Ofsted - raising standards and improving lives


Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The government agency reports directly to Parliament and is independent and impartial. Ofsted inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

Effective inspection is a key tool in raising standards and improving lives – and therefore it lies at the heart of Ofsted’s ethos and activities.

Being able to gather information intelligently and share it efficiently is essential if Ofsted’s inspectors are to promote, monitor and report on how schools, colleges, children’s homes, local authorities and early childhood provision raise standards and improve lives. It also doesn’t stop there. A swathe of Ofsted’s daily activity beyond inspectors involves sharing information securely with people and agencies outside of the organisation.

Consequently, finding an efficient, secure, and reliable solution to facilitate this sharing, and one simple enough for busy professionals to use without a heavy training overhead, had clear business benefits.

Tom Zebedee, Deputy Director Technology at Ofsted, believes that effective information sharing can only be achieved if files and other content are available to individuals at the right time, the right place and in the right format. He explains:

“In the last two years we have seen an explosion in the volume and variety of data. This information often needs to be shared with individuals who don’t work for Ofsted, such as schools and government departments. We carry out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits throughout England and their participation is the key to a successful process, raising standards and improving lives.”

The platforms Ofsted previously relied on for collaboration were limiting effectiveness. The Ofsted team was unable to share content securely outside of the firewall and the secure email platform’s file size restrictions were slowing teams down considerably.

Reassuringly secure, and reassuringly easy to use 

A cloud-based collaboration platform, appropriately secure through encryption and other measures, appeared the ideal alternative. Quick to deploy, the cloud would enable Ofsted staff to securely access, edit and share OFFICIAL content whatever end point they were using: PC, tablet or mobile.

Ofsted’s Information Management and Information Services reviewed Huddle against the latest Cabinet Office cloud security requirements and judged it compliant. In addition, security settings have been provided to the Information Services team to strengthen controls around logins and the transit of information from Ofsted’s side to a high level. Guidance on cyber security awareness is also provided to external users on using Huddle securely to exchange information with Ofsted.

“We’ve satisfied ourselves that Huddle is appropriately secure for our OFFICIAL material, as well as being easy to use,” Zebedee continues. “Huddle empowers Ofsted to collaborate with colleagues, external partners, other government bodies, or contractors through any device. Huddle is inspiring a new, more effective way of working across Ofsted and helping us to deliver on our digital transformation agenda.”

The Ofsted Legal department was the first team to start using Huddle last year. The popularity of Huddle quickly saw it being adopted by other teams. Four Ofsted teams and more than 150 staff are now using Huddle to support Ofsted school inspection teams, and share confidential legal documentation with external firms and other government departments, safe in the knowledge that Huddle is secure. Teams can collaborate across the firewall, so project members across government departments can work easily together in a quick, efficient and secure manner. In addition, Huddle maintains a full audit trail to show who has viewed, edited, downloaded or changed the content. 

The ability to store and share large files has been welcomed by teams who have now created their own materials library for commonly used resources.

“Our teams now have a secure, central place to store, review, edit and share content,” says Zebedee. “Huddle is simple to use and there have been very few support calls to the Information Services team. We’re really pleased with what we’ve seen so far and anticipate more Ofsted teams implementing Huddle in the near future.”