New heads who join schools placed in the “requires improvement” category could be given more time before inspectors return, Ofsted has announced.
The move follows concerns raised by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) that its members were reluctant to take on jobs in challenging schools for fear of being criticised by the watchdog before they had been given sufficient time to turn things around.
At present, schools placed in the "requires improvement" category must be given their next full inspection within two years, as well as undergoing regular monitoring visits. The latest announcement paves the way for new heads to be given more time to tackle poor performance before inspectors return.
However, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned that decisions over scheduling inspections would be made on a case-by-case basis and insisted that “Ofsted’s priority must always be to ensure that children in underperforming schools receive a good education as soon as possible”.
In a letter to ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman, Sir Michael acknowledges that “headteachers of these schools need to be given sufficient time to address the various difficulties that face them”.
He also accepts that “Ofsted needs to play its part in encouraging our best and most ambitious leaders to go into our most challenging schools”.
“It is for these reasons,” he continues, “that I am asking recently appointed headteachers of ‘requires improvement’ schools to contact, in writing, the relevant Ofsted regional director… to describe the context of their school’s present position. The regional director will then allocate an HMI to the school to discuss with the headteacher the most appropriate scheduling for the next inspection.”
The move was welcomed by Mr Lightman. “We warmly welcome Ofsted’s recognition that headteachers need time to improve their schools,” he said.
“The commitment to a professional dialogue with the Ofsted regional director prior to a formal inspection is a hugely helpful move. We all agree that improving schools in more challenging or difficult contexts has to be a top priority.
“In order to achieve that demanding objective we need to ensure that the best teachers and school leaders are fully incentivised to work in those schools. A constructive relationship with Ofsted where inspection becomes part of the solution can only benefit the young people in these schools.”