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Ofsted announces another U-turn over no-notice inspections

No-notice inspections will not be rolled out for all schools, Ofsted has revealed.

At this morning’s launch of a consultation into what the watchdog described as “some of the most far-reaching reforms to education inspection in the last quarter of a century”, it revealed that plans for all schools to receive snap visits from inspectors have been scrapped.

The controversial proposals were first put forward in 2012 by chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, before being watered down following a backlash from the profession.

They were then revived by Sir Michael in June in response to investigations into the Birmingham schools embroiled in the alleged “Trojan Horse” Islamist takeover plot. The chief inspector claimed the case had “served to reinforce my original view that no-notice inspections for all schools are the best way to make sure that, for every school we visit, inspectors see schools as they normally are”.

Last month, the watchdog unveiled a wave of 40 unannounced inspections after widening the criteria that could trigger the intervention, with Sir Michael insisting he was “still considering” whether to use them in all schools.

But this morning the chief inspector signalled another U-turn, as he announced no-notice inspections would not be included in the consultation on the new framework for schools, early years and learning and skills providers.

“I have already broadened the criteria Ofsted uses to judge whether an unannounced inspection is required for particular schools,” he said. “After careful consideration, I have therefore concluded that we do not need to consult on moving to routine no-notice inspections at the present time.”

Several other significant changes to school inspection have been put forward. These include the proposal that schools and providers rated good should be subject to more frequent but shorter inspections.

“While over two-thirds of good schools and colleges maintain their performance, by no means all of them do,” Sir Michael said. “In the past academic year alone 860 schools we inspected, attended by 335,000 children, declined in performance.

“At the moment, it can be five years or even more between inspections for a good school or provider. This is too long. It’s too long for parents and employers. It’s too long for us to spot signs of decline and it’s too long for improving institutions to show that they are now delivering an outstanding standard of education.

“The time has come, therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers. These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.”

Good schools will be visited every three years, with the inspection, typically led by one or two inspectors, lasting for around one day. The shorter inspections, as originally outlined earlier this year, were initially envisaged to take place every two years. Currently, schools are notified the afternoon before their inspection starts.

The consultation will also propose broadening the existing criteria on which schools and other providers are graded. The existing “quality of teaching” category would be renamed “teaching, learning and assessment”, while “achievement of pupils” would become “outcomes for children” and “behaviour and safety of pupils” would be expanded to cover “personal development, behaviour and welfare”.

“I believe that our new inspections should place emphasis on safeguarding, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning,” Sir Michael said. “Only then will we be able to make sure that all children and learners are properly safeguarded and prepared for life in the modern world.”

The consultation on the proposals, which would come into effect in September 2015, ends on 5 December.


Related stories:

Ofsted launches wave of no-notice school inspections - September 2014

Ofsted scraps grades for individual lessons - August 2014

Ofsted must scrap 'quality of teaching' from inspections - July 2014

Ofsted to drop grades for teachers' individual lessons in new trial - June 2014

Ofsted should no longer judge quality of teaching, says former Gove aide - May 2014 

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