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Short inspections: 10 things you need to know

Last month’s blog mentioned our survey on how well school teachers were informed about the September inspection arrangements. There’s still a fair bit of speculation on the short (section 8) inspections for good schools/providers.


At events I attend, and also on Twitter, a few themes keep cropping up, so, I’ve put together 10 points below outlining what these new inspections are about.

1.    They will be roughly every three years so we can identify decline or improvement earlier. (Practically, because of scheduling constraints, good schools and further education and skills (FES) providers are likely to be inspected in the period between 33 and 47 months after their previous short inspection.)

2.    We give schools half a day’s notice and FES providers two days’ notice (though Ofsted has the power to inspect without notice where we have concerns).

3.    Short inspections of schools are for one day and are led by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI); a team inspector will accompany the lead HMI in secondary schools and large primaries. In FES, inspections may take two days and need a larger team depending on the size and type of provider being inspected.

4.    Inspectors start with the presumption that the school/provider is still good. This allows honest, challenging, professional dialogue between inspectors and senior leaders, rather than a ‘cliff-edge’ experience.

Inspectors check:

  • whether leaders have a sound grasp of relative strengths and weaknesses in their school/provider
  • if there’s a credible plan to address the areas for concern and maintain the strengths
  • if the safeguarding is effective and the culture is sufficiently aspirational

5.    During the short inspection, inspectors look to validate the leaders’ assessment and test it against observation, discussion with staff and students, and data. They share emerging findings with senior leaders.

6.    At the end of the inspection, if the school/provider remains good, inspectors give clear, helpful feedback to leaders. If there are other things that can be done to offer a better experience for children and learners, they say so.

Rather than a new set of judgements, the principal judgements that inspectors make are whether the school/provider remains good, and whether safeguarding is effective. Although HMI might conclude that particular areas are weaker than they were before, they will give credit if this has been identified and if effective leadership is moving the institution forward.

For example, let’s say results in a school/provider have suffered a dip because of problems in the maths department while everything else looks stable. If inspectors assess that the leadership is clear about the reasons behind this and there is a credible plan for addressing the situation, in that instance, the ‘good’ judgement would be confirmed, and it’ll have a clear mandate to improve the areas identified over the next few years.

7.    After the inspection, HMI report their findings in a letter to the head/principal/CEO confirming that the school/provider remains good, explaining what inspectors saw, and highlighting areas for improvement. The school/provider returns to the short inspection cycle unless concerns are raised in the meantime.

8.    In some cases, if an inspector believes that standards may have declined or improved from good, they will tell senior leaders and convert the inspection into a full inspection to gather sufficient evidence. They will call in a full inspection team to support them, usually within 24-48 hours in a school and within 15 days in an FES provider.

A decision to convert does not mean the outcome of the full inspection is pre-determined – the overall effectiveness judgement may go up or down or may confirm that the provider remains good.

9.    After a full inspection, inspectors will give clear, professional feedback to leaders on why they believe the school/provider has declined, remains good, or improved to outstanding. The findings are published as a standard inspection report.

10. If the school/provider is judged:

  • Requires Improvement or Inadequate – Ofsted’s monitoring processes kick in to provide support and challenge.
  • Good – it returns to the short inspection cycle (approximately every three years).
  • Outstanding – it is exempt from routine inspection and will only undergo full inspection if performance drops.

I hope this helps to an extent to demystify the short inspection process a little.

We have already had a lot of useful feedback about how these inspections are working, but I would be grateful for ongoing feedback from those of you who have a short inspection; please use the post-inspection questionnaire and contact me or your Regional Director to tell us how you found it.

Meanwhile, I hope you all manage to get some rest and enjoyment over the festive break.

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  1. Comment by S. Veasey-Smith posted on

    My child's special school was previously at good. Notice was given to say inspectors were in one day. The next day a message was sent out to say they were in again. So 2 consecutive days and have been judged from good previously to outstanding. I thought they would have to have a longer inspection for that to happen? Also parent view only appeared to have got views from approximately 20% of parents yet in the report it frequently refers to most parents. How can it be most if most is only of 20%?
    Do inspectors have to have qualifications /SEN teaching experience in order to inspect a special needs school?

  2. Comment by Deb posted on

    Can anyone answer this question for me - I was told that if you are a recently appointed headteacher of a good school, Ofsted will leave you for a year before inspecting?

