Shorter but more frequent inspections of good schools and colleges will be introduced in September, Ofsted has confirmed.
In a consultation on its planned reforms, almost two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents backed plans for schools rated good in their previous inspection to be visited every three years. At present good schools are often only visited every five years, rising to six years in the further education sector.
Ofsted’s national director of schools, Sean Harford, said the changes were “designed to ensure that standards continue to improve”.
However, despite some calls for outstanding schools - currently exempted from routine inspection - to also receive shorter monitoring visits to prevent standards from slipping, Ofsted has no plans to change its current system as this would require a change in the law.
Ofsted also confirmed that it would not be acting on its proposals to introduce a separate grade for the curriculum. Instead, it said there was “clear support” for it to be retained under the “effectiveness of leadership and management” judgement.
However, the new common inspection framework, designed to “standardise the approach to all education inspections” - including schools, early years and the further education sector - will “place a greater emphasis on the breadth and suitability of the curriculum and the type and range of courses and opportunities offered by providers”.
While the consultation did not cover issues surrounding the consistency of inspection teams, Ofsted acknowledged that many respondents raised this as a concern.
In response, the watchdog stressed that its move to bring all inspectors in-house this year would “improve the quality and consistency of our inspection work”, and create an “‘inspection community’ to share knowledge and experience”.
The inspection changes came under fire from Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL union. “Continual change in inspection frameworks and guidance gives the impression that Ofsted does not know what it wants or how it should inspect, and it appears that it cannot find a methodology fit for purpose,” Dr Bousted said.
“Ofsted has failed to address some major problems – not least that of quality assurance of inspections and inspectors. This makes inspection judgements unreliable and indicates Ofsted will always struggle to carry through the truly radical reform of inspection that will best serve pupils, parents and the teaching profession.”
The announcement was welcomed by the Department for Education. "We welcome an approach that reduces the burden on heads and teachers and gives excellent schools more time to focus on preparing pupils for life in modern Britain," a spokesman said.
"We look forward to working with Ofsted to shape the detail of these proposals following the results of the consultation.”
Ofsted announces another U-turn on no-notice inspections - 9 October 2014
Ofsted launches wave of no-notice school inspections - 15 September 2014
Ofsted scraps grades for individual lessons - 31 August 2014