Nursery group wins challenge to Ofsted downgrade

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A nursery group has succeeded in having its Ofsted grade successfully re-instated to a ‘good’ grade after campaigning for seven months to have a ‘satisfactory’ inspection judgement overturned.

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Sarah Steel at The Old Station Nursery Group's Lincoln nursery

The Old Station Nursery Group’s Innsworth setting (pictured below) had been graded as good by Ofsted since it opened in 2010. Following an Ofsted inspection in May 2013 the inspector, who was employed by Tribal, told the nursery during feedback that she had graded the nursery as ‘good’.

However, the judgement was subsequently downgraded to satisfactory during Tribal’s quality assurance process.

The nursery was told that this was because prior to the inspection there had been an investigation visit from Ofsted triggered by the nursery reporting a compliance issue in September 2012.

The nursery had subsequently reviewed its induction training procedures to Ofsted’s satisfaction, but this had led to a full Ofsted inspection being brought forward.

The nursery group appealed the decision but Tribal upheld the satisfactory grade.

Following this the nursery, using Ofsted’s complaints procedure, requested an internal review.

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Managing director Sarah Steel told Nursery World, ‘Ofsted said they would get back to us in September but we didn’t hear anything until December.’

She added, ‘The reply from Ofsted was incredibly wordy, but basically they agreed that the original judgements made by the inspector supported a “good” grade, so this was re-instated.’

However, having to wait seven months meant that the downgrade to a satisfactory had ‘definitely had a financial impact on our registrations in September,’ she said. ‘A sorry from Ofsted doesn’t change this.’

Last year saw a rise in the number of complaints from nursery owners about Ofsted inspections, which led to the Ofsted Big Conversation weekend in September and ongoing lobbying from the sector for fairness and transparency in inspections.

Ms Steel added, ‘It’s a ray of light. All people want is for it to be fair.’

 

Extract from Ofsted’s response, 3 December 2013

Complaint – Ofsted inspection of The Old Station Nursery on 20 May 2013

‘The original investigating officer explained that your inspection had been brought forward as the result of Ofsted’s risk assessment process. However, it was incorrect to state that the investigation evidence must be considered because this would not have been available to the inspector. The inspector’s role was to assess how well you were complying with the action given and the progress you had made in this regard since the investigation visit. I apologise that this was not made clear. I also apologise if the inspector led you to believe the reason you were downgraded from good to satisfactory was due to a compliance issue. While previous concerns are taken into account when inspecting, there are many other factors that must also be considered. A positive and effective response to an action can provide evidence of good leadership and management so being given an action to complete will not automatically limit the judgement grade. I am sorry this was not explained by the original investigating officer…

‘As a result of this investigation, your original judgements will be reinstated. The report will be amended and a new report sent as soon as possible.

‘This investigation has found that while the original investigation was completed in line with Ofsted’s published guidance, it was not sufficiently thorough. I would like to apologise for any frustration this caused you. Following this review, the three key judgements and the overall judgement will be amended to good.’