Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy New Year. I hope you had the opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries over the holiday period.
2017 brings change to Ofsted, as I am sure you are aware, with Amanda Spielman taking up post as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector. All here are incredibly happy to have Amanda join us at Ofsted.
January also sees the introduction of some new ways of working for Ofsted. It is now over a year since we ended our Inspection Service Provider contracts and introduced Ofsted Inspectors (OIs), contracted directly with Ofsted, into our workforce. The vast majority are serving practitioners in schools, bringing with them current front-line experience. OIs now number over 1,200 and are an integral and essential part of our inspection workforce.
Up until now OIs have been leading and working successfully alongside Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) day in day out on section 5 inspections. We have now decided that from this month their role should expand to include leading short inspections. Having successfully piloted this approach in London and the East Midlands we are rolling out this way of working across the country.
What they will do
In leading a short inspection, OIs will follow exactly the same processes as an HMI. If the outcome from the short inspection is that the school remains good, a letter will be sent to the school and parents in exactly the same way as has happened with HMI leading on these inspections.
Where the inspector leading a short inspection concludes that more evidence is required to reach a final judgement, the short inspection will be converted to a full section 5 inspection, again just as has been happening to date. In this circumstance, one of two things may happen. Either the OI will hand the inspection to another inspector, usually an HMI, to lead and complete the section 5 inspection. Alternatively, the OI, who will be an experienced section 5 lead inspector, will continue to lead the full Section 5 inspection themselves.
The decision to hand inspection over to an HMI is in acknowledgement that our OI workforce are also current senior leaders of schools, and cannot always commit the amount of time needed to lead and report on a full section 5 inspection. With their responsibility to their own places of work, we recognise that many OIs simply cannot commit to more than two days away from school.
If a full section 5 inspection is necessary, this will always take place within 48 hours of the date of the short inspection, as set out in our framework. This means that there may be a short gap of a day between the two inspections. However, any evidence gathered by the inspector on the short inspection will also be used to inform the outcome of the converted inspection. It will not be possible for schools to amend or update evidence already given in the short inspection. Of course, however, schools will be able to provide further evidence to tell their full story if necessary.
Quality assurance will remain robust in all of these inspections and Senior HMI and HMI will have oversight of all short inspections. And naturally all OIs taking part in these inspections have been through an in-depth training programme.
I am confident that schools experiencing an OI-led short inspection will have an equivalent experience as when HMI lead these inspections. I can also reassure you that any transition between a short inspection and a full section 5 will be smooth and cause as little disruption to the school as possible.
As we continue to develop an Ofsted inspection programme that embraces the experience and knowledge of those on the frontline, it is beholden on us to make it work for practitioners giving up their time to support us.
I am mindful that there may well be minor teething problems as this new approach settles in and I very much look forward to hearing feedback from you on these developments.