Ofsted publishes new code of conduct for inspections

On 1 September 2022 Ofsted published an updated guidance on its code of conduct (“The Guidance”) which provides direction on the conduct of inspectors and the expectations they have for providers. Ofsted have stated that the primary purpose of inspection or regulation under its framework is to bring about improvement in education provision for all learners of all ages in the care of children and young people. The Guidance aims to encourage greater efficiency and harmony between inspectors and providers when undertaking regulatory activity, which should subsequently help improve and monitor education standards.

Who does The Guidance apply to?

The Guidance applies to all inspection and wider regulatory activity in all of Ofsted’s remits. This includes services such as, early year’s services, education and skills, social care and providers. This will include:

  • Schools and academies
  • Colleges and apprenticeship providers
  • Prison education and education institutions
  • Childcare
  • Local authorities
  • Adoption and fostering agencies

What does The Guidance say for Inspectors?

Ofsted reiterated in The Guidance the importance of inspectors establishing and maintaining a positive working relationship with providers. This is achieved by remaining courteous and professional in respect of their behaviour. Inspectors should take reasonable steps to prevent undue anxiety and to minimise stress during the inspection or regulatory activity. Ofsted expects its inspectors to uphold professional standards underpinned by integrity, fairness, respect and sensitivity. In order to meet this inspectors are expected to:

  • Evaluate objectively
  • Be impartial and inspect without fear or favour
  • Base all evaluations on clear and robust evidence
  • Declare all actual or perceived conflicts or interests
  • Report honestly, clearly and ensure that judgements are fair and reliable
  • Carry out work with integrity, treating those with courtesy and respect
  • Establish and maintain appropriate professional and physical boundaries with both children or adults
  • Respect the confidentiality of information as far as possible
  • Respond appropriately to reasonable requests

The guidance reiterates that if providers encounter problems or concerns, they should be raised promptly with the lead inspector as soon as possible. A record of concerns raised and actions taken will be completed.

What does The Guidance say for Providers?

However, Ofsted has also reiterated the importance for providers to take responsibility to the regulatory monitoring of their services and help cooperate with inspections. The Guidance emphasises the need for providers to be open and transparent, and to maintain a positive working relationship with inspectors. In achieving this Ofsted expects providers to do the following:

  • Be courteous and professional and treat inspectors with respect
  • Approach the inspection with integrity, be open, transparent and honest
  • Enable inspectors to observe the normal functioning of the provider
  • Act in the best interests of children and learners
  • Provide opportunities for inspectors to meet with children and learners
  • Expect that inspectors will need to observe practice and talk to children or learners without a manager or registered person present
  • Work with inspectors to take reasonable steps to minimise disruption, stress and bureaucracy
  • Ensure safety of the inspectors while on their premises
  • bring any concerns about the inspection or visit to the attention of the lead inspector promptly and in a suitable manner

The consequences for providers if they do not act in accordance with The Guidance and these expectations, is that it may have an impact on the leadership and management judgement and/or affect providers suitability to remain registered by Ofsted.

It is also of note that the CQC have yet to publish an updated guidance or code of conduct to follow the same updated principles as its counterpart regulator Ofsted.  Many would argue that this transparency would help to improve relations with the health and social care regulator in the same way that Ofsted hopes that The Guidance will.

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