Press release

Changes to education inspections announced

Ofsted changes inspections of schools, further education and skills, and initial teacher education.


Ofsted today announces the results of its consultation on changes to the way it inspects schools, further education and skills, and initial teacher education. The changes, which come into effect from 1 September 2012, are intended to support headteachers and principals in their work to provide the best possible education for pupils and learners.

Ofsted’s consultation was launched by Sir Michael Wilshaw, HMCI, in February 2012. The 12-week consultation received over 5,000 responses and the views received have directly shaped the announcements made today.

Announcing the results of the consultation, Sir Michael Wilshaw, HMCI said:

All schools and colleges can, and should, provide at least a good level of education. Parents and employers, children and learners, expect nothing less. That is why we are introducing these changes to the way we inspect. Inspectors will be clear about what needs to improve, and will return sooner to those that are not yet good to check their progress.

We want to work with good headteachers and principals as they strive to provide the best education possible for pupils and learners. These new arrangements have benefited from extensive consultation and I am grateful to all those who took the time to respond.

Sir Michael stressed that inspectors’ evaluation of the progress made by pupils and learners will be central to their judgment on whether a school is providing a good education. This means if pupils are making good progress, a school can be found good or better even where attainment is below average.

Sir Michael confirmed that Ofsted will no longer describe schools, further education and skills providers and teacher training providers as ‘satisfactory’ where they are not providing a good level of education. From September 2012, the ‘satisfactory’ grade will be replaced with ‘requires improvement’ and inspection reports will be clear about what needs to improve.

Ofsted will re-inspect those found to ‘require improvement’ sooner than under current inspection arrangements. Schools will have a full re-inspection within two years. Further education and skills providers found to ‘require improvement’ will be re-inspected within 12 to 18 months. Initial teacher education providers will be re-inspected normally within a year of their last inspection.

Recent independent studies have shown that an inadequate judgment from Ofsted acts as a catalyst for improvement for schools. From September, Ofsted will work with schools found to ‘require improvement’ in much the same way as it does with schools found to be inadequate: checking action plans, monitoring progress and re-inspecting within a shorter period of time. Extending this way of working to more schools is intended to help tackle the number of coasting schools that have remained stubbornly ‘satisfactory’ over many years.

Sir Michael confirmed that if a school has been judged to require improvement at two consecutive inspections, and is still not providing a good education at the third, Ofsted is likely to find the school to be inadequate at that inspection. This means it will be placed in ‘special measures’ unless there are exceptional circumstances. Ofsted will therefore expect schools to improve to ‘good’ within four years.

Inspectors will continue to focus on the quality of teaching but Ofsted will be clear that it does not expect to see a particular teaching methodology. From September, only schools and further education providers with outstanding teaching will be awarded Ofsted’s ‘outstanding’ grade. It does not mean that every lesson seen during an inspection needs to be outstanding. It does, however, mean that over time teaching is enabling almost all pupils to make rapid and sustained progress.

Sir Michael confirmed that inspectors will evaluate the robustness of performance management arrangements and consider whether there is a correlation between the quality of teaching and salary progression.

Ofsted also announced further reductions to the notice of inspections. Currently further education and skills providers can receive up to three weeks’ notice of an inspection, and initial teacher education providers up to eight weeks. From September, the notice period for both further education and skills and initial teacher education providers will be reduced to two working days.

Under the new arrangements, schools will receive almost no notice of an inspection with inspectors calling headteachers the afternoon before an inspection takes place. Ofsted proposed conducting school inspections without any notice but listened to headteachers’ concerns about this during the consultation. Calling the working day before an inspection will enable headteachers to make any necessary logistical arrangements including notifying parents and governors of the inspection. Parents can be reassured that inspectors are seeing schools as they really are.

Notes to editors

  1. The consultation responses outlining the changes to come into effect from 1 September 2012 for schools, further education and initial teacher education can be found on GOV.UK.

  2. Executive summaries for the three consultation responses will also be available on the website.

  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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Published 30 May 2012