Ofsted will wait two years before inspecting schools that may no longer be 'good'

The inspectorate has confirmed plans to give schools one or two years 'to address any weaknesses' before conducting a full inspection

Adi Bloom

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Ofsted has confirmed that it will now wait up to two years between a short inspection of a school that it believes may no longer be rated “good” and a full follow-up inspection.

The proposal was laid out by the schools’ inspectorate in September, and was open for consultation until early November.

Ofsted said that the majority of respondents supported each of its three proposals. 

Where potential concerns about the quality of education, leadership or management have arisen at a school that was previously rated “good”, Ofsted will now conduct a short inspection. A full inspection will not take place until one or two years later.

In its response to the consultation, the inspectorate stated: “This will give the school time to address any weaknesses and seek support from appropriate bodies. In the meantime, the letter will be clear that the school’s current overall effectiveness judgement has not changed.”

Similarly, if inspectors think that a school may have improved sufficiently to qualify as “outstanding”, it will publish a letter confirming that the school remains “good”, and then conduct a full-length inspection within one or two years, “giving the school time to consolidate its strong practice”, it stated.

When there are serious concerns about safeguarding or behaviour, however, or when inspectors think that the quality of education at a school may have declined to "inadequate", they will continue to convert short inspections into the full-length version, usually within 48 hours.

'This issue divided opinion'

These changes will all apply from January 2018.

Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of education, said: "These new arrangements reflect our overall aim to act as a force for improvement through inspection, and to catch schools before they fall. We’re confident they will ensure short inspections are responsible interventions that minimise the burden on schools, while at the same time providing constructive support and more time to improve.”

Ofsted received more than 1,500 responses to its consultation, from headteachers, teaching unions, professional associations and parents

Responding to the announcement, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We think that the interests of pupils are best served by helping 'good' schools to remain as 'good' schools. Ofsted’s decision to follow up short inspections, where necessary, with a full inspection at a later date gives schools the opportunity to make any improvements which are needed to ensure that they retain that rating.

“We can see from the consultation response that this issue divided opinion and that people have concerns about how schools in this situation will be perceived. That is why we have stressed that the published letter sent by Ofsted to 'good' schools following the short inspection must make it clear that they remain 'good' schools ahead of the full inspection.”

However, he added: “Where potentially 'outstanding' schools are identified in short inspections, we would encourage Ofsted to provide early full inspections when requested by these schools to avoid lengthy and frustrating waits for confirmation of an 'outstanding' grade.”

'Unnecessary periods of uncertainty'

The NAHT headteachers' union pointed out that fewer than half (46 per cent) of headteachers came out in favour of Ofsted’s proposed changes. Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, added that 25 per cent of Ofsted inspectors have also expressed concern at the proposals.

He said: “No matter how the interim verdict is communicated, parents will be uncertain that their children’s school is still good. The uncertainty about the quality of education provided could become the single biggest barrier to improvement that the school in question will face.

"There are enough senior figures in education expressing reservations here to cause Ofsted to think again. Everyone in education agrees that inspection is necessary, but not like this. The inspectorate has a duty to provide clarity. Ofsted’s focus should be on getting inspection right the first time rather than putting schools and their communities through unnecessary and unhelpful periods of uncertainty.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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