September 2012

ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE OFFICE FOR STANDARDS IN EDUCATION [OFSTED] Motion to be discussed at the Liberal Democrat NW Conference Sat 13th Oct 2012

Proposed by: Rebecca Hanson                                             Summator:    TBA

Conference notes that:
      Ofsted was created in by the Conservative government in 1992 by the Education (Schools) Act and that when it was created efforts to give schools the power to hold their regulator to account if they believed it to be behaving unfairly were rejected and not incorporated into law.  It is believed that this was done because the government believed that the HMIs who came from the previous system of inspection were of a sufficiently high caliber to regulate their own behaviour.
      In 2004 the Labour government commissioned a general review to consider the scope for reducing administrative burdens by promoting more efficient approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement, without compromising regulatory standards or outcomes. This review led to the establishment of the ‘Hampton Principles’ of best practice in achieving the aims of inspection and regulation which are generally agreed to be; improving practice, protecting against dangerous practice and correctly reporting to government regarding the state of the organisations regulated.

      The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) created a legal framework within which regulated organisations could challenge their regulators and force them to improve their practice if they interfered unnecessarily with their activities or behaved unfairly (within the context that regulators who adhered to the Regulators’ Compliance Code which is based on the Hampton Principles would be considered to be acting within the law).  

      In 2009 the Labour Government carried out a Consultation to establish which private and third sector (charitable) organisations should be protected by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) which led to all regulators, including Ofsted, being obligated to this law for all their activities with private and third sector organisations from 1st October 2009.
Conference further notes  that:             
      During this 2009 consultation Ofsted expressed the concern that it could be required to introduce different inspection and regulatory requirements for private/third sector providers operating in the same sector as state providers who are legally required to provide the same levels of service.

      The government responded by noting that Ofsted could voluntarily apply the required standards to its activities with state funded organisations.     

      However the government did not obligate Ofsted to the law regarding its action with state funded schools, leaving open the possibility that Ofsted could fail to apply best practice to its activities and that if it did so state funded schools would have no legal mechanism to use to require Ofsted to improve its conduct.

Conference is gravely concerned that:
     There has been a recent significant rise in reports of state funded schools having serious concerns regarding the behaviour of Ofsted.

     In cases where schools have attempted to challenge Ofsted’s behaviour, which appears to seriously contravene best practice, they have been unable to obtain judicial reviews of Ofsted because they have no legal framework to use.

Conference is greatly alarmed that:
      This inconsistency seriously undermines the objective of increasing professional competencies and freedom for those working in education and that Ofsted is being used to put pressure on certain schools to opt out of Local Authority control.

Conference calls on Liberal Democrat Ministers and Parliamentarians to:
       Press for an order to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) to be rapidly passed obligating Ofsted to this Act for all its activities, in order to give state funded schools the same protection as private and third sector schools.

General information about Ofsted including the date of creation:

The commissioning of a review to “consider the scope for reducing administrative burdens by promoting more efficient approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement, without compromising regulatory standards or outcomes”

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act (2006) with a direct link to the salient point

The Regulators’ Compliance Code

The 1st October 2009 Order to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act is here
and the salient point re Ofsted is at (21) (blue numbers).

Government Response to the Consultation on Extending the Coverage of the Regulators’ Compliance Code and the Principles of Good Regulation (May 2009)
The key points are 4.8 and 4.13

Furness Academy and Other Cases