Revealed: Ofsted's Covid safety plan for school visits

Watchdog says its inspectors will continue to visit schools in person 'where we can' from next Monday
11th January 2021, 10:01am
William Stewart


Revealed: Ofsted's Covid safety plan for school visits
Coronavirus: Ofsted Has Set Out The Safety Measures It Is Taking For School Visits During Lockdown

Ofsted has set out the safety measures its inspectors will take when they start going into schools next week.

Tes exclusively revealed on Friday that on-site school visits would take place this term, despite the latest coronavirus lockdown.

This morning Ofsted has provided further details, saying: "We will continue to risk assess monitoring visits carefully.

"Some aspects of a visit can only be done on-site, so we will continue to visit in person where we can."

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On coronavirus safety during the visits, the watchdog says: "Inspectors are given up-to-date guidance on safety and supplied with PPE [personal protective equipment].

"We are arranging a testing programme, which will enable inspectors to take a test before face-to-face visits.

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"If, for any reason, a visit is not possible, leaders may ask for a deferral by making a request to the lead inspector during the notification call.

"On-site visits or inspections will be risk assessed based on the nature of the premises and the urgency of the work."

Headteachers had called on the watchdog to carry out its monitoring inspections remotely - as it had done during the last lockdown in November - because of concerns about the spread of Covid.

There was controversy surrounding Ofsted's visits to schools last term after a London primary school was forced to close following a visit from an inspector who then tested positive for the coronavirus.

But on Friday the inspectorate told Tes that some of its work during the current lockdown needed to be carried out on-site in schools.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "Our inspections of schools will require some work on-site in order to provide robust assurance to parents and others - including about the pupils who are still attending schools.

"Working on-site also means inspectors will be able to access online learning platforms more easily, or speak directly to pupils and staff through a school's secure network, not from their home.

"Inspectors carrying out on-site visits will strictly adhere to required social distancing and other public health measures."  

In response to Ofsted's comments, the Association of School and College Leaders' (ASCL) director of policy, Julie McCulloch, had said: "This is a very odd sort of lockdown in which the Department for Education says there is no limit on the number of pupils who should be in school, and now it seems there will be Ofsted inspectors on-site in some schools, too."

Today ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton added: "We note that Ofsted intends to resume monitoring inspections of struggling schools from 18 January.

"We support this move as long as these visits are genuinely supportive and helpful to the schools concerned.

"However, we are at a loss to understand why these visits need to happen in person. When the prime minister announced the new national lockdown, he instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

"Surely, in-person Ofsted visits are not the most pressing priority in the midst of a national crisis, and it would be more sensible to conduct these remotely while the lockdown restrictions are in place."

The inspectorate was originally due to resume full graded inspections of schools this month but last month this was delayed until the summer term.

Ofsted inspections were put on hold during the first national lockdown.

Last term, it carried out visits to schools to check on how pupils were being supported in their return to education.

These were done in person, apart from during the last lockdown when they moved online during November.

The monitoring inspections this term will involve Ofsted visiting schools that are rated as "requires improvement" or "inadequate".

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said that Ofsted will be enforcing the government's expectations for remote learning and that parents who are unhappy with the provision on offer can complain to Ofsted.  

If Ofsted has concerns about remote learning, this may result in an inspection but schools will not be downgraded.

Mr Williamson's comments have resulted in a groundswell of support for schools from parents who have been writing to Ofsted to praise the work of their children's teachers on remote learning. 


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