Ofsted’s new arrangements for short inspections

I hope you are all looking forward to a well-deserved rest over the holiday period; I know I am. One of the last items on my desk before the break was the sign-off of the latest update to the school inspection handbook. These specifically take account of the changes we are making, from January, to how we deliver short inspections of good schools.

I know it isn’t ideal to publish these documents at the end of term, but everything in the document should be familiar from our consultation response document, which we published earlier in December. It is really important to stress that in terms of what inspectors look at during inspection, there is no change for anyone. I can assure you that we haven’t moved any goalposts.

As a reminder, we have made three changes. From January 2018, we will convert a short inspection to a section 5 inspection (normally within 48 hours) if there are serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the quality of education.

Secondly, when there are no significant issues with safeguarding or behaviour, but inspectors identify potential concerns about either the quality of education or leadership and management, the inspection will not convert. Instead, we will publish a letter setting out the school’s strengths and areas for improvement. A section 5 inspection will then take place later, typically within 1 to 2 years, but clearly no later than the statutory timeframe for inspection. This will give the school time to address any weaknesses and seek support from appropriate bodies. In the meantime, the letter will be clear that the school’s current overall effectiveness judgement has not changed, so the school remains ‘good’.

In the spring term 2018, inspectors will be working hard to make sure that we visit all good schools that are due a short inspection by July within the statutory, five-year timeframe. In this transition period therefore, for some schools, this will mean a reduced period between the short inspection and any necessary full inspection than the 1 to 2 years set out in the section 8 handbook.

Finally, when inspectors think a school may be showing marked improvement towards an outstanding judgement, they will not convert the inspection. Instead, we will publish a letter confirming that the school is still good. The letter will set out the school’s strengths and priorities for further improvement. A section 5 inspection will then take place within 1 to 2 years. This gives the school time to consolidate its strong practice. We will consider requests from schools for early inspections.

I believe this fresh approach reflects our aim to act as a force for improvement through inspection. This is one of our priority areas as highlighted in Ofsted’s Annual Report published earlier this month.

We want to catch schools ‘before they fall’. We want to reduce workload, to use our evidence to help schools improve and to provide constructive support. Short inspections are valuable. I’m confident that this new approach will help to minimise the burden on schools.



  1. Comment by Lyndsey Brown posted on

    I am really very sad that schools that have worked hard to achieve the outstanding judgement from good will now have to wait for conversion. I cannot see the value in this change other than how much it will disappoint those hard working people on the coal face who have made the difference to children and young people. The wait for the conversation is simply too long. It is such a disappointment.

    Unless I have overlooked something - what of those schools who have slipped from outstanding back to good? do they convert or can they carry the outstanding badge for 1-2 years?

    • Replies to Lyndsey Brown>

      Comment by michelenevard posted on

      Hi, The changes made were following the consultation response.

      The change not to convert the short inspection to a full inspection under section 5, but to inspect the school again within 1 to 2 years, enables the school further time to consolidate its strong practice and the marked improvements seen.

      If a ‘non-exempt’ outstanding school receives a short inspection, and evidence indicates that it may potentially have declined to good, the lead inspector will write a letter setting out priorities for improvement and the school will usually receive a section 5 inspection within one to two years.

  2. Comment by Rob Barraclough posted on

    Can I put a scenario to you please.
    Let's say that there are two schools -

    School 1: Good at its last Section 5 inspection but there is evidence that standards have slipped (but nothing inadequate). School will retain its good judgement and be reinspected within two years.

    School 2: Requires Improvement at the last inspection and has its section 5 inspection tomorrow. Good progress has been made in most AFIs but the school hasn't quite secured good in all areas (but nothing inadequate). I take it this school could remain RI?

    So, it is possible that you could have two schools with similar results, providing exactly the same quality of education and have different judgements? In fact, could it be possible now that an RI school could, theoretically, out perform a good school but the RI remains RI and the Good remains Good?

    • Replies to Rob Barraclough>

      Comment by michelenevard posted on

      Hi, If there is a general upward trend, but key aspects of performance are less than good, the school may be judged as requires improvement again, in which case there may be monitoring before another section 5 inspection takes places within two years. It will depend on the balance of evidence at the time.

      There may be schools that have similar results, but each inspection is unique. As we have said, the data informs the inspection; it does not determine the outcome. With good schools identified as having some shortcomings, the inspection team will outline clear areas for improvement. For requires improvement schools, where there is marked improvement, there may be sufficient evidence to judge the school to be good.

      • Replies to michelenevard>

        Comment by Rob Barraclough posted on

        Thank you for your response. It is very refreshing to see such a flexible approach being taken. The thing which drives school leaders mad is inconsistency. We all lead very different schools and sometimes, the ‘one size fits all’ approach has not quite recognised the level of effort and improvement which there has been, particularly for schools on an upward trajectory but not quite there. It’s reassuring to know that judgements will be fair and take marked improvement into account.

  3. Comment by Rachel Kay posted on

    We had our latest inspection before the new framework and maintained our good but with few actions to improve other than to embed what we were currently doing. We were aiming for outstanding and believe firmly we will get there soon, if not already.
    My interpretation of the new framework is that on the next inspection will will only be able to receive the'letter' and may then have to wait a further two years to finally convert. In theory that could be another 6 years before we achieve what we feel we deserve and by that time school may well have changed beyond recognition given the changing population of staff and pupils !

    • Replies to Rachel Kay>

      Comment by michelenevard posted on

      Hi, thank you very much for your comments. A decision on the timing of the full section 5 inspection will be for the relevant Ofsted regional director to determine. It is important to note that schools may request an early inspection through their relevant regions, if they wish.


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