Feature: Ofsted inspections explained

Thursday, 24th November 2016

Feature: Ofsted inspections explained

So who are the Ofsted inspectors and what do they do when they visit a school? SmartStep investigates

THEY can swoop with less than 24 hours’ notice striking terror into the hearts of a profession.

They quiz staff and students, draw on parents’ views, watch lessons and observe behaviour in the classroom and corridors. Their reports praise and damn in equal measure.

So who are the Ofsted inspectors and what do they do when they visit a school? SmartStep investigates

What is Ofsted?

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. It inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. It is a non-ministerial department, independent and impartial but reports directly to Parliament.

What is the purpose of the inspections?

Ofsted says inspections provide parents with an expert and independent assessment of how well a school is performing, which can help inform decisions about which school to choose. They also provide information for the Secretary of State for Education and promote improvement by raising expectations, setting standards of performance, identifying strengths and weaknesses and providing “a sharp challenge” when improvement is needed.

Which schools does Ofsted visit?

All maintained schools and state-funded independent schools must be inspected including academies, maintained nursery schools and community schools. Independent, fee-paying schools are inspected by a different organisation, the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Who are Ofsted inspectors?

They are either Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) employed by Ofsted, or they are contracted inspectors. Ofsted prescribes the qualifications and experience required by inspectors, many of whom are serving school leaders.

What do inspectors look for when they visit a school?

Inspectors judge a school on: the outcomes of learners; the quality of teaching, learning and assessment; the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils; and the effectiveness of the leadership and management.

They also consider the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and how the education there meets the needs of the range of pupils, especially the needs of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs. They also grade the effectiveness of the sixth form, if there is one, and early years provision.

How are schools measured?

In judging a school, inspectors use a grading of 1-4 where 1 is outstanding, 2 is good, 3 requires improvement and 4 is inadequate.

Outstanding – a school cannot achieve this unless it has outstanding teaching;

Good – an acceptable standard of education is defined as ‘good’;

Requires improvement – this is a school that is not yet ‘good’ but is not ‘inadequate’;

An ‘inadequate school will be placed in one of two categories:

Serious weaknesses – one or more of the key areas of the school’s performance require significant improvement but the leadership and management have been judged as being capable of securing improvement;

Special measures – the school is failing to provide pupils with an acceptable standard of education and is not showing the capacity to make the necessary improvements.

How often does Ofsted visit?

This depends upon the performance of a school at its last inspection.

A school that received an ‘outstanding’ judgment last time will be exempt from a routine inspection unless there are concerns. From the third year after inspection, its performance is assessed annually to find out whether an inspection is necessary.

A school that was judged as ‘good’ last time normally receives a short inspection lasting just one day, rather than two, to ensure a good standard is being maintained. If evidence suggest it has fallen back, a standard two-day inspection will take place, usually within 48 hours. Conversely, the same happens if there is enough evidence to indicate that the school has improved still further and would be likely to achieve an outstanding judgement.

A school judged as ‘requires improvement’ will be monitored and then inspected again around two years after the inspection. If it still ‘requires improvement’ the same process is repeated. If, after that, it has still not improved it is likely to be judged as ‘inadequate’ and requiring ‘special measures’.

Are parents told an inspection is happening?

Yes, Ofsted provides a standard letter for schools to send out to parents to let them know an inspection is taking place. The letter provides parents with details and options for contributing to the inspection, known as Parent View.

When does a school find out how it’s done?

Inspectors give the gradings for each judgement to the headteacher and the governing body at the end of the inspection, although these gradings can change. The lead inspector then writes a report setting out the main findings of the inspection and a first draft is sent to the school for a factual accuracy check. Unless the school has been judged ‘inadequate’, the report is normally sent to a school within 10 working days and published on Ofsted’s website within 15 working days of the end of the inspection. Where a school has been judged ‘inadequate’, the report is usually published within 28 working days after the inspection. The governing body has to ensure every registered parent receives a copy.