Cameras in schools: how Ofsted will inspect in lockdown

The schools watchdog will begin virtual inspection visits next week. Here's what to expect

John Roberts

How will Ofsted work during the national lockdown?

Ofsted will start a programme of monitoring inspections next week which will be carried out remotely until the February half term.

Today, the inspectorate published updated information about how these virtual visits will work.

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These visits will take place at schools that are rated as "requires improvement" or" inadequate", and will not result in schools being regraded.

Here is a guide to what Ofsted has planned for schools in the weeks ahead.

Ofsted could use cameras to assess remote education

The guidance says that cameras will normally be used in remote meetings.

Ofsted has also said that when observing remote education, inspectors will ask the school whether cameras should be used.

The guidance also says that inspectors will not record calls and will ask that the school, and individual staff and pupils, don't either.

Inspectors could join online lessons and speak to teachers remotely

Ofsted inspectors could join online lessons, according to the updated guidance.

It has said it will usually be necessary for inspectors to "'visit' (by, for example, joining an online lesson) and/or review some remote learning in order to understand how education is being provided by the school".

The guidance adds: "Inspectors may also, where they consider it necessary for the inspection, have discussions with staff and pupils (remotely or in person) about their work and their experiences." 

Ofsted will focus on curriculum

The new guidance says Ofsted will discuss with school leaders and those responsible for governance the actions being taken to provide education in the current circumstances.

It says this will include:

  • How effectively leaders are adapting the existing curriculum to meet current challenges. 
  • What schools had achieved by the start of the pandemic. 
  • Where they are currently with curriculum planning and how they are getting back on track.

The watchdog said these discussions will include looking at whether any actions have been reasonably delayed or altered by Covid-19 restrictions.

Remote visits will take two days

Ofsted has said the remote monitoring inspections will usually last for two days and involve two HMI.

The watchdog has said it will review the situation and confirm before the half-term break how its inspections will be conducted afterwards.  Inspections will be done remotely until then.

The lead inspector will discuss the start and end times of each day, including the logistics of working remotely, with the headteacher during a call to notify the school.

New visits focused on how schools are delivering lockdown education

Ofsted has said that the monitoring visits taking place in the weeks ahead will have a slightly different focus.

It has said this means the inspectorate is moving from focusing on improvement to focusing on the provision of education in the current circumstances of the national lockdown.

The plan for Ofsted to carry out monitoring inspections this term was announced at the start of last month well before concerns about the new variant in schools were understood by the government and before the new national lockdown moved most pupils' education online.

What evidence will Ofsted take from parents?

Ofsted has said they will consider the views expressed through its school staff questionnaire and those expressed on the Ofsted Parent View website.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said that Ofsted will be enforcing the government's remote learning expectations and that parents who are unhappy with the provision can complain to the watchdog after raising it with their school.

The watchdog's guidance says that no formal designation inspection can take place to follow up concerns about schools that have been brought to Ofsted's attention.

It said this could include "a qualifying complaint made to Ofsted about the school under section 11A of the Education Act 2005".

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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