Ofsted seeks views on future changes to short inspections

Monday 25th September 2017

The inspectorate has confirmed the arrangements for converting short inspections and launched a new consultation on future changes.

Ofsted has today launched a consultation seeking views on proposals aimed at bringing greater clarity to the short inspection process.

The new approach is designed to give schools that may be at risk of decline more time to improve following a short inspection, while retaining their good rating. If implemented, the changes would allow those schools the opportunity to seek appropriate support, for example from within their multi-academy trust, local authority or other school improvement bodies.

The consultation asks for views on 3 changes to the short inspection process:

  • inspectors will continue to convert short inspections, within 48 hours, where there are serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the standard of education. Parents need to know as soon as possible if the quality of education at a school has declined to inadequate
  • when inspectors are not confident that a school is still good but the standard of education remains acceptable, and there are no concerns about safeguarding or behaviour, the inspection will not convert. Instead, Ofsted will publish a letter setting out the school’s strengths and areas for improvement. A section 5 inspection will then take place at a later date, typically within 1 to 2 years. This will give the school time to address any weaknesses and seek support from appropriate bodies. In the meantime, the school’s overall effectiveness judgement of good will stand
  • when inspectors have reason to believe that a school may be improving to outstanding, Ofsted will publish a letter setting out the school’s strengths and priorities for further improvement, and confirming that it is still good. A section 5 inspection will then be carried out later, typically within one to two years. This will give the school time to consolidate its strong practice. However, requests for early inspections will be considered.

Today’s consultation is published alongside Ofsted’s response to the summer consultation on short inspections, which proposed changes to make the conversion process more manageable.

The current conversion process has proven problematic for schools and for Ofsted Inspectors (OIs), who are usually busy school leaders. OIs find the arrangements frustrating because they are often placed on contingency, only to be stood down at short notice. This uncertainty about their timetable creates a burden on them and their schools. It is also operationally impractical for Ofsted.

In response to the feedback received, Ofsted has confirmed that from this October half term onwards, some good schools will automatically receive a full, two-day inspection instead of a short inspection.

This change will affect about 20% of schools judged good at their last inspection. It will occur when evidence shows that the quality of provision may have deteriorated significantly.

After listening to views from the education sector, Ofsted has decided that the other 80% of good schools will continue to receive short inspections. Between this half term and Christmas where a short inspection converts to a full inspection the conversion will normally take place within 48 hours, although in some cases it may take up to 7 days.

Ofsted has also agreed to increase to 3 the number of inspectors deployed on short inspections of secondary schools with more than 1,100 pupils.

Ofsted’s National Director of Education, Sean Harford said:

We are grateful to everyone who engaged with us and shared their views on our summer consultation. We believe it is very important to listen to the education sector as well as parents. So we have reflected on the responses to this consultation and reconsidered our initial proposals. This new consultation is a further opportunity to influence the future of inspection.

Under the new proposals, good schools will get detailed feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. And they’ll have more time to improve following a short inspection. In this way, we hope to catch schools before they fall.

We are already taking forward changes that will cut the number of short inspections. This will give us more flexibility to plan where we use our resources and relieve some of the pressure on our inspection workforce, many of whom are also serving heads and school leaders. But if we are to make the best use of our serving practitioner workforce, then we need to reduce further the number of short inspections that convert.

We believe this new approach strikes the best possible balance between minimising the inspection burden on schools and Ofsted being able to deliver the short inspection programme.

I hope that people take the time to respond to this new consultation and I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

In total, 1,690 responses to June’s consultation were submitted online. Ofsted also held consultative events and webinars attended by around 100 headteachers, leaders and parents.

The new consultation opens today and will close on 8 November. If agreed, the changes would take effect for the 2018 spring term.

Pam Langmead