This autumn term is a momentous time for Ofsted. Alongside our new common inspection framework and short inspections, which you may have read about in Sean’s recent blog, we’ve introduced new ways of working and made some positive changes to our inspection workforce.
The aim of our reforms is to make ongoing improvements to the quality, consistency and impact of Ofsted’s work across the sectors we inspect.
In addition to our directly employed Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI), we’ve welcomed a new cohort of contracted Ofsted Inspectors (OIs) who will lead or be team members on the new education inspections. Our contracts with the inspection service providers have now come to an end, so we’ve brought the selection and training of inspectors in-house.
Around 1,400 OIs are ready to inspect schools, colleges and training providers across England from this week and another 150 OIs are finalising their training and will begin to inspect later in the year. Today, we’ve published the list of our new OI cohort on our website alongside FAQs about the new workforce.
Training and development
As part of the effort to get everyone ready for the new inspections, we’ve run over 30 induction, training and development events over the summer, with participants giving up some cherished holiday to attend. I was at 11 of these and the atmosphere has certainly been invigorating; the inspectors I spoke to all found the training ‘well-designed’, ‘carefully thought out’ and ‘comprehensive’.
We are also training some of the OIs to quality assure reports and to investigate any complaints against Ofsted at the initial stage. This of course will greatly support our day-to-day operations, but we also see the role of serving practitioner OIs to help us shape up inspection policy, drawing on their expertise of what works and what doesn’t work in inspection from the point of view of providers.
I’m really pleased that we’re in this privileged position of having in place such a strong contingent of inspectors with a range of expertise and specialisms.
Our OIs are very skilled and competent professionals with a track record of effective leadership in the sectors we inspect. Seven out of 10 of our OIs are serving leaders from good and outstanding schools and colleges. As a former teacher and headteacher of many years standing, I think there are real mutual benefits to this. The serving leaders act as a direct link to the sectors and communities we serve and will constantly refresh Ofsted’s working knowledge of what it’s like to lead improvement at the chalk face. In turn, they’ll be able to use their experiences and skills gained on inspection to improve their own, and in some cases, other, institutions.
Quality of inspection
As part of our new quality assurance arrangements, our team of almost 400 employed HMI and Senior HMI will be responsible for overseeing inspection quality. They’ll mentor OIs and spend time out in the field advising and supporting them. I strongly believe that excellent ongoing training, consistent support and close partnership working between our HMI and OIs are crucial to this, and my conversations with inspectors show me that they’re relishing the opportunity to work more directly with each other.
This will help ensure that all stages of the inspection process – the preparation, gathering and securing of evidence, determination of judgements and communication with providers – is carried out to our enhanced and exacting quality standards. It will also mean that an inspector’s practice is evaluated in the same way regardless of whether they‘re inspecting in Sunderland, Sheffield, Swindon or Southend.
Whether they’re employed HMI or contracted OIs, our inspectors are our most valuable resource and we’ll continue to place a high value on their training and development. I’m confident that overseeing inspector contracts directly is the right way forward in making sure that every one of the thousands of inspections we undertake each year is delivered to the high standard that providers rightly expect.