Tribal is the largest regional inspection provider, responsible for the South East. It seems to have got into hot water with reports found wanting by Ofsted, and apparently some financial penalties to compensate Ofsted for the extra work. It has recently sent this friendly missive to the inspectors who have the pleasure of working with it. A nice touch, you may think, to close with "kind regards", immediately following two paragraphs reminding inspectors that they are gagged.
The letter raises some questions which Tribal seems reluctant to answer:
1. How many reports have been found wanting, and what redress has been given to the schools? Have any heads been sacked as a result of these reports?
2. How much has Tribal been penalised by Ofsted? Tribal's reply to an inquiry from a journalist was that this was commercially confidential, but it is surely a matter of public interest.
3. If nothing has changed, why has Tribal had to insert a new clause in its agreement with inspectors?
4. Should the contracts of RISPs be renewed, or do we need a new system? Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders, thinks the contracts should not be renewed. For once, I'm inclined to agree with him.
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Improving Inspection Quality
Maintained Schools Inspections Communication to all Inspectors
We hope that you had a restful half-term and are grateful to the many lead inspectors who attended an additional training event during this holiday period.
As we start the second half of the spring term it is an appropriate time to re-focus on ensuring high quality inspections at every stage of the process, including the rigour of the inspection, the conduct of the inspection team and the quality of the report and evidence base. Ofsted’s evaluation of the Inspection Service Providers’ performance against Key Performance Indicators exists to ensure that inspections across the country meet the standard required and that swift and effective action is taken when they do not. We therefore feel it would be helpful to make clear for all inspectors who work for Tribal, the competencies they are required to demonstrate on inspections and the performance management procedures we use to promote consistently high quality inspections. This information is attached and should be read as soon as possible.
Both Tribal and Ofsted review a significant number of evidence bases across all grade profiles, asking a simple question, ‘Does the evidence base fully support the report grades?’ Where Ofsted deem this not to be the case they are likely to contact the lead inspector and/or re-visit the school to seek further evidence. In either/both case(s) this results in a performance failure on the part of Tribal and, where a re-visit happens, the inspection is often judged to be flawed. In a flawed inspection, Ofsted have the contractual right to be reimbursed by Tribal for their costs. Clearly, Tribal cannot sustain such costs and if this occurs we have no option but to seek financial redress from the inspectors involved. This has always been part of Tribal’s Terms and Conditions as set out in 5.4:
Where the performance of an Inspector is such that Tribal becomes liable to pay any sum of money to Ofsted, Tribal reserves the right to recover such amount from the Inspector together with any other costs, expenses and liabilities it incurs relating thereto.
From 24 February 2014 an additional clause has been added to the Terms and Conditions that states in 6.2:
Where Ofsted bring to Tribal’s attention issues with the quality of an inspector’s work and this results in a key performance failure, Tribal reserves the right (without prejudice to its other rights and remedies hereunder) to retract the fee, or part of, for the inspection and recover reasonable costs where appropriate.
Quite clearly we wish to avoid such situations. We need to move to a position where we are able to review a sample of evidence bases in real time i.e. before the report goes to Ofsted and where possible the school. Therefore, with effect from 24 February 2014 we are expecting evidence bases to be with Tribal by first post on final inspection day +3. Inspectors must submit their original white Evidence Forms, and retain their yellow carbon-copy for their own records. However, although Tribal may check them, it remains the responsibility of the lead inspector to ensure that the evidence base is of the highest quality and the team inspectors are required to produce high quality evidence forms in support of this.
Ofsted have introduced a new scale for judging the quality of maintained school reports and letters, which is:
a) Meets reporting requirements – returned to the ISP using the status ‘met standard publish.’
b) Does not meet reporting requirements because simple amendments are needed and which have been made by HMI – returned to the ISP as ‘not met standard publish.’
c) Does not meet reporting requirements because more than simple amendment is necessary - will be escalated to the appropriate Regional Director.
There are now one pass category and two fail categories with regard to meeting reporting requirements. 100% of reports are quality assured by Ofsted on a regional basis. Too many reports have fallen into the third category so far this term. As well as resulting in a KPI failure, this may result in a more severe penalty for Tribal.
Tribal’s QA needs to reflect Ofsted’s criteria so from 24 February we will be using:
1 – meets requirements
2 – does not meet requirements - small amendments
3 – does not meet requirements - significant amendments
Thus the expectation is that the lead inspector will present reports that require no amendment and are ready for publication; this has always been the case. What this means now, in terms of process, is that for grades 1 and 2 there will be no need for the QA reader to contact the lead, whereas for grade 3 they have to contact the lead as the reader cannot make the amendments.
A major source of information regarding the performance of inspectors is Annex 3 and a key question is what is exceptional performance? i.e. what makes a grade 1. In our analysis of Annex 3s, much of what is written against grade 1 is actually what is expected of a grade 2 inspector and does not explain exceptional performance. Key competencies underpin each of the five essential criteria in Annex 3 and the attached aide memoire provides the detail of these. For each grade we have indicated what is expected. Going forward, all inspectors need to refer to this when completing the Annex.
In addition, recent analysis shows that not all inspectors are completing their Annex 3 reviews on their team, or lead inspector(s). Therefore, please can you ensure you complete all reviews on all colleagues for all inspections. This data is crucial is managing our performance and therefore we require the support of all inspectors in ensuring the reviews are completed.
Finally, given the current media interest the work of Ofsted, it is apposite to remind all inspectors of Tribal’s terms and conditions with regard to inspectors’ involvement in the media. This is set out in 8.5:
The Inspector shall not, without the express prior permission of Tribal, seek to write articles for the media, write parts of or the whole of a book, appear on any form of TV, radio or online media in any capacity whatsoever that might be connected with the business of Ofsted or Tribal, or offer itself as an expert witness on inspections or school improvement.
To be clear, this includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter and online blogs. Inspectors should not be commenting on the work of Ofsted or Tribal in their capacity as an inspector as, by placing information/opinion in the public domain, this has the potential to undermine your position when on inspection and to bring Ofsted and Tribal into disrepute.
Thank you for reading this communication which is intended to support your inspection work. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with you to ensure that every inspection is of high quality and contributes to our shared commitment to educational improvement for all students.
Paul Dowgill – Director of Inspections, EFES
Peter Callow – Director of Inspections
Communication Reference (COM-2014-056)
1-4 Portland Square, Bristol, BS2 8RR
PS. Here is a link to a previous BBC report on Tribal.
This looks interesting too, from teacher roar.