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.