Shorter Ofsted inspections for ‘good’ schools

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The way Ofsted inspects schools is changing with a new regime of “short inspections” starting with the assumption schools are already ‘good’.

From September 2015, Ofsted will inspect good schools and further education and skills providers once every three years under a new short inspection model. They will check leaders have identified key areas of concern and have the capacity to address them.

These short inspections will typically last one day and will be led by one or two Ofsted inspectors with bigger teams for further education colleges. Where inspectors feel that more evidence is necessary to confirm the judgement, or to establish whether the school or provider may have improved or declined, the visit will be converted to a full inspection and continue, most commonly, for an additional day.

Ofsted’s director for the South East Sir Robin Bosher explained that Ofsted’s new inspection model will be very different to what has gone before. He said that: “The starting assumption of Her Majesty’s Inspectors will be that the school or provider is good. This should engender an atmosphere in which honest, challenging, professional dialogue can take place. This will be an open process. Leaders will have nothing to fear being honest about weaknesses. HMI will be looking to see that the leaders have a clear understanding of the key areas for development – and a credible and effective plan for how to address them… short inspections will reduce the burden of inspection without losing the rigour which parents and the public rightly expect of Ofsted.”

Further changes

Ofsted also plans to recognise exceptional leaders. From September, when inspectors identify an early years leader, headteacher or college principal who has played a key role in turning around other institutions, Ofsted will send a letter to them acknowledging their leadership as exceptional. A copy of this letter will go to the Secretary of State and Ofsted’s Annual Report will also feature those leaders who have been recognised in this way.

A common framework for inspection is also being introduced. This framework will encompass registered early years settings, maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers, so that common judgements and terminology can be used across all these sectors. This should enable people to read and understand any Ofsted inspection report quickly because the format and basis for judgement are the same.

Ofsted will also open its complaints process to greater accountability. In the South East, a scrutiny committee of HMIs and practitioners not involved in Ofsted inspections will be set up. They will assess and rule on the internal reviews of complaints about inspection. The decisions of the panel, including the ability to quash inspection judgements, will be binding.

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