Teachers in successful schools might never have a lesson inspected, under plans announced by Ofsted this week.
One out of five schools will be visited by an inspector for just one day every three years under a regime set out by Maurice Smith, acting chief inspector.
Ofsted will concentrate on improving failing schools leaving the best largely unmonitored. The plans are intended to build on the current system of short-notice, light-touch inspections based on schools self-evaluation introduced last term.
Mr Smith said: "Inspection and schools cannot stand still. If the logic that led us to introduce the new inspection model is right, the same logic will take us further in the quest for better education and care."
Under the plans, one in five schools identified as high performing, using previous inspection evidence and value-added exam results, would be eligible for an extreme light-touch inspection.
This would allow Ofsted to concentrate its resources on providing tailored support to schools in special measures and to allow it to make an extra visit to check on the progress of those given a notice to improve.
Schools judged satisfactory overall, but which have weaknesses, may also face greater scrutiny.
An Ofsted spokeswoman said that details of what inspectors would do during their single day in school were still being worked out.
But John Chowcat, general secretary of the Association of Professionals in Education and Children's Trusts, which represents inspectors, said: "I would be amazed if they included any serious lesson observation."
Ofsted has yet to advertise for the position of chief inspector and Mr Smith refused to say whether he is hoping to fill the role.
Mr Smith said feedback from schools showed heads were happy with the emphasis on self-evaluation, although some teachers had expressed disappointment they had not been observed by inspectors. Schools also welcomed the reduction in workload as a result of inspectors spending fewer days with them and being given only a few days, rather than weeks, notice of inspectors' visits.
Stephen Ball, head of Calder high school, heard on a Friday that his school was to be inspected the following week but decided not to tell his staff until Monday to avoid ruining their weekend.
* A report on councils' views of the introduction of annual performance assessments of children's services, found broad support. But almost one in four of the 65 councils who gave their views said advice from Ofsted and the Commission for Social Care Inspection was inadequate.
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