Press release

Ofsted begins series of no notice school inspections

HM Inspectors are mounting a wave of no notice inspections of schools across every region in England.

Around 40 schools up and down the country have been selected for the two-day unannounced inspections during a two-week window in September, under powers already available to the inspectorate.

Following recent events in some Birmingham schools, Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw agreed to examine the feasibility of moving to a system of inspecting all schools without notice, rather than the half-day notice that the majority of schools currently receive.

In the meantime, he has instructed Ofsted’s Regional Directors to make wider use of existing powers to conduct no notice inspections of schools where there are concerns about:

  • rapidly declining standards
  • safeguarding, including a decline in the standards of pupils’ behaviour and the ability of staff to maintain discipline
  • standards of leadership or governance, or
  • the breadth and balance of the curriculum (including where the statutory requirement to publish information to parents is not met)

Many of the schools selected for these inspections over the coming days were already scheduled to undergo ‘section 5’ inspections this term. However, others will be schools that weren’t due for inspection but where Ofsted has become aware of concerns.

HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said:

Parents rightly expect Ofsted inspections to get to the heart of any problems that may exist in a school – whether they are to do with discipline, safeguarding, poor leadership or governance, or a narrow, unbalanced curriculum. That’s why we’ve expanded the criteria for conducting unannounced inspections for the coming year.

I’m currently giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine no notice inspections as part of our wider education inspection reforms, which we will be consulting on later this year.

In the meantime, under our regional structure, inspectors are well placed to use their local knowledge and contacts to identify where these sorts of problems may be taking hold so we can respond swiftly and report publically on what we find.

Ofsted will continue to carry out unannounced inspections throughout the academic year. By conducting the first wave within a two-week window, Ofsted will be able to make an early assessment of their impact.

A full report for every inspection will be published on the Ofsted website.

In addition to the current programme of no notice inspections, HM Inspectors have made their first return visits to the five Birmingham schools placed in special measures in June after the inspections uncovered serious leadership, governance and safeguarding concerns. Every school placed in special measures by Ofsted is subject to a regular series of monitoring visits by HM Inspectors to check that the problems identified in the original inspection are being addressed.

Sir Michael last week joined the inspection team at one of these schools, Park View Academy, where he met the acting executive principal and the trustees to assess whether the school’s improvement plan is starting to tackle the key areas for improvement.

The outcome of each of these monitoring inspections will be published shortly.

Notes to editors

  1. Sir Michael wrote to schools in July 2014 to outline upcoming changes to inspection. This includes the move to greater use of no-notice inspections. The letter is available online.

  2. 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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