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updated on 21 April 2021
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Stay up to date with all things Ofsted, including its plans for on-site monitoring inspections in the summer term.

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19 Apr 2021: updated inspection handbooks and guidance

Click the sections below for more detail on the updates to Ofsted's handbooks:

School inspection handbook

The main changes include:

  • References to COVID-19 throughout, including the impact on schools and safety measures during inspection
  • A new section on ‘Inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’ in paragraphs 7 to 37
  • The removal of the outstanding exemption in paragraphs 47 to 56 (see our update from October 2020 below for more detail)
  • Relationships and sex education in paragraphs in 250 to 255

See Ofsted's summary of all the changes.

Section 8 school inspection handbook

The main changes include:

  • References to COVID-19, including safety measures
  • The removal of the outstanding exemption in paragraphs 1, 4 and 41 to 49
  • New paragraphs (133 and 167) on discussions with the headteacher

See Ofsted's summary of all the changes.

Early years inspection handbook

The main changes include:

  • References to COVID-19, including instances of staff or children self-isolating
  • A new section on ‘Inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’ in paragraphs 6 to 26
  • The move from inspection cycle to window in paragraphs 27 to 36

See Ofsted's summary of all the changes.

Independent schools inspection handbook

The main changes include:

  • A new section on ‘Inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’ 
  • Updated sections on ‘Relationships and sex education’ and ‘Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics’ in light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19
  • Clarification on the impact on judgements if inspectors are prevented from talking to pupils on inspection (in the 'Safeguarding' section from paragraph 292)
  • Removal of the criterion relating to compliance with the independent school standards (ISS) from the overall effectiveness grade descriptors

See Ofsted's summary of all the changes.

Initial teacher education (ITE) inspection framework and handbook

The main changes include:

  • A new section on ‘Inspection during the COVID-19 pandemic’ in paragraphs 40 to 45
  • New references to the point-of-inspection trainee and staff surveys that are introduced under the new framework in paragraphs 77 and 80

See Ofsted's summary of all the changes.

 

Updated Ofsted guidance

Ofsted has also updated its guidance on routine Ofsted inspections in autumn 2021 for maintained schools and academies to reflect changes made, including:

  • The removal of the 'outstanding' exemption
  • Taking into account COVID-19 and the disruption it has caused to schools
  • New timescales: Ofsted will send the draft report to schools within 18 working days of the end of the inspection (previously it was 10 working days); as before, you'll still have 5 working days to comment on the draft; Ofsted will then send the final report within 30 working days of the end of the inspection (previously it was 25 working days)

Ofsted has also updated its guidance on new schools and schools that undergo significant changes to reflect:

  • The removal of the 'outstanding' exemption 
  • That due to COVID-19 disruptions, most schools will receive an inspection about a year and a term after it would have otherwise taken place

29 Mar 2021: on-site monitoring inspections in the summer term

Ofsted has confirmed it will continue with non-graded inspections in the summer term, and they'll be carried out in person from 4 May.

Ofsted will inspect:

  • 'Inadequate' schools, and schools that were judged 'requires improvement' in their last 2 consecutive inspections
  • 'Good’ schools that haven't had an inspection within the statutory 5-year window due to COVID-19
  • Some ‘outstanding’ schools that request an inspection, prioritising those that have gone the longest without one

As before, these inspections will focus on how well schools are educating pupils and keeping them safe.

However, inspectors will be able to convert to a full, graded inspection either immediately or later in the term where there's evidence of:

  • A clear improvement from a current 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' grade
  • Serious concerns, particularly in relation to safeguarding

COVID-19 safety precautions before the inspection will include:

  • Inspectors taking a lateral flow test, and
  • A chance to discuss and agree safety measures with the inspectors

For secondary schools, Ofsted will: 

  • Not carry out inspections during the first half of the summer term, to allow you to focus on teacher-assessed grades - this applies unless significant concerns are raised

In early years settings, Ofsted will:

  • Begin graded inspections of some registered early years providers from 4 May
  • Continue with urgent inspections where there are significant concerns

For non-association independent schools, Ofsted will:

  • Continue with additional inspections, as commissioned by the DfE
  • Resume standard inspections of some schools from 4 May

Updated inspection handbooks for the summer term

Ofsted is currently running a pilot to make sure inspections over the summer term are sensitive to the challenges of COVID-19. It'll update its inspection handbooks after the Easter break to reflect any changes made.

Full graded inspections will resume in September 2021

Following on from the chief inspector's announcement (see below), the Education Secretary has confirmed plans for Ofsted to return to its normal programme of inspections in September 2021. 

17 Mar 2021: no routine, graded inspections until autumn

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman announced that Ofsted won't be resuming its normal inspection programme this academic year (it was previously planned to resume in the summer term).

24 Feb 2021: monitoring inspections to continue remotely for the rest of the spring term

Ofsted will continue to carry out visits to 'inadequate' and 'requires improvement' schools remotely for the rest of the spring term (previously this was until 8 March at the earliest, as per our 2 February update below), unless it has immediate concerns - for example, about safeguarding or leadership. 

Early years assurance inspections are paused for the rest of this term (previously they were supposed to restart from 8 March at the earliest), but Ofsted will keep this under review. It'll still continue with regulatory work.

