Exclusive: Ofsted looking at no-notice school inspections... again

Schools inspector responds to parent poll supporting unannounced visits

John Roberts & Martin George

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Ofsted’s chief inspector has revived the controversial idea of carrying out no notice inspections of schools.

Amanda Spielman told the Tes today that piloting  no-notice inspections was “definitely something we would like to try out”.

She was responding to a YouGov survey, published by Ofsted last week, which found that 61 per cent of parents supported unannounced visits to schools by the education watchdog.

Ms Spielman is the  third Ofsted chief in a row to consider no-notice inspections.

In 2009, the then chief schools inspector, Christine Gilbert abandoned plans because of parental concerns that they would not be able to make their views known before an inspection.

In 2012 Sir Michael Wilshaw relented on plans for no-notice inspections after logistical concerns were raised by heads.

Instead Ofsted moved to a system of “almost no notice” where schools are told an afternoon before a visit.

Now the new Yougov poll suggests the majority of parents support the idea of unannounced inspections.

Ms Spielman said Ofsted wanted to ensure that inspectors are seeing a true picture of the schools they inspect.

She said: “We are trying to find that balance, of making sure schools aren’t completely caught on the hop, and you don’t turn up to inspect on a day where the headteacher is out of school, where the chair of governors is on holiday and where you can’t have the right conversations.

“It is balancing that with making sure you get a school as it actually operates with all of the children who are normally there so that you get a true picture of  behaviour and the school culture.”

Ms Spielman was speaking to Tes at the International Festival of Learning at West Suffolk College.

Former education secretary Michael Gove asked Sir Michael Wilshaw in 2014 to consider moving to routinely carrying out no-notice inspections.

Ofsted decided against this. However the education watchdog does carry out no-notice inspections where there are serious concerns about safeguarding, leadership and governance or declining standards at a school.

The YouGov poll, published last week, found that more than half of parents (56 per cent) said it is more important for schools to be inspected without notice than for parents to be able feed their views into the inspection process.

The poll also revealed that the proportion of parents who trust Ofsted’s judgement has declined.

It found that 59 per cent of parents agreed that Ofsted provided a reliable measure of a school’s quality in 2017, compared to 66 per cent in 2016.

Reasons given by parents for feeling that Ofsted information was unreliable were that the school was different during inspections, that inspections were too short to give meaningful information and that inspectors were not looking at the right things.

The survey of 1,128 parents, 1,000 parents of school-aged children and 128 parents of pre-school children, was carried out in December 2017.

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John Roberts & Martin George

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