How Ofsted will 'defer' visits for Covid-hit schools

Amanda Spielman defends plan to send inspectors back into schools for the inspectorate's autumn visits
1st December 2020, 11:57am
John Roberts and Amy Gibbons

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How Ofsted will 'defer' visits for Covid-hit schools

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/how-ofsted-will-defer-visits-covid-hit-schools
Ofsted Has Said Schools In Tier 3 Areas Can Ask To Defer Visits.

Ofsted has said that schools in all tiers under the new government system for Covid-19 can ask to defer visits from the inspectorate.

The clarification comes as chief inspector Amanda Spielman has defended the decision to resume in-person visits to schools after the national lockdown finishes tomorrow.

Speaking at the launch of Ofsted's annual report today, Ms Spielman highlighted that the inspectorate's deferral policy had given schools in the new tier 3 flexibility to ask to delay these visits.


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But the inspectorate said tonight that schools in any of the three tiers can ask for a deferral.

The watchdog's deferral policy says that local lockdowns "or other restrictions as a result of Covid-19" may be a relevant factor in asking Ofsted to delay. 

Ofsted is visiting schools this term to check how pupils are being supported on their return to full time education following the first national lockdown. 

During the second national lockdown last month, Ofsted moved these visits online.

When asked today by Tes why it had now decided to send inspectors back into school despite the heightened Covid restrictions in many areas, Ms Spielman said: "We are working in line with Public Health England guidelines and we didn't go into schools during the month of lockdown that is finishing.

"Before that we were doing visits in person. We think there is a lot of value in the human conversation and connection and we believe that is still the case, so with the reduction in restrictions we will be going back in for the remainder of our autumn visits."

Ms Spielman added: "We will be operating the same deferral policy which has given some flexibility, for example in areas that have recently gone into tier 3.

"But it is important that we have eyes on the ground when we can and that we don't simply default to looking to people on screens from our homes."

Headteachers say the watchdog is taking an "unnecessary risk" by sending inspectors back into schools.

These concerns were further fuelled when Tes revealed at the end of October that a London primary school had closed for a week after an Ofsted inspector tested positive for Covid-19 following a visit.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said today: "We don't think that resuming Ofsted autumn visits in person after the present lockdown is a good idea given that many schools are experiencing very severe disruption and most of the country remains under significant restrictions because of the risk posed by Covid.

"The autumn visits can easily be conducted online, and there is no sense in taking unnecessary risks by doing them in person."

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