How to make the Ofsted “Learner View” useful to everyone

The BBC are reporting today that FE college students are being given the chance to rate their college online with the information going straight to Ofsted.  Naturally, the colleges are a little concerned that this leaves them open to unfair criticism whereas Ofsted think it will give them a ‘better picture’ of what’s going on.

Forgive my being old-fashioned but surely it’s good manners to speak with any person letting you down before marching to their superiors?  This feels like  an extension of a growing culture in education where people ‘cc’ senior management immediately and so breed a culture of resentment and mistrust.

But – more importantly – why aren’t Ofsted using the “Learner’s Views” as a way to improve college service. It would be easy to do. Learners could place their complaint on the websites and this would be shared immediately with the college thereby allowing them a chance to respond before publication. If Ofsted give a deadline for reply, send the reply to the learner, and then if the learner still feels the issue was not adequately addressed the views can be published along with the response (if received) from the college. Most colleges (and schools) would want to keep their noses clean meaning this is the perfect opportunity for learners to get their voice heard and to have something done about it; rather than have colleges will write off the views as being from “that mad kid on floor three” and then failing to do anything constructive to change the situation given that the view has been published/used-by-Ofsted anyway.

It has long been true that there needs to be a stronger ‘complaints’ policy instituted in education whereby people can raise concerns and gain a response in a robust, centralised way (similar to EBay’s resolution centre) and this could have been a great way to do it.  Let’s hope Ofsted see the potential and change their ways.