Ofsted has returned to a full programme of inspections this term for the first time since the onset of the Covid crisis in March last year.
The NAHT school leaders union has produced new guidance to its members about what to expect if and when schools get the call.
Here is a summary of its key points:
Inspections: Five things Ofsted has told inspectors for this term
When are outstanding schools likely to be inspected?
One of the biggest changes to school inspection this term is that outstanding-rated schools are back in scope after being exempt from routine inspection for the majority of the past decade.
The NAHT document sets out how Ofsted is taking a two tier approach to inspecting outstanding schools.
Those that were last inspected before September 2015 will face full section 5 inspections – in which schools can be downgraded.
Schools inspected after September 2015 will be inspected under section 8 – which is in line with existing good schools.
The NAHT guidance document says that Ofsted is likely to prioritise inspection of schools that had been exempt for the longest period.
How has Ofsted’s timetable changed?
Heads have been told that Ofsted is 18 months behind in its inspection schedule as a result of routine inspections being put on hold in March last year.
The NAHT says that regulations have been temporarily amended to take account of the backlog of inspections that the pandemic has caused.
As a result it say schools rated as good, which are typically inspected every four years, can expect this to extended by up to another six terms.
Schools which are judged as "requires improvement" normally get a section 5 inspection within 30 months but can also expect this to be extended by six terms.
How will Ofsted look at curriculum development during the pandemic?
Ofsted is inspecting schools under the education inspection framework, which places a major emphasis on the importance of the school curriculum.
The new guidance from the NAHT says that heads should be mindful that each school’s curriculum and planning will have been affected by the Covid pandemic.
It adds: “Members will want to explain how their curriculum journey over the last year has informed their current approach to delivery – this is relevant background to help inspectors understand the choices that a school has made in response to its current context and circumstances.
It adds that inspectors will be interested in:
- How schools have adapted and prioritised their curriculum
- How schools are making up for gaps in pupils’ knowledge
- how schools are returning to, or bringing about, an ‘ambitious curriculum’,
How will Covid restrictions impact on inspection?
The guidance says that if schools have chosen to or been advised to bring back Covid mitigations because of case rates in their area, they should use their initial phone call with Ofsted to explain how this will impact on inspection.
The NAHT document adds: “The lead inspector should be prepared to discuss and agree the safety protocols that the inspection team will follow, in order to facilitate inspectors’ work and maintain Covid secure arrangements.
The union says that it expects that inspectors will continue to work flexibly and that inspection teams will be prepared and willing to adapt their practices.”
Heads have also been told that if “circumstances arise where it would not be appropriate for inspectors to be on site at all, we recommend that you explore alternative inspection arrangements with inspectors, or in extreme circumstances seek a deferral.”
And the guidance document says that if heads encounter any difficulty in agreeing steps to maintain Covid safety during the inspection, they should contact the union’s helpline and not wait until after the inspection has taken place.
What key changes are there?
Heads have been told to expect Ofsted to evaluate a school’s use of tutors to support education recovery from this term.
This will be integrated into the quality of education judgement, the guidance says. The quality of education judgement is one of four key judgements that the inspectorate makes about a school. It is based on the intent, implementation and impact of the school curriculum.
The NAHT document also highlights how Ofsted will be looking at a school’s delivery of the early career framework, which is statutory for all early career teachers.
This means inspectors will be establishing the effectiveness of support for ECTs and the quality of mentoring.
How will Ofsted be treating the issue of sexual abuse allegations?
Following its review of sexual abuse allegations in schools Ofsted has said that inspectors will expect schools to “assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around the school even where there are no specific reports".
The NAHT document adds: “The expectation is that schools will be working to prevent this, through a whole school behaviour policy with appropriate sanctions, pastoral support and a carefully planned relationships, sex and health education curriculum which includes addressing the issue of consent.”