Ofsted has announced that its controversial "visits" to schools and colleges this term will only be carried out remotely from later this week.
The watchdog has linked the change to the new national lockdown. However, it also follows the news, revealed by Tes on Wednesday, that a primary had been forced to close after a visit from an inspector who tested positive for Covid-19.
In a post on Twitter this evening, the watchdog confirmed it would now be carrying out its "visits" to schools online from this Thursday.
Exclusive: Heads call on Ofsted to move visits online
Ofsted said it would be working remotely "where we can" during the national lockdown
During the national lockdown we will undertake our work remotely where we can – only going on site where it is necessary to do so, or in response to urgent concerns. That means our programme of autumn visits to schools and colleges will be done remotely from Thursday.— Ofsted (@Ofstednews) November 2, 2020
Before the visits even started, Ofsted's own inspectors are understood to have asked chief inspector Amanda Spielman why they could not be carried out remotely – given that most evidence gathering is through conversations with heads.
Coronavirus: Ofsted school visits go online
And one inspector feared that HMI could become a "Typhoid Mary" unwittingly spreading Covid-19 from school to school.
Concerns have grown as coronavirus infection rates have risen. Last week Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton called for the visits to be moved online. But Ofsted declined to respond.
News of the week-long closure of St Mary's CofE Primary School in Islington, North London, following an Ofsted visit, led the NEU teaching union to urge a complete stop over concerns about the visits' "health danger" earlier tonight.
Now Ofsted has acted, saying in a statement: “During the national lockdown, we will undertake our work remotely where we can – only going on site where it is necessary to do so, or in response to urgent concerns.
"That means our programme of autumn visits to schools and colleges will be done remotely from Thursday.”
Ofsted was planning to carry out visits to more than 1,000 schools this term to check how pupils were being supported in the return to full-time education.