Short Inspections: 10 things you need to know

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Please find 10 helpful points from the Department for Education website to assist with understanding the new Ofsted inspections:

1. They will be roughly every three years so we can identify decline or improvement earlier. (Practically, because of scheduling constraints, good schools and further education and skills (FES) providers are likely to be inspected in the period between 33 and 47 months after their previous short inspection.)

2. We give schools half a day’s notice and FES providers two days’ notice (though Ofsted has the power to inspect without notice where we have concerns).

3. Short inspections of schools are for one day and are led by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI); a team inspector will accompany the lead HMI in secondary schools and large primaries. In FES, inspections may take two days and need a larger team depending on the size and type of provider being inspected.

4. Inspectors start with the presumption that the school/provider is still good. This allows honest, challenging, professional dialogue between inspectors and senior leaders, rather than a ‘cliff-edge’ experience.

Inspectors check:

  • whether leaders have a sound grasp of relative strengths and weaknesses in their school/provider
  • if there’s a credible plan to address the areas for concern and maintain the strengths
  • if the safeguarding is effective and the culture is sufficiently aspirational

5. During the short inspection, inspectors look to validate the leaders’ assessment and test it against observation, discussion with staff and students, and data. They share emerging findings with senior leaders.

6. At the end of the inspection, if the school/provider remains good, inspectors give clear, helpful feedback to leaders. If there are other things that can be done to offer a better experience for children and learners, they say so.

Rather than a new set of judgements, the principal judgements that inspectors make are whether the school/provider remains good, and whether safeguarding is effective. Although HMI might conclude that particular areas are weaker than they were before, they will give credit if this has been identified and if effective leadership is moving the institution forward.

For example, let’s say results in a school/provider have suffered a dip because of problems in the maths department while everything else looks stable. If inspectors assess that the leadership is clear about the reasons behind this and there is a credible plan for addressing the situation, in that instance, the ‘good’ judgement would be confirmed, and it’ll have a clear mandate to improve the areas identified over the next few years.

7. After the inspection, HMI report their findings in a letter to the head/principal/CEO confirming that the school/provider remains good, explaining what inspectors saw, and highlighting areas for improvement. The school/provider returns to the short inspection cycle unless concerns are raised in the meantime.

8. In some cases, if an inspector believes that standards may have declined or improved from good, they will tell senior leaders and convert the inspection into a full inspection to gather sufficient evidence. They will call in a full inspection team to support them, usually within 24-48 hours in a school and within 15 days in an FES provider.

A decision to convert does not mean the outcome of the full inspection is pre-determined – the overall effectiveness judgement may go up or down or may confirm that the provider remains good.

9. After a full inspection, inspectors will give clear, professional feedback to leaders on why they believe the school/provider has declined, remains good, or improved to outstanding. The findings are published as a standard inspection report.

10. If the school/provider is judged:

  • Requires Improvement or Inadequate – Ofsted’s monitoring processes kick in to provide support and challenge.
  • Good – it returns to the short inspection cycle (approximately every three years).
  • Outstanding – it is exempt from routine inspection and will only undergo full inspection if performance drops.

There are five videos on their website where you can listen to headteachers, a principal and a childminder who took part in short inspection pilots last summer.

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