Ofsted rejects third of school Covid deferral requests

EXCLUSIVE: One in three requests from school leaders to defer inspections due to the pandemic has been turned down by Ofsted this term

John Roberts

Ofsted has granted two thirds of inspection deferral requests from schools that related to Covid-19.

Ofsted has rejected around a third of requests from schools asking to defer inspections this term because of Covid-19 disruption, Tes can reveal.

The watchdog told Tes that, where it had granted deferral requests, these had typically related to significant staff or pupil absences.

The figures come after the Association of School and College Leaders called for Ofsted to change its deferral policy to allow any school to postpone inspections this term if leaders deem this necessary due to Covid disruption.

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However, the inspectorate has said decisions should be based on individual circumstances. 

Tes asked Ofsted how many inspection deferral requests linked to Covid-19 it had received from schools this term – and how many had been granted.

The inspectorate said: “Figures change but, in broad terms, we have agreed around two-thirds of Covid-related deferral requests this term. These typically relate to disruptions caused by significant staff or pupil absences.”

Ofsted did not provide figures for the number of requests.

Responding to the breakdown of deferral decisions, Geoff Barton, ASCL’s general secretary, called for “complete transparency" from Ofsted.

His union wanted to know exactly how many deferral requests there have been, how many have been accepted, and what the criteria is for these decisions.

Mr Barton added: "Now if they provided this, then I think we would probably still be saying, 'What makes you think you are better placed in your offices in Westminster to be deciding whether schools should be inspected than those working in the schools themselves?'

"But nonetheless at least we would have transparency about the process."

As a temporary measure, school leaders should be "trusted" to say whether Covid meant that they were not in a position to be inspected, he said.

But Ofsted said an automatic right to defer could result in "serious issues and concerns slipping under the radar, and we have a duty to children and parents not to allow that".

Call for inspections 'pause'

Meanwhile, the NAHT school leaders’ union, the Schools North East network and Headrest (a support service for headteachers) have all called for Ofsted inspections to be paused because of the impact of Covid.

However, it was announced last week that the government has increased the inspectorate’s funding to allow it to carry out more inspections and ensure every school gets at least one visit by the summer of 2025.

Covid impact

Earlier this term, ASCL held talks with Ms Spielman about concerns from some heads that the watchdog was not doing enough to take the impact of the pandemic into account.

And last week, the chief inspector faced tough questioning from heads at the Schools and Academies Show about whether Ofsted should be carrying out routine inspections during the pandemic.

Ofsted resumed a full programme of routine inspections in September, having started carrying out some graded inspections at the end of the previous academic year.

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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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