Ofsted will not be returning to its normal inspection programme until the next academic year, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said today.
She told the Association of School and College Leaders' annual conference that Ofsted was still in discussion with the government and education unions about what it will be doing next term.
But she reassured school leaders that it would be a “proportionate and sensible" next step and she urged schools not to run mocksteds or employ consultants on the “off chance" that inspectors will call.
It is the second time Ofsted has delayed the return of full inspections.
Ofsted has been due to start graded inspections in January of this year but this was then delayed to the summer term.
However, as Tes reported earlier this month, its guidance for schools was updated to say that the watchdog was now in discussion with the government about what form its inspections will take next term.
Ofsted 'here to help schools, not hinder'
Speaking to ASCL’s annual conference today, Ms Spielman said: “I started by saying we have good reason to be optimistic now, but I am under no illusions about the challenges that still exist and we understand that you are still under a great deal of pressure.
“This term we have been carrying out monitoring inspections of lower graded schools and colleges, and, as I said earlier, we have had good feedback from you.
“We are currently talking to stakeholders, including unions and government, about the shape of our inspection activity for the summer term.
“I am afraid I can’t give you details today. We will be able to set it out shortly but I can tell you that what we are discussing is a sensible and proportionate next step before returning to our normal inspection programme in the autumn.
“As education gets back on steadier ground, there are plenty of challenges and tough choices ahead but rest assured that inspection is not there to derail you. I want Ofsted to play its part in helping schools and colleges to get back on track.”
She added: “I want us to help, not hinder, and I certainly don’t want hard-pressed teachers spending time on fruitless exercises to prepare for Ofsted. That is true in normal times and it is vital right now.
"So please don’t run mocksteds, don’t bring in inspection consultants, don’t ask your staff to document your activity over the last few months on the off chance the inspector will call. Just do your best for your pupils and students. In other words: what you always do.”
Commenting on Ms Spielman's speech, Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT school leaders union said: "The chief inspector has confirmed that there will be no return to inspections that can change the grade of a school until the beginning of the next academic year. This is a sensible step.
"Right now, schools are one hundred per cent focused on supporting every child following the unprecedented disruption of the last year, and can well do without the disruption and distraction associated with a full Ofsted inspection.
“Our discussions with Ofsted regarding the right next steps to take in the longer term are ongoing. The chief inspector’s comments today are a positive move while we continue to talk to Ofsted about what inspection should look like in the future.”
Ms Spielman also told heads during a question and answer session at the ASCL conference that the watchdog's existing inspection framework was fit for purpose during the current Covid situation.
But she added that there may need to be "transitional arrangements" which take schools current context into account when full inspections do return.