Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Ofsted chief will put disadvantaged children first, as he launches ‘Big Listen’ to hear from parents and professionals

Ofsted’s new Chief Inspector will pledge to put the interests of disadvantaged children at the heart of future reforms, as he launches a major public consultation on Ofsted’s work.

  • Chief Inspector pledges that Ofsted will champion high standards for all children, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
  • The Big Listen opens today and will run for 12 weeks, seeking views about Ofsted’s work from parents, carers and professionals in education and social care.
  • The Big Listen will be followed by ‘real action’, and marks a new chapter in Ofsted’s relationship with the education and care sectors.

Take part in the Ofsted Big Listen.

The Big Listen, which will run for 3 months, is a wide-reaching and comprehensive effort to hear from the full range of professionals and providers Ofsted works with, as well as the parents, carers, children and learners it works for.

Launching the consultation at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Conference in Liverpool on Friday morning, the Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, will say:

We want to see high standards for all children, and positive outcomes for all children. This is how we start to tackle disadvantage as a society – by opening new doors, creating new opportunities and better life chances.  

We don’t want disadvantage or vulnerability to be a barrier. Because if you get it right for the most disadvantaged, you get it right for everyone. Ofsted has a crucial role to play in making sure that happens, and pointing out when it doesn’t.

Sir Martyn will also appeal to as many people as possible to get involved in the Big Listen, promising that he has big ambitions for Ofsted and the impact it can have.

He will say: 

We need to listen to feedback. To criticism. To ideas for small changes and for big reforms.

If your work, your children, your decisions, your education or your care are impacted by what we do, we want to hear from you. Every voice will be heard, and nothing is off the table.

The Big Listen consultation, published online today, asks a series of questions to help shape the conversation and provide a sense of direction for the changes Ofsted could make. The questions are based around 4 themes:

  1. How Ofsted reports on its findings
  2. How Ofsted carries out inspections
  3. How Ofsted can have a positive impact in all the sectors it inspects
  4. What Ofsted needs to do to be a world-class inspectorate and regulator, trusted by parents, children and the sectors it works with

Ofsted will launch a strand of the consultation specifically aimed at children, including those in the care system, later this month.

As well as the online consultation, independent organisations will carry out surveys and focus groups with parents and professionals to gather their views on Ofsted’s future direction. Ofsted staff will also gather views directly at a variety of events and meetings.

In his first major speech since becoming Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn will tell the audience of school and college leaders that he wants the Big Listen to mark a new chapter in Ofsted’s relationship with the sector:

I hope the steps I’ve taken in my first 2 months show you that I’m serious. Serious about Ofsted doing better. Serious about making a difference. And serious about working with the sector to make sure all children have the best possible education, care, and life chances.

Ofsted has a unique position in that it sees almost all of the services that affect a child’s life, especially a vulnerable child’s life, from their childminder or nursery, throughout their education and training. And for children who need additional care or support, this includes children’s services and support for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Under Sir Martyn’s leadership, Ofsted will use this unique position to understand what it is like to be a child in every area of the country, with a particular focus on disadvantage – reporting on how children are helped to succeed, and where children fall through gaps because education and care services are not good enough.

The Big Listen consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on 31 May 2024. For more information and to complete the consultation, visit the Big Listen webpage.

Ofsted will carefully analyse all the responses to the Big Listen consultation and publish its conclusions and plans later this year.

Notes to editors

  1. In addition to the Big Listen, Ofsted has already:
    • published a full response to the Coroner’s inquest into the tragic death of headteacher, Ruth Perry
    • delivered an immediate package of training for inspectors on mental health awareness
    • introduced a new policy on pausing a school inspection
    • made clarifications to inspection handbooks, including setting out how leaders can raise concerns during an inspection, who can attend inspection meetings, and the sharing of provisional outcomes
  2. Ofsted will shortly publish a response to the Education Select Committee’s report on its inquiry into Ofsted’s work.
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