How Covid is changing Ofsted inspections: 7 key points

The watchdog is changing the way it inspects schools to take account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

John Roberts

Covid changes to Ofsted school inspections: 7 key points

Ofsted has announced a series of changes to its inspection handbook for schools to allow it to take account of the impact of Covid-19 in schools.

The watchdog is inspecting schools and colleges this term “to provide reassurance about how well children and learners are catching up”.


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Here is a summary of the main changes it has made to its inspection handbook:

Covid: Changes to Ofsted school inspections

1. Schools may get a longer call before inspection

Ofsted's national director of education, Sean Harford, has said that a longer preparation call may be needed before the inspection begins to understand the impact Covid-19 has had on the school.

The call will explore how the school implemented its curriculum remotely and what, if any, elements of remote education remain in place at the time of inspection.

2. Ofsted won't judge the quality of remote education in the first lockdown

Ofsted has said that the quality of remote education in place between March and August 2020 will not impact on the judgement it makes about the school’s quality of education.

The updated handbook says Ofsted recognises that schools were not required by the Department for Education to provide education to all pupils from March to July last year because of Covid-19, and may not have been doing so.

It adds: "Throughout the inspection, inspectors will seek to understand how the school adapted and prioritised the curriculum from September 2020."

3. Ofsted won't use teacher-assessed grades to make judgements about school curriculum

Under normal circumstances, the inspectorate uses schools' exam results as part of its judgement when measuring the impact of the school curriculum for its quality of education judgement.

The updated handbook says that teacher-assessed grades from 2020 and 2021 will not be used to assess impact.

4. Inspections would still go ahead if a school has moved to remote learning for some pupils

Ofsted has said that it will defer or cancel inspection visits if there are Covid-19 restrictions in the local area that require providers to close entirely.

It will also defer or cancel if three-quarters of users are not on site. However, it has said that this does not apply when substantial numbers of pupils are not on site but continue to be educated through remote or blended learning.

5. Schools won't get an 'inadequate' judgement because of Covid impact

Ofsted has said it will not give a school an "inadequate" rating if it only meets the criteria for this judgement because of the impact of Covid-19.

Normally, a school would be rated "inadequate" under a particular judgement if one or more of the "inadequate" criteria applies.

However, Ofsted has said this will not be the case where inadequate criteria apply solely because of the impact of Covid-19.

6. Ofsted wants to know how schools supported their community through Covid 

To establish how schools supported their community through the pandemic, Ofsted inspectors will ask about how remote education was put in place and monitored; how teachers and support staff were prepared for remote education; and how vulnerable pupils were kept safe and prioritised for face-to-face education.

Inspection teams will also check whether parents were kept up to date with developments and changes, and explore how staff and pupils’ wellbeing have been promoted.

7. Schools will not be judged on attendance levels

Inspectors will discuss attendance patterns with school leaders to understand how the pandemic affected the individual school.

The watchdog has said it will want to understand how the school ensured the best possible attendance for those pupils eligible to attend in person.   

However, attendance between March 2020 and March 2021 will not impact on the judgement of the school.

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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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