Being inspected as a maintained school or academy

Ofsted inspection provides an independent assessment of the quality of education in schools.

Timings of inspections

Inspections can take place at any point after the end of 5 working school days in the autumn term. For example, if pupils return to school on a Wednesday, inspection can take place as early as the following Wednesday.

In exceptional circumstances an inspection might be cancelled or deferred after a request from the school. Normally, however, if pupils are receiving education in the school, an inspection will go ahead.

How often a school is inspected depends on the findings of its previous inspection.

Schools judged ‘outstanding’

Some categories of schools judged outstanding at their most recent inspection are exempt from routine inspection, although they can be inspected if Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector or the Secretary of State for Education has concerns about performance. They may also be inspected as part of Ofsted’s survey work.

This exemption doesn’t apply to maintained nursery schools, special schools or pupil referral units (PRUs).

Schools judged ‘good’

A school judged good at its most recent inspection will receive a one-day short inspection, approximately every 3 years, as long as the quality of education remains good. Good schools can have their short inspections converted to section 5 inspections if the schools performance has improved or declined.

Schools judged ‘requires improvement’

A school judged as requires improvement may be monitored by Ofsted and will normally have a full (section 5) re-inspection after around 2 years.

Schools judged ‘inadequate’

When Ofsted judges a school inadequate, it places the school in a category of concern. This means Ofsted judges the school either to have serious weaknesses or to require special measures.

A maintained school judged inadequate and placed in a category of concern will be issued with an academy order by the Secretary of State. The school will then become a sponsored academy. Ofsted will not usually monitor the school unless there are concerns or there is a delay in the school becoming a sponsored academy. An academy judged inadequate and placed in a category of concern will receive monitoring inspections by Ofsted. If the academy is re-brokered with a new sponsor to become a new sponsored academy it will not have monitoring inspections by Ofsted.

An academy judged as having serious weaknesses that is not re-brokered with a new sponsor will receive monitoring inspections by Ofsted. Ofsted will re-inspect under section 5 within 18 months of the school’s last full inspection.

An academy judged to require special measures that is not re-brokered with a new sponsor will usually receive its first monitoring inspection (under section 8) within 3 to 6 months of its last full inspection. The academy will usually have a full (section 5) inspection within 2 years of its last full inspection.

A non-maintained special school that is subject to inspection under section 5 and judged inadequate will receive monitoring inspections by Ofsted in the same way as an academy judged as inadequate that is not re-brokered.

Who inspects schools?

School inspectors are:

  • Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) employed directly by Ofsted
  • Contracted Ofsted Inspectors

Notice of an inspection

The school will be notified of its inspection at around midday on the working day before the start of the inspection. Ofsted can inspect any school without notice where judged appropriate. In no notice inspections like these, the lead inspector will normally phone the school about 15 minutes before arriving.

Before the inspection begins

All parents of pupils at the school should be told about the inspection. Other relevant bodies, including those providing alternative provision for pupils, should also be notified of the inspection.

The standard letter that Ofsted provides should be used to notify parents of the inspection. The letter provides parents with details and options for providing their views.

Inspectors will look at Parent View to see the views of parents. Inspectors will also take into account the results of any past parent surveys, or other surveys, carried out by the school.

During the inspection

The inspection will normally last 2 full days.

Inspectors will spend most of their time observing lessons and gathering evidence to inform their judgements.

Inspectors will talk to a range of pupils and staff about important aspects of the school’s work. Inspectors will also take account of external views of the school’s performance. This may include any evaluation of the school’s performance by the local authority.

Final judgements will be made when all evidence has been collected and considered.

The lead inspector will ensure that the headteacher and senior staff:

  • are kept up to date about the inspection
  • understand how the inspection team reaches its judgements
  • have opportunities to clarify how evidence is used to reach judgements
  • are given the opportunity to present evidence

The school’s headteacher will be invited to:

  • participate in joint lesson observations, as agreed with the lead inspector
  • receive regular updates from the lead inspector

The headteacher is normally invited to:

  • attend the formal inspection team meetings at the end of each day of the inspection
  • comment on the inspectors’ recommendations to ensure that these are understood

Inspectors will give oral feedback to teachers and other staff about the work they see.


Before leaving the school, the lead inspector must make clear:

  • the grades awarded for each judgement
  • that these grades may be subject to change following quality assurance procedures and should remain confidential
  • that the main points in the feedback will be mentioned in the written report
  • how the report will be published
  • the complaints procedure
  • where relevant, the implications of the school being judged as requires improvement
  • where relevant, the implications of the school being placed in special measures or deemed to have serious weaknesses

The inspection team’s judgements will be presented and explained to the senior leadership team and those responsible for the governance of the school, all of whom should be invited to the feedback.

After the inspection has taken place

The lead inspector will write a report setting out the inspection findings. A draft will be sent for a factual accuracy check, normally within 10 working days of the end of the inspection, with 1 working day to comment on the draft. If the school is placed in a category of concern there will be 5 days for the school to comment on the draft. The final report will be published on the Ofsted website within 19 working days of the end of the inspection. If the school has been judged inadequate, the report is usually published within 28 working days of the end of the inspection. A copy of the report is sent to:

  • the school’s headteacher
  • the local authority
  • the appropriate authority or proprietor (for example, the governing body or the academy trust where the local authority is not the appropriate authority)
  • the person or body responsible for appointing foundation governors if the school has them (including diocesan or other appropriate authorities in the case of schools with a religious character) other prescribed persons such as the Department for Education (DfE) or the Education Funding Agency (EFA) The school must also supply a copy of the report to all parents of registered pupils at the school

Complaints about an inspection

Any concerns or complaints about the inspection should be raised immediately with the lead inspector during the inspection.

For issues that can’t be resolved during the inspection, a formal complaint can be lodged.

Further guidance

You can read the full documents and guidance for inspections of maintained schools and academies.