  3. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Good schools do not qualify for improvement periods for new headteachers. This is only for schools judged to ‘require improvement’, where a new headteacher joins the school after the section 5 judgement. In this case, the headteacher can write to the Ofsted regional director to ask for the timing of the next inspection to take place later than the normal 24 months from publication of the previous inspection report. If the regional director decides to delay, the school will be re-inspected no later than 30 months after the publication of the previous report.

  4. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Ofsted conduct short inspections of schools that were judged good at their most recent section 5 inspection. These inspections last for one day and take place approximately every three years. When the outcome of a short inspection is that the school remains good and there is sufficient evidence of improved performance to suggest that the school may be judged outstanding, the short inspection will be converted to a section 5 inspection, usually within 48 hours. More inspectors may join the HMI lead inspector on site. This may include HMI and/or Ofsted Inspectors as team inspectors and they will gather and evaluate evidence in order to make a full set of graded judgements. Similarly, where it appears that the school might no longer be good, inspectors will return for a second day.

    Although Parent View is one of the main methods for gathering the views of parents and carers, inspectors will also use other approaches to gather evidence of parents’ views about the school. This includes talking to some parents formally or informally. Parents can also ask to speak directly with an inspector or pass on messages to the inspection team through the inspection administrators. The report should make clear when referring to parents’ views that this is based on the responses received rather than reflecting the views of all parents. The factual section of the report will normally indicate the level of response.

    The staffing of these inspections is based on inspectors’ knowledge and experience. For pupil referral units and special schools (including maintained residential special schools and non-maintained special schools with residential provision), the inspection will be led by an HMI accompanied by one or more team inspectors. I can confirm that the team selected for a special school inspection consists of inspectors with past experience in this background and SEN training.

  5. Comment by Margaret posted on

    Can I ask how long do I wait for a draft report (letter) after a one day inspection? Thanks

  6. Comment by Bex posted on

    Hello. I have been told by a colleague that if there have been a rapid succession of headteachers within a few years (in our case 3 headteachers in 4 years at a good rated school) this will trigger an early Ofsted inspection. Is this true?

  7. Comment by Sandy posted on

    My school was due an inspection any time from December 2011, yet a new head joined the school and so we thought it would be delayed a year to allow her to settle in. It's now 2017 and still no ofsted. We were judged as outstanding back in 2008 but this was 9 years ago! Is this unusual to be left alone for so long?!

  8. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Ofsted is required to inspect all schools to which section 5 of the Education Act applies ‘within five school years’ of the last inspection. However, some schools are exempt from this requirement if they were judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection. Exempt schools are subject to risk assessment. If the risk assessment process raises concerns about the performance of an exempt school, it may be inspected at any time after the completion of the risk assessment under section 8. For further information please see paragraphs 13 – 19 of the School inspection handbook.

  9. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, A new headteacher does not necessarily trigger an inspection, nor delay it. A succession of short stay appointments could, however, be an indicator of other concerns about a school. Were that to be the case, this might inform the timing on an inspection of a school.

  10. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Following a short inspection, the draft report will normally be sent to a school within 3-5 days.

  11. Comment by Janine Cobbe posted on

    My school was previously good but told on Monday we would be having a 2 day inspection before they even came in. Is this common?

  12. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Schools judged to be good at their previous section 5 inspection will normally receive a one-day short inspection, carried out under section 8 of the Education Act 2005, approximately every three years, as long as the quality of education remains good at each short inspection. However, some good schools will automatically receive a full section 5 inspection instead of a section 8 short inspection, and this will occur when Ofsted’s risk assessment process indicates that the quality of provision may have deteriorated significantly. Schools may also receive a full section 5 inspection where there has been a significant change in the school, for example, through the merger with another school that closes or by the addition of a new phase or key stage.

  13. Comment by RDW posted on

    my child currently attends a school in Strood Medway that over two years ago had an inspection that required improvement. Can someone tell me why a change of name seems to have erradicated the return visit from Ofsted within 24 months? According to Ofsted her school has closed and the "new one" opened. Effectively the school has changed its name and academy trust, but why have not had an inspection?

