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Ofsted’s new arrangements for short inspections

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: common inspection framework, inspection, schools

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’.

We've got five years

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.


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  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?

  2. Comment by Ofsted external relations 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.

  3. 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?

  4. Comment by Ofsted external relations 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 !

  7. Comment by Ofsted external relations 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.

  8. Comment by Cathy posted on

    Is this new framework also the same in Independent schools ?

  9. Comment by Susan Bilverstone posted on

    Our school received a full inspection in may 2017, inadequate, an follow up in December found it to be taking positive steps and now just 3 months later, Ofsted have been again for 3 days. Is this normal under the new measures and how long before the results and what will be done if there are serious issues uncovered, or worse still, none found? There are serious issues and attainment is below 20%.

  10. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, It is normal for schools that are judged ‘inadequate’ to undergo monitoring inspections to review the progress that is being made to bring about improvement. There are two categories of ‘inadequate’ – ‘serious weaknesses’ and ‘special measures’. A school with serious weakness will have a full re-inspection after 18 months if it hasn’t improved within that period. A school that requires special measures will be re-inspected after 2 years if it hasn’t improved within that period.

  11. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, The changes detailed in the blog ‘Ofsted’s new arrangements for short inspections’ only relate to short inspections of maintained schools and academies graded ‘good’. Independent schools do not receive short inspections.

  12. Comment by SA Close posted on

    Why are some schools allowed to go nine years without any sort of inspection? The school I am thinking of was classed as Outstanding but in the interim period it has had two new heads and a whole year without a headteacher. This one year year with no head was probably its most stable and well controlled year. Surely OFSTED would be looking to inspect a school with so much change.

  13. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Most outstanding schools are exempt from routine inspection but they are still subject to risk assessment. If, during the risk assessment process, any concerns are identified, or if complaints about an exempt school raise sufficient concerns, Ofsted can arrange to inspect to look into these matters. A change of headteacher on its own would not necessarily result in inspection.

  14. Comment by Vicky Johnson posted on

    'The lead inspector is not satisfied that the school would
    receive at least its current grade if a section 5 inspection were carried out
    now. The school will be informed that its next inspection will be a section 5
    inspection within the the statutory timeframe, which will typically take place within one to two years.'
    If a school is inspected under Section 8 four years after their last Section 5 and the statement above applies does the 'statutory timeframe' mean that they will be inspected within 12 months?

  15. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    The regulations set the interval for section 5 inspections ‘within five school years from the end of the school year in which the last inspection took place’. The exception to this requirement are schools that are exempt from section 5 inspection known as exempt schools.

  16. Comment by Susan Bilverstone posted on

    Hi, it was 'serious weakness' on the full inspection in May 2017 so that makes the recent inspection less than the 18 months stated. Does a free school status change the criteria for OFSTED inspection or could it have been the safeguarding issue, a child was left behind on a school trip? We have a local school about to close and if the OFSTED report for our school is published after that closure and it's bad news, there will be no places left for parents who want to move their child. There has been another worrying incident and police involvement since.

  17. Comment by Peter Jennings posted on

    If a school has been classed as RI but makes good progress in meeting these improvements is there anyway that an ofsted review can be called rather than wait the 18-24 months for the standard review?

  18. Comment by Lisa H posted on

    Prior to these changes schools knew they would receive a call either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to leave time for additional day inspection if needed. With these new changes does that mean schools could now receive a call on Thursday for a Friday inspection?

  19. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Ofsted will continue to contact the school to announce an inspection during the afternoon of the working day before the inspection. We do not normally notify a school of an inspection on a Thursday or Friday.

  20. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Schools judged as RI will normally be re-inspected under section 5 usually within 30 months. Following a monitoring inspection of a school judged as RI, if the lead inspector considers that a school is ready for a re-inspection because of good progress, they may recommend that the next section 5 inspection is brought forward. A school can also ask for an early inspection if it thinks it has improved and regional directors have discretion to consider.

  21. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, A free school is inspected under the same arrangements as other publicly funded schools. Whilst we are unable to comment on the specific issues raised, academies judged to have serious weaknesses, which are not rebrokered, will be subject to monitoring. Historically, they would normally have been re-inspected within 18 months. Not all schools will automatically have inspections after 18 months. Ofsted will take a view as to whether a full inspection should happen sooner.

