Ofsted inspectors will assess how a school is delivering its curriculum through remote learning when full inspections resume, Tes has been told.
Chris Russell, the watchdog's acting national director for education, said Ofsted's findings on remote learning could form part of the assessment it makes about the quality of education at a school.
However, he said that schools managing an active "situation" with Covid-19 would be able to ask Ofsted to defer an inspection – as they can now with the inspectorate's visits this term.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said today at the launch of Ofsted's annual report that she did not expect graded inspections to resume in January.
Inspections were suspended in March this year but are currently scheduled to return next month.
An announcement on how Ofsted will return is expected from the Department for Education soon but it is unclear when the watchdog will resume giving grades to schools.
When asked whether remote learning will be looked at as part of Ofsted's inspections when they return, Mr Russell said: "What we don’t want to do is look at it as a separate thing. We want to look at it as part of that delivery.
"And just like you would look at face-to-face teaching and what that is doing to ensure the curriculum is delivered, well similarly, what contribution is remote learning making to that?"
He said Ofsted would be realistic and understood that remote learning was "not the same as having a teacher in the classroom with young people sitting in front of them".
When asked if Ofsted's findings on remote learning could feed into the quality of education judgement the watchdog makes about the school, he said: "Yes. Let's be honest, it is important. We are going to be in this situation for a while.
"What we are not going to do is look back into the lockdown, but actually it's part of what schools are using to deliver the curriculum when children are out, so, therefore, it's part of that implementation of how the curriculum is implemented."
He said this would be looked at as part of "the wider context" of the school where the majority of education will still be delivered face to face.
Mr Russell added: "The last thing we would want to do is just arrive at a school as they are just dealing with something that is just kicking off basically.
"Having to send a year group home or whatever it might be, that is where our deferral policy and the flexibility we have got within it helps us deal with that situation.
"But assuming that school isn’t dealing with that – perhaps children are at home, but clearly it has been managed, then I think we would be looking at that in context.
"Not trying to inspect remote learning, but looking at the curriculum, be it through face-to-face teaching in school or if we have a couple of young people at home – what is happening there, how does that fit within the curriculum."
Earlier this year, the DfE published a legal direction giving schools a statutory duty to provide remote education.
During a House of Lords debate at the end of October, Lord Adonis said Ofsted needed to play a greater role in assessing the quality of schools' online provision and claimed the regulator should publicise schools that had provided best for pupils remotely as an example of best practice.