  14. Comment by Pollyperks posted on

    Can this be triggered by a parental complaint

  15. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    It depends on the complaint. Ofsted has specific powers (under section 11A-C) of the Education Act 2005 to investigate certain complaints known as qualifying complaints. Further guidance is available in ‘Complain about a school or childminder’;

  16. Comment by Kirsty Gosling posted on

    My child attends a secondary school that was graded inadequate 2yrs ago. It has had 4 section 8 inspections since then which have largely read positive in its improvements. But it remains in special measures. Will it be likely to have a section 5 inspection and change it’s rating if it continues to improve?

  17. Comment by Dave posted on

    Are PRU's that are outstanding exempt or still on the same 3 year cycle? - from above it says - "Outstanding – it is exempt from routine inspection and will only undergo full inspection if performance drops."

  18. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Without further information about the school, it's difficult to be specific about the future of inspection of this school.

    But, in general terms, maintained schools judged inadequate are subject to an academy order and will become a new sponsored academy. Since April 2016, maintained schools or PRUs that have been issued with an academy order will not normally receive monitoring inspections. For academies that are judged inadequate, they may have their funding agreement terminated and rebrokered to another trust. Whether newly-academised or rebrokered, these schools will become new sponsored academies and will subsequently be inspected as new schools within three years of operation, and normally in the third year.

    Academies judged to have serious weaknesses, which are not rebrokered, will be subject to monitoring by Ofsted. They will normally be re-inspected within 18 months of the inspection in which they were judged to have serious weaknesses. Academies judged to require special measures, which are not rebrokered, will be subject to monitoring by Ofsted. The timing of the next section 5 inspection will be determined by the academy’s rate of improvement. However, it will normally take place no later than 24 months after the inspection that judged it to require special measures.

  19. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, PRUs that were judged outstanding for overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection are not prescribed as exempt from inspection. Such schools are subject to short inspections, which take place every three years, as long as the school remains outstanding or good.

  20. Comment by Jo posted on

    If a school is graded as requires improvement, will they be inspected again sooner than 2 years? thank you

  21. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi Jo, the current policy from the section 8 handbook is:

    ‘Schools judged as requires improvement will be re-inspected under section 5 usually no later than the end of the term in which the 24th month after the publication of the section 5 report falls.

    In schools judged as requires improvement where a new headteacher joins the school after the section 5 judgement, the school will normally be re-inspected no later than 30 months after the publication of the previous report.’

  22. Comment by Ann posted on

    Surely even a school previously rated 'outstanding' in 2008 should have had another inspection by now, 10 years !

  23. Comment by Rose posted on

    Ofsted have their inconsistencies and I have experienced that the outcomes depend on the individual inspectors interpretation. Some don’t even understand the standards clearly. Therefore they do not necessarily give an accurate picture of the school.

  24. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Ofsted is required to inspect all schools to which section 5 of the Education Act applies ‘within five school years’ of the last inspection. However, some schools are exempt from this requirement if they were judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection. Exempt schools are subject to risk assessment. If the risk assessment process raises concerns about the performance of an exempt school, it may be inspected at any time after the completion of the risk assessment under section 8. For further information please see paragraphs 13 – 20 of the School inspection handbook.

  25. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, In terms of schools, all inspectors are experienced school leaders who have undergone rigorous recruitment and training to make decisions during an inspection. They work in accordance to the School inspection handbook, which sets out what inspectors must do and what schools can expect.

  26. Comment by Frank posted on

    Hi is that true that ofsted does not visit special needs maintained schools in the last week of the summer term?
    If a school was granted a defer status, how long can it be before they confirm their next visit? Thanks

  27. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Section 5 inspections of schools can take place at any point after the end of five working school days in the autumn term. A list of the types of schools covered by section 5 of the Education Act 2005 can be found in paragraph 5 of the school inspection handbook

    Information about the deferral process can be found in paragraphs 42-45 of the school inspection handbook. There is no specified length of time between the granting of a deferral request and the notification of an inspection.

  28. Comment by Worried parent posted on

    My childs special school was rated inadequate 6 months ago - we were not told and only found out when we searched the ofsted site online.
    We have no idea what 'the improvement plan' is.
    My child has an EHC plan.
    I have informed the SEND team who also didn't know about the inadeqaute rating.
    What do we do ?
    My child has no alternatives in our county.

