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New academic year, new start for education inspection

Pencils and pens in pots

As summer comes to an end it is back to work for many of us, be that for schools, colleges or nurseries.  I hope that everyone is refreshed for the coming year, even if you haven’t been able to get away from work this summer.

The coming year is particularly significant for Ofsted.

It marks the introduction of the common inspection framework, short inspections for good schools and further education and skills (FES) providers, and the first inspections to be carried out by our new Ofsted Inspectors.

Next week also marks a personal milestone for me as I take over as Ofsted’s National Director for Education, bringing together our work on early years, schools and FES. Now that we are working on the shared basis of the common inspection framework, this is the right moment to draw together all that Ofsted does in these areas and to ensure comparability and consistency across Ofsted’s inspection of these sectors.

As I take on this role, I am conscious that I am building on the excellent work led by my predecessors Bradley Simmons, Lorna Fitzjohn and Nick Hudson as National Directors for independent schools, FES and early years respectively. I know they are held in high regard within their sectors.

I look forward to continuing Ofsted’s engagement with colleagues in each of the sectors and I hope to meet many of you soon.

Final versions of the common inspection framework and handbooks

Today we publish the final version of the common inspection framework and inspection handbooks for early years, schools, non-association independent schools and further education and skills.

The most important thing to say about today’s update of the handbooks is that there are very few changes: these handbooks are substantially the same as those we published in draft form in June.

From the moment we published the draft handbooks, colleagues from across the education sectors have been contacting us with suggestions for improving or clarifying the existing draft. I am grateful to all those who have engaged with us in this way.

As a result of these suggestions, we have made a number of small changes. These do not change the meaning of the documents, but do, I hope, improve their readability and clarity.

Some of the changes are more substantive than others, so rather than leaving you to work out what these are, I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight them below.

Short inspections for special schools and PRUs

In my last blog I referred to the discussion that had taken place at the education inspection launch events about our arrangements for inspecting these schools, in particular, the extra notice we intended to give them of inspection.

Over the summer, the helpful feedback we have received, mainly from leaders of these schools has continued to emphasise that they wish to be treated like other schools.

We have listened and agree that they have a right to this parity. So you will see in the section 8 handbook that special schools and PRUs will be notified of inspection around midday on the day before the short inspection. These and all other arrangements will be exactly the same as for other short inspections of schools. As a result, there will now be no planning visit by the lead inspector to the school’s site on the day of notification.


Another message that came across clearly over the summer was that while you welcomed the shorter, streamlined handbooks, many of you felt that we had over-summarised the section about governance in the leadership and management judgement.

Governance is a pivotal role in schools and providers.

I agree that we need to be clearer about the aspects of governance that inspectors will look at. You will see, therefore, that the section has been expanded.

Notice of inspection in the early years

As we made clear in the draft version of the handbooks, nurseries and pre-schools will receive half a day’s notice of their routine inspection in the same way that schools do. We will, of course, retain the right to carry out inspections without notice.

In addition to this, the final version of the early years inspection handbook confirms that the current arrangements for notification of inspection for childminders remain in place.

Exceptional leaders

In June, the Chief Inspector promised more detail on how Ofsted will identify and recognise exceptional leaders. I have made minor amendments to the handbooks to clarify how this process will work in inspection.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will publish the first of this year’s ‘inspection updates’ for inspectors.

Until then, I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

Keep up to date by signing up for email alerts from this blog, and you can also follow Sean on Twitter and Ofsted on Twitter.

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  1. Comment by Naureen Khalid posted on

    Thank you, Sean. As always very helpful and useful.

    Hope you had a lovely summer too.

  2. Comment by karen posted on

    Will all preschools have half a days notice? What about if im a new provider and have not been inspected yet will i still get half a days notice.

  3. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Yes, all pre-schools, including new providers, will have half a day’s notice of inspection. However, we do reserve the right to inspect without notice if we judge it appropriate.

  4. Comment by Sue Jiggens posted on

    Thank you Sean - just what is needed.

  5. Comment by Lynn Slinger posted on

    Thank you Sean for listening to all the special school head teachers. We are grateful that if in our system leadership roles we are elsewhere supporting other schools we will now have time to return to meet our inspectors,

  6. Comment by Lisa Caddick posted on

    Can you confirm if the new judgements that are now in place for schools will also be the same for nurseries or are we still having inspections under the old ones.

  7. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    The judgements in place from September 2015 for schools are the same for early years. The introduction of the common inspection framework is to provide consistency across all education remits.

    Further reading is in the early years inspection handbook:

  8. Comment by Bob Damerell posted on

    While I welcome the expanded content re the inspection of school governance, compared to the draft inspection handbook, I'm disappointed that I can see no mention of governors efforts to develop their own skills, or whether the governing body takes time to review the impact of their own work. Both featured in the previous version of the ;handbook'.

  9. Comment by Lynn Slinger posted on

    Unless I have missed it, I can't see any mention in the handbook of Outstanding special schools usually being inspected every 5 years unless there are any other concerns. Is this still the case? Thanks.

  10. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    It is correct that outstanding special schools will usually be inspected every 5 years as they are not exempt from section 5 inspection. This is outlined in paragraph 8 of the school inspection handbook

    Paragraph 15 of the handbook explains that if Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) or the Secretary of State has concerns about the performance of an exempt school (or any other school covered by section 5), HMCI has powers to inspect it at any time.

  11. Comment by Toby posted on

    Sorry for sounding slow, but what is meant, precisely, by 'a half day notice'. Does this mean that a school will be called at 0830 and the inspectors will arrive at 1230? Or that you will receive a call at some point on a given day, and the inspectors will arrive the following day?

    Many thanks.

  12. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    For maintained schools and academies (including PRUs and special schools), Ofsted will normally contact the school by telephone to announce the inspection at, or just after, midday on the working day before the inspection. Inspectors will normally arrive after 8.00am the following day.

    The process is explained further in the School inspection handbook and the handbook on short inspections

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  15. Comment by C Taylor posted on

    If a pre school was rated as outstanding at the last inspection 14 mths ago does the 5 year inspection cycle apply as per schools?

  16. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    C Taylor: Ofsted will inspect all registered early years providers, at least, once in every inspection cycle. The current cycle finishes on 31 July 2016.