See our article on Ofsted monitoring inspections in spring 2021 to give you an overall picture of what's happening.

15 Feb 2021: remote monitoring inspections after half term will last 1 day, not 2

Ofsted has confirmed that after half term, remote visits for 'inadequate' and 'requires improvement' schools will normally last 1 day (before half term it was 2 days). They'll still involve 2 inspectors like before.

2 Feb 2021: remote inspections to continue until 8 March at the earliest

Ofsted has said it'll carry out all planned inspection work remotely until 8 March at the earliest (previously this was 'until after February half term').

Early years assurance visits are now paused until 8 March at the earliest.

27 Jan 2021: pupil motivation for remote learning is a 'significant concern', Ofsted study finds

Ofsted has published a report on remote learning, which has found that parents and school leaders are significantly concerned about pupils' motivation and engagement. The report also highlights areas of development for leaders to focus on in the spring term, like feedback and assessment.

Read the full study here.

21 Jan 2021: remote monitoring inspections will focus on your education offer during coronavirus, but not school improvement 

Ofsted has updated its guidance on how it'll carry out remote monitoring inspections of 'inadequate' and 'requires improvement' schools this half term. The remote visits will focus on your provision of education in the current circumstances - they'll no longer focus on school improvement as previously planned. 

You'll get up to 48 hours’ notice of an inspection, and may ask for a deferral.

13 Jan 2021: Ofsted announces remote monitoring inspections

Ofsted has announced that it'll carry out remote monitoring inspections of 'inadequate' and 'requires improvement' schools this half term, instead of conducting these visits in person as previously planned. The non-graded remote visits will:

  • Begin on 25 January (they were previously meant to resume on 18 January)
  • Not cover the full scope of a monitoring inspection - see the 21 January announcement above for more detail 

Ofsted will continue on-site inspections if it has significant concerns, such as about safeguarding or a failure to provide education to children. 

Early years assurance visits will be paused until 8 March at the earliest (they were previously meant to resume after the February half term) so that they can be carried out in person.

11 Jan 2021: Ofsted announces return of non-graded monitoring inspections, and publishes remote learning best practice guidance 

Non-graded monitoring inspections will resume for 'inadequate' and some 'requires improvement' schools, Ofsted has said. These will focus on how well schools are delivering remote education.

Inspectors will also consider any complaints from parents about remote education, though parents are encouraged to raise concerns with the school first.

Ofsted publishes remote learning best practice guidance

Using findings from its interim visits and research, Ofsted has published a short guide to remote education during coronavirus. It includes tips on what works well, and addresses common myths around remote learning.

Oct 2020: Ofsted to remove the 'outstanding' exemption

Ofsted announced it'll restart inspections on 'outstanding' schools, following a consultation earlier this year on removing the 'outstanding' exemption. 

This will come into force after legislation is passed, and means that:

  • Inspections on 'outstanding' schools will begin when regular inspections restart
  • All formerly exempt schools will get an initial section 5 or section 8 inspection within 6 years (Ofsted will prioritise schools that have gone the longest since their last inspection, starting with those that haven't been inspected for a decade or longer)
    • Schools that were last inspected before September 2015 will get an initial section 5 inspection
    • Schools that were last inspected after September 2015 will likely get a section 8 inspection

See further details of the consultation outcome here.

Jul 2020: Ofsted will carry out 'visits, not inspections'

Ofsted announced its plans to carry out 'non-judgmental' visits in the autumn term to understand how you're welcoming children back into school. 

It will visit all 'inadequate' schools and a sample of schools across the other Ofsted grades. 

Routine inspections are still suspended until January 2021 (at the earliest). 

Mar 2020: Ofsted has stopped all routine inspections 

As of 17 March 2020, Ofsted has stopped all routine inspections for schools, further education and early years providers. 

It will still go ahead with urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised. 

Feb 2020: Curriculum transition period extended

Ofsted has extended the transition period for curriculum inspection arrangements for another year.

The new arrangements will apply until July 2021.

Read more about how the transition period works here.

New Ofsted report on financial pressures in schools may lead to further inspection changes

Ofsted has published a report into how schools respond when they're under financial pressure, and the impact their decisions make on the quality of education they provide.

On the back of this research, Ofsted says it will carry out further research into:

  • Whether it's helpful for inspectors to look at financial indicators when they inspect schools
  • What kinds of conversations with leaders, governors and trustees may help inform judgements on leadership and management and quality of education

Read the full report here.

Jan 2020: Ofsted launches consultation on removing the 'outstanding' exemption

Ofsted is proposing that 'outstanding' schools will receive a section 8 inspection every 4 or 5 years. 

The consultation has now closed and Ofsted is reviewing the responses.

Ofsted publishes report on 'stuck' schools

The report looks at the challenges faced by these schools compared to 'unstuck' schools, and how the wider education system can help them to improve. 

'Stuck' schools are those that have had 4 or more full inspections where they were rated less than 'good'.

'Unstuck' schools are schools that were previously rated less than 'good' for 4 or more inspections, but have subsequently improved.

Read the full report here.

Sep 2019: Ofsted may rate schools on financial management

Schools Week reports that the DfE has announced that it is currently working with Ofsted to determine whether inspections might include judgements on financial management and oversight. The discussions on this are in the early stages, and no changes to inspection are planned immediately. 

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