Press release

New way of inspecting good and outstanding schools proposed

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector has proposed a new way of inspecting the great majority of schools in England.

In a keynote speech to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference, Sir Michael Wilshaw argued that those schools currently judged good by Ofsted (60%) should no longer be subject to full routine inspections in the way they are now.

Instead, they should receive more frequent, but light-touch visits every two to three years by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) - or a serving school leader working as an associate Ofsted inspector - whose job would be to engage in professional dialogue with senior staff.

Sir Michael said these visits would be ‘challenging but also constructive’. The findings of the visit would be sent to parents by letter.

He said that the planned changes - the detail of which will be developed over the next 18 months in consultation with the Department for Education and the professional associations – should be underpinned by 3 important principles:

*the need for Ofsted to undertake a root and branch review of outsourced inspection (Sir Michael said that inspection is too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third-party arrangements) * the need for Ofsted to move towards more proportionate and risk-based inspection of those schools that need greater intervention - while incrementally moving away from routine ‘section 5’ inspections of good schools * a belief that Her Majesty’s Inspectors should lead the great majority of school inspections - Sir Michael said he plans to increase the number of HMI posts over the next few years and include a much larger number of seconded outstanding serving school practitioners

Under these proposals, a full inspection will only be triggered when inspectors see either steep decline or significant improvement in a good school. Even if the HMI does see some problems in a school, a full inspection may not be required - as long as the school leaders are tackling the problems effectively.

Sir Michael said:

At the moment, it can be 5 years or even more between inspections for a good school. This is too long. It’s too long for parents. It’s too long between inspections to spot decline, and it’s too long for improving schools to show that they are outstanding.

Far better for an inspector to visit the school for a day than for a full team to descend on the school more infrequently, and then giving, more likely than not, the same judgement as the previous inspection.

Similar arrangements will also be applied in the future to 20% of schools judged outstanding by Ofsted. These schools are already – and will remain – exempt from routine inspection. However, where there is a dip in performance or other concerns are raised, they will in the first instance be subject to new, shorter monitoring inspections.

Sir Michael also used his speech to call for the schools profession to take ‘more ownership of inspection’. He wants to work with the National College of Teaching and Leadership to promote a new fellowship programme to recognise those headteachers who step up to serve the national interest by working with Ofsted to improve standards in England’s schools.

The Chief Inspector argued strongly that all publicly funded schools should be accountable to one inspectorate and be judged against agreed national standards. He also said that ‘those who advocate a different inspection system for academies and free schools must be very careful not to be seen as apologists for lower standards.’

However, he reiterated the point that Ofsted is not interested in grading individual teachers. Inspectors instead sample a proportion of lessons to get a sense of the quality of teaching across the whole school and to assess if the leadership of the school knows what’s happening in the classroom.

Finally, Sir Michael made clear that good teaching only happens when the atmosphere is right in a school and children respect the authority of staff.

He said:

Poor behaviour often leads to poor teaching because teachers feel constrained, almost straight-jacketed, in believing that doing things differently will lead to poor discipline in the classroom.

That’s why we’re focusing much more on attitudes to learning in our behaviour judgements. And that’s why we’re conducting a series of focused inspections of schools where judgements on behaviour have previously required improvement.

Notes to editors

  1. 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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