Guidance

Gathering additional evidence to secure an incomplete inspection

Ofsted’s protocol on arrangements for gathering further evidence if an inspection is incomplete.

Introduction

This protocol sets out how we deal with ‘incomplete’ inspections.

An inspection is ‘incomplete’ when the inspection report has not been published and we need to gather additional evidence in order to secure the inspection evidence base. We may need to take further action to complete the inspection and to revise and report the findings.

Background

We have established processes for checking quality, finalising reports and dealing with concerns raised by providers.

Delaying publishing a report to consider concerns

Exceptionally, we may think it necessary to delay publishing a report to ensure that we can consider fully any concerns raised by a provider or identified by us.

Very rarely, and usually after considering these concerns or following our own internal pre-publication quality assurance or moderation processes, we may identify elements in the inspection evidence base that are not sufficiently secure. This may mean that we deem the inspection incomplete.

In these cases, we will need to take further action to complete the inspection. This may include a further visit to the provider to gather more evidence to secure the evidence base. We will not publish the inspection report until we’re satisfied that the inspection judgements are secure.

Needing to complete further inspection activity

When we have sent a draft report to the provider for a factual accuracy check or comments, and we have then decided that the inspection has not provided a sufficiently sound evidence base, we may carry out further inspection activity to secure the inspection. This may include a further visit to gather more evidence.

After we’ve completed any further inspection activity, we’ll send an amended draft report to the provider for factual accuracy checking and comment.

More information

These situations should happen very rarely.

However, when they do, it’s important that we maintain full and sensitive communication with the provider throughout.

When this protocol does not apply

In other cases, following publication of the inspection report (this means that the provider has received the final report), we may conclude that the evidence base was insecure or that the inspection outcome is unreliable for another reason. We have given examples of this below.

This protocol does not apply in those circumstances.

Deciding whether an inspection should be deemed incomplete before the report is published

The regional director (RD) or relevant designated officer (RD’s delegate) will refer to the evidence base and any other appropriate material to decide whether the evidence base is secure. They will normally arrange for an evidence base review (EBR) to be carried out.

If the RD or delegate considers that there are insecure elements in the inspection evidence base, they will consult Ofsted’s legal advisors. We will delay publishing the inspection report until the RD or delegate has decided what, if any, further inspection activity is needed.

What happens when we deem an inspection to be incomplete

If we decide that the inspection is incomplete, we will take steps to secure the evidence base. These may include a further visit to the provider to gather more evidence. We will need to be satisfied that the evidence base is secure and the inspection process is complete before publication of the report.

The evidence base should be retained for as long as is necessary to resolve all the issues identified relating to the inspection process. Once the report is published, we retain the inspection evidence base in accordance with our retention and disposal policy.

Examples of when an inspection may be incomplete

Examples of circumstances in which we may deem an inspection to be incomplete include when:

  • key judgements that may affect the overall outcome of the inspection are given orally by the lead inspector at final feedback to the provider or stated in the written report, but are not substantiated by evidence gathered and recorded by the inspection team
  • the conduct of the inspection is such that the evidence gathered and recorded cannot be relied on to provide a fair and accurate view of the provider, in whole or in part
  • the inspector or inspection team has not gathered sufficient evidence or evidence of sufficient quality to get a fair and accurate view of the provider, in whole or in part

Examples of when there are concerns about the security of an inspection but this protocol does not apply

Examples of circumstances in which an inspection may be unreliable for other reasons include when:

  • an inspection may have been carried out using an incorrect statutory power
  • the inspection judgements reached relied on assessing matters or activities that may fall outside our remits

This protocol does not apply in these circumstances. Inspectors should seek legal advice before taking further action.

What we do when we decide the inspection is incomplete before we publish the report

Once we have decided that an inspection is incomplete, the RD or delegate will write to the provider to:

  • inform them of the reasons for deeming the inspection incomplete
  • offer an apology
  • if appropriate, confirm that an inspector/inspection team will carry out a further visit in order to gather and analyse the necessary evidence to secure the evidence base and complete the inspection and that this visit will take place as soon as practicable

The RD or delegate will also:

  • inform Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) and Ofsted’s Chief Operating Officer of the decision
  • take steps to ensure that the evidence base is retained as explained above

Completing the inspection

Further inspection activity to complete an inspection may focus on the insecure elements of the evidence base. However, in some instances, the RD or delegate may determine that the inspector or inspection team must re-visit all elements of the evidence base to ensure that reliable judgements can be reached.

When we consider a further inspection visit to be necessary, the RD or delegate will determine whether it is practicable to use the same inspector or inspection team. Ofsted maintains the right to use a different inspector or inspection team when we consider this to be more appropriate.

When we have completed the further inspection activity, we will share an amended draft inspection report with the provider for factual accuracy check or for comment in the usual way, ahead of final publication where appropriate.

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Published 2 September 2019