  29. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, We are unable to comment on this particular inspection without the full details. Once a school has received its final report, it is required to take steps to ensure every registered parent receives a copy of the report within five working days. As a parent of a pupil attending the school, you should have received a copy of the report. If the school is a local authority maintained school, it will have been issued with a directive academy order which requires that the school should become a sponsored academy. This action is taken by the Department for Education, through the relevant Regional Schools Commissioner.

    For a school that is already an academy, a statement of action is required to be produced by the owners of the academy setting out how any improvement areas identified by the inspection will be addressed. If your child has an EHC plan, there should be opportunities for this to be reviewed with you. If that is not happening, we advise you to contact the local authority about this.

  30. Comment by Liz posted on

    Reading the framework, am I right in thinking that a short inspection for an academy in special measures is one day with one HMI for a small school?
    My child’s school has had two monitoring visits lasting 2 days each with two HMI inspectors.
    On the third visit it was changed to a normal inspection and the judgement changed to RI .
    What reason may have led to the difference?

  31. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Ofsted does not conduct short inspections for schools in special measures. Schools in special measures do may, however, receive monitoring visits under Section 8 of the Education Act. Depending on the size of the school and the precise reasons for the monitoring visit, the duration of these inspections can be one or two days.

  32. Comment by Tom posted on

    My childs school was inspected on the 27th 28th of november and im wondering when well get the results back.

  33. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Thanks for your enquiry. Ofsted will publish the final report on the Ofsted reports website ( within 19 working days of the end of the inspection. You can find out more in our guide to inspections:

  34. Comment by Colleen posted on

    Do the comments left at the end of the 13 multiple choice questions get shared with the Headteacher or are they completely confidential?

  35. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Parent View is owned and managed by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted). Ofsted respects parents’ privacy.Therefore comments left on Parent View Surveys remain strictly confidential and users will not be contacted regarding their comments, as the information is anonymised at the point of access. This information is not shared or disclosed with headteachers or any third party organisation, or company except in accordance with the law, in order to comply with data protection legislations. Schools will not have access to any information posted on the site, including parents email addresses, and all results will remain anonymous.

  36. Comment by Disgruntled Parent posted on

    Special measures - and financial notice to improve:
    When management and governors are cited as failing an Academy on both of these points, does Ofsted have the power to recommend they are removed from duty? If so, how many special measures monitoring visits apply before this goes ahead?

  37. Comment by External Relations posted on

    Ofsted doesn’t have the power to recommend that management or governors are removed from duty. For academies, that would fall to the responsible academy trust. If the school didn’t make the necessary improvements as set out in the inspection report, then the Department for Education may decide offer the school to another academy trust.

  38. Comment by Confused parent posted on

    When the inspectors give feedback to the school head about the inspection, when does the local authority find out about that feedback, or does the local authority only find out the feedback when the Ofsted report is published?

  39. Comment by External Relations posted on

    Hi - the school inspection handbook, paragraph 96, states that ‘a representative from the local authority (for maintained schools) or academy sponsor and/or the designated responsible body’ may attend the final feedback meeting.

    If there is no LA representative available to attend the meeting, the information about the inspection outcomes would only be shared more widely when the school receives a copy of the final inspection report.

  40. Comment by One day inspections posted on

    How can a school where the Headteacher has suspended a member of staff for safeguarding reasons and the Governors panel investigating have said this was wrongfully done and the Head did not follow policy and practice, be considered good. Governors have criticised both the Head and Investigating Officer (who is part of the leadership team) for bad practice and both are having grievances taken out against them. I thought leadership was taken into consideration when judgements are made.

  41. Comment by External Relations posted on

    Hi, if you want to make a complaint about a school, you can find more information <a href="">here</a&gt;.

  42. Comment by Christine posted on

    How does a school receive a ‘good’ judgement when only the lower and upper KS2 classes of a primary school with a nursery, were observed? The inspection was one day as previous grading was good. My son is in reception and his teacher said foundation and key stage 1 did not get observed.

  43. Comment by External Relations posted on

    Hi Christine. The purpose of this sort of inspection is to check whether the school is still providing a good standard of education and whether pupils are kept safe. The lead inspector identifies what the inspection will focus on by looking at a range of information, including past inspections, and through discussions with the headteacher, governors and/or senior leaders. The inspection looks at those aspects rather than the school as a whole.