Getting the call from Ofsted that an inspection is imminent is something that many school leaders will dread. But it has been announced that from now on inspectors might be making that call a little less frequently.
The time frame in which schools can expect to face being inspected has been extended – with immediate effect.
The announcement made by the education watchdog’s national director of education, Sean Harford, will see changes for schools which are rated as "good" and those rated as "inadequate" and in either serious weaknesses or special measures.
What is changing?
The usual time frame in which "good" schools can expect to receive a routine one-day inspection has been increased from three years to four.
Ofsted is also extending the amount of time before which schools rated as "inadequate" need to be reinspected.
Schools with serious weaknesses or in special measures will now be reinspected within 30 months – in line with the timetable for schools which require improvement. Previously schools in serious weaknesses would expect to be reinspected within 18 months and those in special measures within two years.
What is not changing?
The statutory period in which Ofsted has to return to a school rated as "good" will remain the same – five years.
Mr Harford’s blog also stressed that the change in the reinspection timetable for schools in a category of concern does not signal a shift in Ofsted’s expectations on how quickly they need to improve.
It still expects schools to be taking effective action to improve to be ready for removal from their category of concern within the established 18- to 24-month period.
How does this benefit Ofsted?
In Mr Harford’s blog, he said these changes will give the inspectorate more flexibility as to when it inspects schools which have been judged to be "inadequate" in their last inspection.
He stressed that the inspection watchdog’s regular monitoring of "requires improvement" and "inadequate schools" will continue as normal. So this does not mean that Ofsted will be less aware of how failing schools are performing.
But Mr Harford’s blog suggests it allows regional directors to exercise more discretion as to when full inspections are carried out.
Ofsted’s regional directors are responsible for having an understanding of how schools in their areas are performing. If a school needs to be inspected urgently, this will still happen. But under the new timetable if it is decided a school needs more time to consolidate its improvement then this can be allowed to happen.
The bottom line
Ofsted has to save money and this timetable change will save in the region of £2.3 million. By 2019-20, the inspectorate will have seen its funding cut by 38 per cent, compared with the £200 million in funding it enjoyed in 2010-11.
In a statement explaining the changes, it said: “Like other public sector organisations, Ofsted is charged with doing better with less. We are committed to working in a way that allows us to deliver effective, high-quality inspection while meeting the challenge of reduced resources.
“The recently published changes to the school inspection timeframe will allow for a more flexible approach to scheduling inspections. The saving estimated from this proposal is expected to be in the region of £2.3 million.”