Exclusive: Ofsted won’t check schools on Covid safety

Teachers' leader speaks of 'real danger' of schools reopening without necessary control measures in place

John Roberts and Catherine Lough

school safety

Ofsted will not be checking whether schools are complying with government Covid safety guidelines when it resumes visits next term, Tes can reveal.

The inspectorate's visits to schools in the autumn will look at some aspects of the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak as inspectors will have a focus on blended and remote learning and how pupils are settling down after lockdown.

But checking on the safety of teachers and pupils by looking at compliance with Department for Education Covid reopening guidance will not be on their agenda, Ofsted has told Tes.

However, a teaching union is concerned that schools will "cut corners on safety" and is arguing that Ofsted does have "a responsibility for child safeguarding which is also critical to the safe opening of schools". 

The NASUWT teaching union says that schools reopening without proper control measures represents a "real danger".

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But asked by Tes whether schools would be inspected on how well they are following safety guidelines, Ofsted was clear its visits from September would not be compliance checks on Covid safety.

A spokesperson for the inspectorate said: “Our visits will help parents understand how schools are getting children back up to speed after so long at home and help the government and sector understand how education is picking up nationally after the lockdown.

“We’ll be publishing short guidance on how the visits will work in practice once we’ve completed our pilots. These will be constructive conversations with schools about the return to education, they are not inspections or compliance checks."

But Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, said: “The Health and Safety Executive is the regulator for workplace safety standards and needs to be more visible in terms of ensuring compliance within school workplaces.

“While bodies such as the HSE have a key role to play in ensuring that schools are “Covid-compliant” for children and for the teachers and other staff who work with them, it is also clear that Ofsted has a responsibility for child safeguarding which is also critical to the safe opening of schools.

“A major concern for many teachers and headteachers is the lack of additional funding from the Government to implement the additional measures set out in the Government’s guidance which are essential to ensuring the safety of staff and pupils.

“There is a real danger that schools reopen without putting the necessary risk control measures in place and that they cut corners on safety because of financial difficulties.

“We want the DfE and the Treasury to do whatever it takes to support schools to reopen safely for all pupils and to provide the reassurance that parents, pupils and staff are seeking.”

When the DfE was asked by Tes if schools would be assessed on how they were meeting safety guidance, the DfE pointed out that schools were preparing for pupils' return in September by putting protective measures in place, as recommended by government guidance.

The guidance was prepared with input from Public Health England and the Health & Safety Executive, which has the power to take action if any employer is not taking action to comply with relevant guidance or health legislation.



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John Roberts and Catherine Lough

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