Letter to Clerk of the Education Sub-committee
from the Director of Education, Durham County Council
Many thanks for the opportunity to comment on the
uncorrected evidence given by Mr Woodhead and colleagues on 1st
November. The issues for specific correction of the evidence are:
- Question 14: "No Government Department has
a Board": This error was corrected at the Select Committee,
when a member pointed out that the Inland Revenue has a Board.
But there is a significant error of omission which needs to be
corrected. OFSTED is the only Government Department which is not
covered by the PCA (Ombudsman). If HMCI wishes to have OFSTED
treated as a Government Department, then it should be subject
to the Ombudsman, both institutionally throughout the whole of
OFSTED and personally as far as the office of HMCI is concerned.
- Question 17: "Durham did not want to tell
us the schools that were complaining, so it made it difficult..."
This is incorrect. The main school concerned was named in the
complaint, with the approval of the school by the County Council
from the very beginning. The significant number of other schools
which had complained to the LEA did not want, for fear of reprisal,
to be named but specific complaints were nevertheless made to
OFSTED with respect to these schools.
- Question 17: "The Registered Inspector said
that an LEA employee had interfered with the inspection; this
was logged in the evidence base for the Inspection at the time."
Again a significant error of omission. The OFSTED investigation
and outcome has specifically not supported this allegation. Indeed,
the apology from OFSTED collectively and HMCI personally to the
complainant includes an apology specifically to the LEA officer
- Question 17: "So the OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator
then thoroughly reviewed the case and concluded..." This
is an error. The OFSTED Adjudicator never interviewed or sought
clarification of any kind at any stage from Mr. Woodhead, despite
the fact that he was the main protagonist in the complaint. Durham
County Council has consistently argued, and continues to argue,
that no investigation of this matter can be regarded as "thorough"
- or even adequate in such circumstances.
- Question 17: "The OCA is independent of
OFSTED, and it is important to stress that her view represents
an adjudication that is not, in any sense, influenced by myself
or any of my colleagues." The County Council does not accept
this as a correct statement. The OFSTED Adjudicator is appointed
by, and dismissible by, HMCI and is not in any reasonable sense
of the term independent". OFSTED's own definitions of "external
inspection" and "contamination" for school inspections
mean that OFSTED itself could not, by this analogy, regard the
post of Adjudicator as being independent of OFSTED. The County
Council also remains of the firm view, as indicated by its legal
advisers, that the "unwarranted" and 1mplicitly threatening"
intrusion by Mr Woodhead into the process of investigation at
the outset, and before the County Council's side of the complaint
had been heard, meant that all OFSTED personnel and processors
were contaminated from that point on.
- Question 20: "That review, by sheer chance,
coincided with the first letter from Mr Mitchell; it was not done
at Mr Mitchell's request, it was done as a result of other matters
that prose. And, it is quite right, as the OCA properly pointed
out, we should have indicated in our earlier letters that we had
conducted that review. But it was much wider, the review, than
the matter of that single complaint that Durham made, and there
is the matter of confidentiality, therefore, about how much of
other business that is not pertinent to Durham should be revealed
to Durham at that point in time."
- This needs to be corrected for a number of reasons,
even if the Committee is persuaded to accept the notion of 'sheer
chance' or blind coincidence. First of all County Durham's complaint
was a wide one, not only the one named school, but other schools
in County Durham and indeed one other LEA in the North East where
a similar complaint had been made to OFSTED, meetings had taken
place between the LEA and senior OFSTED personnel and the outcome
had been an agreement that the Registered Inspector in question
would not longer inspect in that authority. Durham County Council
as the complainant consistently asked for a review of the whole
work of this Registered Inspector in the light of the specific
complaints that were raised from the one school and the generality
of complaints from other schools and LEAs in the area.
- Secondly it is wrong, by omission, to agree simply
that OFSTED should have indicated the fact that it had conducted
that review of the Registered Inspector. The fact is that OFSTED
in its three-year correspondence repeatedly informed the complainant
that it had not carried out a review and rejected the County Council's
call for a review of her work.
- Question 27: "Now, Durham remained unhappy.
I find it difficult to know what else we can do, I would love
to know what else it would be possible to do in this particular
case, I cannot see anything further that we can do, but then I
may not be bright enough to see what the alternatives are."
This error must be corrected. County Durham has specifically and
repeatedly written to OFSTED over the years of this complaint
to indicate what OFSTED should do, namely as a minimum:
(a) Ensure that Mr Woodhead
and other OFSTED officers as appropriate are interviewed and give
an account of how the "unwarranted" and implicitly threatening"
intervention occurred by Mr Woodhead, who was responsible, what
action should be taken and how it can be prevented from happening
(b) OFSTED should agree, as repeatedly proposed
by the complainant, to a third party which can carry out a full
investigation and review of this matter on an independent and
impartial basis, with full access to all the documentation to
which the complainant has been denied access;
(c) OFSTED and HMCI should answer the outstanding
issues requiring further information and clarification, which
remain unresolved in this matter and about which HMCI has instructed
his staff to enter into no further communication with the complainant.
Further, in the Committee both the Chairman and Mr.
Woodhead himself stressed the importance of the "principle
of external inspection." We believe that the principle of
external inspection and not merely a properly external
complaints mechanism as recommended above should apply
to OFSTED. Even the existence of a board, such as suggested at
the Committee, would not provide the necessary external objectivity
which OFSTED and the Select Committee believe, rightly, is necessary
elsewhere in the Education Service. That necessity should apply
also to OFSTED itself, both institutionally and to the position
of HMCI personally, and without it we believe that OFSTED will
never be perceived as fully accountable nor, indeed, as professionally
credible as an organisation whose raison d'être is external
We in County Durham are most grateful to the Select
Committee for the considerable attention which is now being given
to this matter. We hope that the Select Committee will continue
to press for answers to the questions that have not been answered
by OFSTED, and which require to be answered if progress is to
be made by and within OFSTED, particularly under new leadership.
We remain of the view that an independent enquiry instigated by,
and, responsible to, the Select Committee remains the best way