Ofsted: 3 big questions about inspection in 2021

Tes outlines what schools need to know about the return of Ofsted inspections next year
7th December 2020, 7:29pm
John Roberts


Ofsted: 3 big questions about inspection in 2021

Three Big Questions About Ofsted School Inspections In 2021

Ofsted school inspections will return next year after a 10-month absence caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The inspectorate had planned to return to full inspections in January but it was announced last week that this was now being pushed forward to the summer term.

Instead, the watchdog will be carrying out monitoring inspections from next month of schools rated as "requires improvement" or "inadequate".

Coronavirus: Ofsted full inspections delayed until the summer term

Ofsted: Precautions mean January inspections will be safe

SpielmanOfsted chief rules out an inspection 'frenzy' when watchdog returns 

Today Ofsted published more details about its plans for 2021.

It revealed that inspectors will be looking at whether the actions schools have taken to improve since their last inspection have been "reasonably delayed or altered" by Covid-19 restrictions.    

Ofsted has also said that these monitoring visits will normally last one day for schools judged as "requires improvement" and those judged to be "inadequate" with serious weaknesses. Schools in special measures will get a two-day visit.

But there are still some big unknowns about Ofsted's return to inspection.

Here are three key questions about the inspectorate's plans for schools in 2021.

1. What will Ofsted inspection look like during the Covid pandemic next term?

Ofsted has said that it will be able to carry out most of its inspection activity when it returns to schools to carry out monitoring inspections in the new year.

The watchdog said it had taken advice from Public Health England about how to undertake its inspections safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And it added: "It will still be appropriate to carry out most inspection activity, as inspectors will continue to take appropriate precautions."

However, it is facing questions about whether this will include going into classrooms from next month.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, has warned that this would be "totally unacceptable" as it would undermine schools' attempts to control Covid.

Ofsted has declined to comment on this question. Its inspection handbook, published before the Covid crisis, says monitoring inspections can include Ofsted carrying out lesson observations. 

2. How many schools does Ofsted plan to inspect in the next two terms?  

If everything goes to plan next year, the watchdog will make two big returns. 

In January, schools rated as "requires improvement" or "inadequate" could face monitoring inspections, which will not be graded and which the Department for Education has said will be "supportive".

And then in the summer term, Ofsted is scheduled to make a return to full graded inspections.

What has not yet been announced is how many schools the inspectorate aims to visit in the spring and summer terms.

Speaking last month, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that Ofsted would make a gradual return and that there would not be an "inspection frenzy".

3. What will Ofsted do with 2021 exam results?

There are also questions about Ofsted's inspections in the next academic year.

The summer of 2021 will involve major changes to the way tests and examinations are run to take into account the disruption schools have faced during the Covid crisis.

Documents published by the Department for Education last week said that schools and colleges will be accountable for their 2021 results "as it is essential to identify which schools need the most support".

The department added that "reintroducing data into the system will help schools to identify areas for self-improvement and will inform Ofsted inspections, so schools who need more support following the disruption caused by coronavirus (Covid-19) can be best identified".

But Chris Jones, Ofsted's director of corporate strategy, said last week that the inspectorate was "still considering how best to use 2021 exam results".


I've picked up a couple of questions on the Ofsted announcement today, so two further points:

- Grade 3/4 schools that get a monitoring visit next term will not lose their place in the queue for a full inspection.

- We are still considering how best to use 2021 exam results

- Chris Jones (@Chris_Ofsted) December 3, 2020

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