Press release

Consultation on radical changes to inspection

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector sets out proposals for some of the most far-reaching education inspection reforms in the last quarter of a century.

Students at work

Launching an eight-week consultation, Sir Michael Wilshaw said the reforms would bring about a radically different inspection regime designed to maintain and accelerate improved educational standards in England.

Sir Michael said:

Most schools and colleges have been improving over the past couple of years at a faster rate than ever before.

This is hugely encouraging and testament to the commitment of leaders and teachers to deliver a higher standard of education for our children and young people. They have responded to Ofsted’s more challenging inspection frameworks, in particular the introduction of the Requires Improvement judgement and our insistence that only good is good enough. This has been central to driving improvement.

It is absolutely vital that this progress is sustained and that our system does not falter. Over two thirds of good schools and colleges maintain their performance, and so there is a strong case for more proportionate inspections which focus on a professional dialogue between head teachers and inspectors. But by no means all of them do. In the past academic year alone 860 schools we inspected, attended by 335,000 children, declined in performance.

The time has come, therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers. These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.

In particular, inspectors will be looking to see that headteachers and leadership teams have identified key areas of concern and have the capability to address them. For good schools and further education and skills providers who have the capacity to show this, the changes being proposed will mean that there is no longer any need for a full inspection.

Led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, these short inspections will encourage professional dialogue and the sharing of good practice from across the country. They also mean that we can spot signs of decline early and take immediate action. If we find significant concerns then we will carry out a full inspection. Where we think the school or provider may have improved to outstanding, we may also decide to carry out a full inspection to confirm this.

At the moment, it can be five years or even more between inspections for a good school or provider. This is too long. It’s too long for parents and employers. It’s too long for us to spot signs of decline and it’s too long for improving institutions to show that they are now delivering an outstanding standard of education.

Parents and employers also need to know how schools are performing on a more regular basis. Shorter but frequent inspections of good schools and colleges will mean that we can keep them much better informed.

Sir Michael confirmed that Ofsted will retain the power to undertake a full inspection at any time where there are significant concerns about standards.

Another key proposal due to take effect from next September is the introduction of a new common inspection framework, which will standardise the approach to Ofsted education inspections. This will be adapted to suit nurseries, schools and colleges, including the independent schools that Ofsted inspects, making it easier for parents, employers, pupils and learners to compare different providers and make more informed choices.

Sir Michael said:

I believe that our new inspections should place emphasis on safeguarding, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning. Only then will we be able to make sure that all children and learners are properly safeguarded and prepared for life in the modern world.

The consultation also sets out proposals for four categories of judgements:

  • leadership and management
  • teaching, learning and assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • outcomes for children and learners

Sir Michael also said that Ofsted would not be consulting on the question of whether to introduce routine no-notice inspections.

I have already broadened the criteria Ofsted uses to judge whether an unannounced inspection is required for particular schools. After careful consideration, I have therefore concluded that we do not need to consult on moving to routine no-notice inspections at the present time.

Notes to editors

  1. The consultation runs until the 5 December with the reforms taking effect from 1 September 2015.
  2. The proposal for shorter inspections for good schools would see inspections carried out by no more than two inspectors on site for one day, and would focus on whether the quality of the provision is being sustained. They are likely to take place every three years. Where no concerns arise about the performance of the school, or its leadership and management, then parents will receive a letter that sets out the main inspection findings. No changes are proposed to the inspection frequency of those providers classified as inadequate or requiring improvement.
  3. Alongside the proposed changes to the way Ofsted inspects, from 1 September 2015 the inspection of schools and further education and skills will no longer be outsourced. Instead, inspectors will be contracted directly to Ofsted, with Her Majesty’s Inspectors leading the great majority of inspections. Ofsted will consider the future of the early years inspection contracts when these end in 2016.
  4. The consultation also proposes that from 1 September 2015, all non-association independent schools will receive an inspection under the proposed common inspection framework within three years.
  5. The way by which outstanding schools are inspected will not change.
  6. 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 and Support Service (Cafcass), academies, 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 inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  7. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 03000 130 415 or via Ofsted’s enquiry line 0300 123 1231 between 8.30am – 6.00pm Monday – Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057 359.
Published 9 October 2014