Ofsted drops plan to arrive with almost no notice

But heads are concerned that the final version of Ofsted's new framework includes a 90-minute phone call with inspectors

John Roberts

Ofsted has dropped plans for an inspector to arrive with just 150 minutes' notice

Ofsted has dropped its controversial plan to arrive at schools with almost no notice when its new inspection regime comes into force later this year.

Instead, it will introduce a 90-minute phone call between a lead inspector and a school head to discuss the inspection the day before.

Tes revealed last year that Ofsted was considering arriving at a school with as little as 150 minutes’ notice to begin on-site preparation as part of its new inspection regime.

However, the proposal has had an overwhelmingly negative response during Ofsted’s consultation and is now being ditched. 

Quick read: Ofsted's new inspection framework

Amanda Spielman: Schools who just teach to the test will be penalised

Background: Will Ofsted listen to its critics? 

Notice of inspection will remain at half a day under the new framework.

Ofsted inspection changes

Ofsted had said that on-site preparation the day before inspection would allow its visit to be shaped by a conversation with school leaders and make it less reliant on data. 

But heads warned that it was a move towards no-notice inspection and that for schools an inspector arriving marked the beginning of inspection.

Almost three-quarters of respondents to Ofsted disagreed with the plan, with 62 per cent saying that they strongly disagreed.  

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said during the consultation that if it causes more problems than it solves then the plan would be dropped.

And the inspectorate confirmed today that it would not be going ahead with the plan, as its new framework was published.

“Around 75 per cent of respondents disagreed with the proposal for on-site preparation," Ofsted said. “We have listened to and understand the concerns about the notice period, logistics and potential workload.

“Having carefully considered the feedback, we have decided not to proceed with this proposal.”

Other key changes made to the inspection framework, following consultation, are: 

  • Short inspections of "good" schools will be extended to two days apart from schools with less than 150 pupils, which will remain one day.
  • Ofsted has watered down its requirement on the English Baccalaureate. Originally, inspectors were set to look at how schools were preparing to meet a government target for 75 per cent of pupils to sit for the EBacc by 2022. Now they will just look at EBacc take-up but not judge schools according to a system-level target.

Ofsted is pushing ahead with its plan to extend the short inspection of "good" schools to two days, despite the majority of respondents (56 per cent) being against the plan.

However, it is keeping these inspections at one day for schools with fewer than 150 pupils. 

It is also pushing ahead with its plan not to look at internal data during inspection. The inspectorate said it had a mixed response to this proposal, with 43 per cent of respondents being against it and 42 per cent in favour.

Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s deputy director for schools, said teachers were mainly in favour of Ofsted not looking at internal data, while headteachers wanted inspectors to continue looking at it.

Ofsted also announced today that it was going ahead with its plan to replace teaching and learning and outcomes as separate inspection judgements with a new quality of education grade, which will also focus on the intent, implementation and impact of a school curriculum.  The inspectorate said that three-quarters of respondents agreed with this proposal.

Other key changes in Ofsted's inspection framework include: 

  • Inspecting behaviour in schools as a separate judgement, focusing on how schools deal with bullying and whether low-level disruption is tolerated.
  • Schools which are found to be off-rolling are likely to get an "inadequate" judgement for teaching and learning.
  • Inspectors will not look at school’s own internal data.

Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said the proposals were a step in the right direction.

However, he said that schools might need longer than 12 months to develop their curriculum thinking.

Ofsted will judge schools on the intent, implementation and impact of their curriculum but has said it will give schools until the summer of 2020 to develop their plans. 

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said that the "high-stakes" 90-minute conversation could increase workload and was not consulted upon by Ofsted.

"As far as we are concerned, this is extending the inspection tariff," he said. "What we are concerned about are what are the unintended consequences of this in terms of the workload it will cause to ensure heads are ready for this call."

He also said the NAHT was concerned that Ofsted inspectors would struggle "to do this new bloated inspection framework justice". 

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said Ofsted inspections would still be dependent on data, despite the new focus on curriculum.

She added: “Ofsted is not proposing to abandon data as a key factor in its inspection judgements. Inspectors will still arrive at secondary school armed with data on Attainment 8, Progress 8, the proportion of pupils entered for EBacc subjects and the percentage achieving level 4 and level 5 passes at GCSE English and maths."


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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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