Question mark over Ofsted return next term ‘and beyond’

Guidance saying full graded school inspections would resume in summer term has been removed

John Roberts

There is a question mark over Ofsted's return to graded inspections this summer after its rolling guidance for schools said that discussions were ongoing.

Uncertainty surrounds Ofsted’s plan for a comeback next term after a reference to the return to full graded inspections was removed from its Covid-19 guidance to schools.

The watchdog had previously said that “routine inspections, which result in a school being awarded a new grade or being confirmed in its current grade, will resume in the summer term” for maintained schools and academies.

However, this has since been removed from its section on its phased return to inspection, which now says that discussions with government and stakeholders are ongoing about the timing and form inspections will take next term “and beyond”.

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The updated guidance comes as Ofsted was told today to “keep on the margins” and let teachers get on with the “national mission” in the wake of the pandemic, by Association of School and College Leaders’ general secretary Geoff Barton.

Appearing at the Commons education committee, the union leader said: “What we’re talking about now is a national mission whereby teachers go in and teach like they’ve never taught before.  And that’s why they need as few distractions as possible...Ofsted needs to keep on the margins and let’s just let teachers do that.”

The updated guidance from Ofsted says: “We are discussing the form and timing of inspections in the summer term and beyond with government and stakeholders.”

A Tes survey this term found that only 2 per cent of teachers thought Ofsted should continue with its plan to resume full inspections after Easter.

And nearly a third (32 per cent) of the 6.500 teachers who responded believed the inspectorate should never return following the suspension of its normal activities during the pandemic.

Teachers’ views on Ofsted’s future have hardened since the last Tes survey in September, when only 20 per cent said it should never come back.

Ofsted originally postponed inspections in March last year as the Covid crisis was unfolding.

It had planned to resume its full inspections of schools in January of this year.

However, it was announced in December that full inspections were to be pushed back to the summer term of this year.

This change came after headteachers had warned the watchdog that returning to full inspections during the escalating Covid crisis was “unthinkable”.

Instead, Ofsted has been carrying out monitoring inspections of schools rated as requires improvement or inadequate this term.

Tes revealed in January that Ofsted was planning to do these inspections in person despite the new national lockdown resulting in schools being closed to most pupils.

However, it then U-turned and said these monitoring inspections would be done remotely instead.   

This change came after Ofsted’s own inspectors called for in-person visits to schools to be suspended during the national lockdown.

The watchdog has also said that its monitoring inspections will be paused next week, as schools return for all pupils, and will be done remotely for the remainder of this term.

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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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