Ofsted has published new advice to its inspection teams as the watchdog moves back to a full inspection programme in this new academic year.
The advice sets out how inspectors are expected to gather evidence during deep dives into individual subjects, and advises them how to assess schools’ catch-up work.
Here is everything you need to know about what Ofsted has told its inspections teams:
Off-rolling: Ofsted admits reports failed to call out off-rolling
1. Check what classwork pupils are missing during tutoring sessions
Tutoring is a key part of the government’s plan for education recovery from the Covid pandemic.
Ofsted has already said that it will assess schools’ use of tutors for Covid catch-up.
The new update says that a specific issue inspectors may come across is pupils being taken out of their usual lessons for tutoring sessions.
It says: “Where this is happening, inspectors will want to look carefully at whether it is interfering with pupils’ ability to access the full curriculum (for example, are pupils consistently missing lessons in one subject to be tutored in another?).
“Where this is the case, inspectors will want to look at how the school has planned and managed the timetable – while acknowledging that some clashes may be unavoidable – and the steps it is taking to ensure that those pupils catch up on missed lessons.”
2. Don’t expect teachers to lead on more than one ‘deep dive’
Ofsted gathers evidence for its curriculum-focused school inspections through “deep dives” into particular subjects.
The update to inspectors says that they should understand that some schools, especially small schools, will not have a separate lead for each subject.
It adds: “We do not expect or require schools to adopt any particular staffing structure or curriculum approach.”
Inspectors have been told to “try to avoid carrying out deep dives into more than one subject with the same curriculum lead.”
3. Inspectors should not carry out ‘mocksteds’
Ofsted inspectors have been told not to provide “mocksted”-type consultancy services to schools.
The update has said that they should not carry out mock Ofsted inspections, mock deep dives or train providers in how to “pass” inspections.
It says that this would not only be “a conflict of interest within the terms of an inspector’s contract but it would also be a breach of their terms and conditions” by representing themselves as an inspector for commercial gain.
It adds that it is not acceptable for any inspector to:
- Carry out an Ofsted-style inspection, except when contracted to do so by Ofsted.
- Refer to themselves as an “Ofsted inspector” or “OI” when providing commercial services.
- Purport to speak on behalf of Ofsted in giving advice to schools, except when explicitly asked to do so by Ofsted.
- Give schools a judgement, estimate/forecast or contingent judgement in respect of any part of the Ofsted framework, except when this is part of a contracted Ofsted inspection.
4. Always mention off-rolling by name
Ofsted has told its inspectors to ensure they always make clear where they find off-rolling, after admitting that some inspections had identified this practice taking place in schools but did not directly refer to it as off-rolling.
The inspectorate said this resulted in some schools then issuing press releases afterwards stating that off-rolling was not found because Ofsted did not use the specific term in its reports.
The watchdog says inspectors must ensure that if they find off-rolling taking place, it is specifically described as such in the inspection reports.
5. Ofsted will no longer give councils early notice of inadequate judgements
Until now, Ofsted has provided early notification of provisional inadequate judgements in schools to the Department for Education and local councils in the area.
But Ofsted has now said that local authorities will no longer “be copied in”. They will only be told when a final moderated judgement has been made.
However, it also says there may be some cases where the relevant Ofsted region decides that the local authority should be notified of safeguarding concerns promptly, after or even during an inspection, because the council has overarching responsibility for safeguarding.