Ofsted obstruct the sharing of teacher observation notes

A data protection expert has said Ofsted is being obstructive by using copyright law to prevent teachers publishing their own lesson observation notes.

Under the Data Protection Act, teachers are allowed to request lesson observation notes written by Ofsted during their inspection.

One teacher, writing on his blog earlier in the week, outlined how he went through the process to access observation notes on his lesson from an Ofsted inspection earlier this year. However, one he received the information, the inspectorate said he must not share or publish it due to the rules of ‘Crown Copyright’.

Speaking with Academies Week, Ofsted said it was unable to make a decision on whether the copyright could be waived – as it rests with the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office – and would not comment on individual cases.

Tim Turner, of 2040 Training and who specialises in data protection law, said the quoting of these rules usually prevents the publishing of material in its original form, but discussing the information could be possible.

He said: “Technically, yes, the Crown does own the copyright but I have never heard of a case in this context.

“It is a defensive move, precisely to inhibit people from sharing information. But there is no public interest in preventing the sharing of this information, and it would be of no loss to Ofsted is this was published. Sharing is usually only challenged if it is used to make money out of the information.”

Ofsted has also recently removed a form on its website which previously enabled teachers easily submit subject access requests – a process enabling individuals to find out what information an organisation holds about them.

Explaining why the request forms were removed, an Ofsted spokesman said: “There was a brief period when this was available but it is not there anymore. It is to do with the work Mike Cladingbowl has been doing to show we don’t grade lessons.
“It gives the wrong impression if it looks like we are looking at individual teachers.”

The remarks relate to the recent changes in Ofsted’s procedures for grading individual teacher’s lessons during school inspections.

Since the start of September, lessons are no longer individually graded, although inspectors can and do still visit classrooms.

Mr Turner found the removal of the form to be unusual. He added: “It seems very odd to remove something which is helpful.

“The Information Commissioner has encouraged organisations to make information like this much easier to obtain. It does seem like a very unusual step.”