Former senior OFSTED inspectors set up Alternative Big Listen survey


Two former senior government inspectors, who believe Ofsted’s recently announced consultation avoids some of the important issues around school inspections, have set up their own survey.

Prof Colin Richards and Frank Norris MBE have created the Alternative Big Listen as a means of gathering the responses to questions Ofsted has not asked and also gather views on the overall effectiveness of the school inspection regime.

Following the tragic death of Ruth Perry, the Headteacher at Caversham Primary School and the publication of the Coroner’s Report Ofsted launched the Big Listen to gather views on inspection.

Frank Norris said: “When we completed the official survey, we were both shocked, and sadly not surprised, to see the way the questions had been couched. It was hard to disagree with the leading questions, but it was also frustrating to not be able to get to the heart of the issues. We hope the Alternative Big Listen will be a more insightful survey.

“So far, over 10k responses have been made to the official questionnaire but many have noted that some important elements of inspection are not part of the survey including the use of single word/phrase for judging effectiveness and the usefulness of current inspection reports.”

“That is why we have decided to give those involved in schools and Post 16 settings the opportunity to express their views and include a chance to comment on Ofsted’s effectiveness. This is something the Big Listen avoids.”

Colin Richards added: “We both believe in the value of inspection and although Frank and I don’t agree on all the changes needed we do believe it is important that the profession and those interested in education have the chance to comment on all aspects and not just the ones Ofsted chooses.”

Frank and Colin have been joined by education thinkers, leaders and other former HMI and have created an online survey that opens today (1 May) and closes on 12 June. The intention is to share openly and transparently the outcomes of the alternative survey and to do so in a way that may influence Ofsted’s response to their survey findings.

You can respond to The Alternative Big Listen at


  1. S. Waine

    Finally its nice to see someone publish online what most parents are thinking. So many I talked to either didnt bother doing the survey after reading the first few questions, or started like me and gave up! The questions were ‘loaded’ for only positive answers and there were no options for optional answers or negative answers. The questions werenot relevant to parents knowledge of what goes on in schools or inspections. The questionaire process should be totally independant of osfsted. But sadly I dont hold much hope after the courts couldnt even change the one word santimonious judgements given schools made on a few hours on a school day. All we need is smaller class sizes, drop SATS and league tables, trust teachers. This will drastically reduce anxiety and strss in teachers and students. (we cant blame it all on covid) Also teachers should be teaching 95% mainstream students, many of my friends in education have classes where one third or in one case half the class, have SEN needs. They did not sign up to teach SEN. An TA I know has to brush teeth once a week! Just sad….teachers are not social workers or administrators, the good ones are leaving in droves well before retirement.

  2. S Waine

    nb For the sake of seeming ‘not inclusive’ in my above comments, I have a child with SEN needs. But what I should have added was; we critically need far more schools nationwide for SEN, and/or a whole new structure a separete SEN streams in every school taught by specialist SEN teachers. Maybe this could be paid for by scrapping SATS and league tables!


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