    Our latest policy is that schools in serious weaknesses or special measures will normally be re-inspected within 30 months of the inspection in which they were judged to have serious weaknesses/special measures.

  22. Comment by Chris R posted on

    Hi - if a previously judged 'Good' school is expecting a S8 within the 4 year average window but have self-evaluated themselves as 'Outstanding' and believe they have significant evidence to support this, are they able to request a full S5 as their next inspection instead of a S8?

  23. Comment by External relations team posted on

    Hi Chris, Schools are able to request a section 5 inspection and can ask for an inspection to take place sooner than would normally be the case. However, the decision on whether or not to change the inspection is a matter for the relevant Ofsted regional director to decide.

  24. Comment by L Ince posted on

    I think it is so wrong to leave a school for more than 5 years - just because their standards are good does not mean it is an outstanding school. My children's school was graded outstanding in 2013 but has since gone down hill. Leadership is very concerning - with four members of teaching staff leaving this summer (and not for promotion). Their parent view survey this year has over 70 parents and 45% would not recommend the school and 55% strongly disagree that leadership is effective (school did not tell parents about parent view an ex governor shared it as parents are never invited to give their view by the school). The school will always hit national standards due to the background the children come from but knowing their starting points they should do so much better. The leaders are arrogant and almost have that 'we are outstanding' attitude so we don't need to listen to concerns from parents. Parents complain all the time but governors back the school or governors leave the post because they are not listened to either. If Ofsted were to visit them I think they would find that they are not outstanding because in fact there has been so many different frameworks in that time.

  25. Comment by External relations team posted on

    Hi, Since 2012, maintained schools and academies that were judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection are exempt from inspection under section 5. This is government policy and is set out in legislation.

    Exempt schools are subject to risk assessment, and can only be inspected under section 8 of the Education Act 2005 where the Chief Inspector considers it necessary or where Ofsted is requested to inspect by the Secretary of State.

    If the risk assessment process raises concerns about the performance of an exempt school, a school may be inspected at any time following completion of the risk assessment under section 8.

    Parents who have concerns about an exempt school can complain by following the guidance on how to complain about a school which is available online at

  26. Comment by Ian C posted on

    Realistically, what can one person learn about an organisation's standards in the four to six hours he/she is allocated for a short inspection?

    Would they not be able to arrive at a similarly accurate judgement by reading staff performance management records, assessing SATs results against entry tests and holding highly focussed Q&A's with Headteachers and other key members of staff?

    And in this truncated inspection, can this person also determine a school's capacity to improve standards, over the short to medium term, to such an extent that it will be exempt from future scrutiny?

    It must cost Ofsted a lot of our (taxpayer's) money to fund the people who conduct these shortened inspections. I know that you can't properly 'know' a school from files, tables and charts and that it is important to 'see' a place of work before arriving at a judgement but these inspections cause a hugely disproportionate level of stress and in my experience, very rarely tell school leaders anything that they didn't already know.

  27. Comment by Ian C posted on

    Completely agree.

  28. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, All inspections are organised in proportion to need, taking into account the performance and circumstances of each individual school. Short inspections are an extension of this proportionate approach. An important point about the purpose of inspection is that it is more than data. Ofsted judgements reflect many aspects of school life, including how the school supports personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils and the effectiveness of leadership and management. Some of this can only be seen by visiting the school. We have published two blog posts by inspectors who have conducted short inspections, that provide more details of the actual process they went through on inspection. The posts can be accessed here - and here

  29. Comment by Lily mae posted on

    Ofsted haven't visited our school since 2012 and many concerns within the school are regularly talked about. However, how can you ask Ofsted to visit and update, without your details being handed over? As it causes conflict sometimes

  30. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, without further information about this particular school, it is impossible to say categorically why it has not been inspected since 2012. You can contact Ofsted, in the form of a complaint, through the general helpline:

  31. Comment by Lily mae posted on

    But it asks for personal details that will be disclosed, which I fear will further hinder my child.

  32. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Information on making a complaint about a school is available on our website here – If you wish to make an anonymous complaint, you can do so via the online form available here -