Deciphering Ofsted's school inspection timetable

Dame Joan McVittie explains what Ofsted's latest missive on its inspection timetable might mean for school leaders trying to work out when they may next face an inspection
6th December 2021, 2:59pm
Dame Joan McVittie

Share

Deciphering Ofsted's school inspection timetable

https://www.tes.com/magazine/analysis/general/deciphering-ofsteds-school-inspection-timetable
School inspection

Since last September, school leaders have been asking when they are likely to be inspected.

The halt in normal inspections during lockdown and beyond resulted in Ofsted getting behind with its normal routine inspections - so much so in fact it was given extra funding to help catch up.

Of course, though, Ofsted organise their planning schedules well in advance. They will be allocating inspections to teams for the summer term now for instance.

So, if a school thought they were due an inspection soon after March 2019 and this did not happen because of the pandemic and it still has not happened this term, then they may already be in the planning cycle for the remainder of this academic year.

How can school leaders guestimate when this is likely to happen?

A recent blog from Chris Russell, Ofsted's national director for education, on changes to the school inspection timetable gave some clues as he outlined plans to ensure the inspection cycle gets back on track for both Section 5 and Section 8 inspections. 

The timetable

"Inadequate" schools will continue with monitoring inspections, which are usually termly.

A full Section 5 inspection of an "inadequate" school should take place within two-and-a-half years and is often sooner if the school is making rapid improvements.

However, this time has now been extended so the full inspection may not take place for up to four-and-a-half years.

Schools that have been graded "requires improvement" now have the time within which they are reinspected with a Section 5 inspection extended from two-and-a-half years up to four-and-a-half years.

Schools that were graded "good" will now have a Section 8 inspection within four-and-a-half years. However, Ofsted carries out regular risk assessments and may change the inspection to Section 5 and carry this out sooner than the school expects.

"Outstanding" schools are now being regularly inspected where previously they were exempt unless there was a concern.

Those "outstanding" schools that were last inspected before 2015 will receive a Section 5 inspection while those last inspected after 2015 will receive a Section 8 inspection.

More inspectors needed?

The speed at which all these inspections are carried out will depend on the availability of inspectors. Hence there is great confusion for school leaders.

Were they already in the planning cycle for this year? If not, will they be inspected in two-and-a-half years or will it be as late as four-and-a-half years or somewhere in between?

Ofsted has a workforce that is made up of Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) who are employees of Ofsted. In addition, they supplement the workforce with Ofsted inspectors (OI), many of whom are serving heads and other senior leaders or consultants who choose to work part-time for them and are paid per inspection.

To manage an increased number of inspections to catch up and reduce the intervals between inspections, Ofsted will have to increase the size of their workforce.

Many school leaders cannot afford to be out of their schools at the minute and for the near future because of the continuing challenges of Covid. Many consultants who were left without income when Ofsted stopped their inspections found alternative work.

To increase the number of contracted HMIs or recruit more OIs, Ofsted will have to attract school leaders out of their schools at a time when schools cannot afford to lose them. I would also question whether this is morally right.

This new workforce will have to be trained and so the earliest they would be available to work on inspections will be September, hence the delay in reducing the time between inspections.

Many schools will be struggling with staff absence through illness and bereavement while the pandemic continues.

School leaders have found inspections this term very stressful because of all the other challenges they are having to cope with.

For schools to find themselves in September without headteachers and other senior leaders because they have gone to be part of the Ofsted workforce either full- or part-time will surely be the last straw.

Perhaps the government should have diverted the money into supporting schools' recovery.

While inspections have an important part to play in raising standards and safeguarding, I am reminded of a favourite phrase of John Dunford: "If you keep weighing the pig it does not get fatter" - particularly not when it is still recovering from Covid.

Dame Joan McVittie was a former headteacher at a school in London, past president of the Association of School and College Leaders, trustee of The National College and a retired inspector. She now works as an education consultant

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, check if your school has a Tes subscription. If not, for just £5 per month you can subscribe personally for:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

Check if your school has a Tes subscription. If not, for just £5 per month you can subscribe personally for:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

topics in this article

Read more