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Ofsted webinars for schools – responses to questions and new webinars

Children sat facing forward in a classroom listening to the teacher

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who attended or viewed our schools webinar series earlier this year. The recordings of these sessions are available on YouTube and the slides have been published on our SlideShare. These sessions looked at:

  • EIF inspections in primary schools
  • Inspections and the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Inspections and teacher workload

During each webinar, we invited questions and ran a Q&A session at the end. However, there were a number of queries that we didn’t have time to respond to during these sessions. This blog addresses some of those queries.

Many of you also requested separate sessions on governance and inspections of special schools. I’m pleased to say that we are holding webinars on these in the autumn term. You can find the details of these and the registration forms at the end of this blog.

We have structured the rest of this blog according to the webinars held so far.

EIF inspections in primary schools

Phonics, reading and why we look at the lowest 20% of readers in a school

Teaching children to read is vital to their future success in everything. It enables children to read for pleasure, study all subjects in the curriculum and be prepared for life. The EIF is underpinned by extensive research into the importance of teaching phonics until children can decode speedily and automatically. Pupils who struggle to decode unfamiliar words quickly fall behind their peers and struggle to catch up.

The school inspection handbook states that inspectors will pay particular attention to pupils who are reading below age-related expectations (the lowest 20%) to assess how well the school is teaching phonics and supporting all children to become confident, fluent readers. Inspectors discuss with leaders which pupils this includes. We will select a sample of these pupils, from Y1-3, and listen to them read.

Leaders’ concerns during inspections

During an inspection, the lead inspector meets regularly with the headteacher to share updates on emerging issues, including initial general findings about the quality of education. If the initial findings and evidence that inspectors gather does not match with senior leaders’ account of things, these meetings give leaders the opportunity to show inspectors the evidence that supports their view.

Headteachers should also use these meetings to raise concerns, including those related to the conduct of the inspection or of individual inspectors. This is outlined in our school inspection handbook.

If, after conversations with the lead inspector, leaders want to raise concerns about the inspection, they should follow the process outlined in our complaints procedure.

Inspections and the COVID-19 pandemic

EIF transition arrangements

The transition arrangements that were in place when we launched the EIF in September 2019 and that were extended because of the pandemic will not remain in place for the 2022/23 academic year. This will not introduce a ‘cliff edge’ for a judgement of good. We recognise that schools are likely to always be revising elements of their curriculum. We will not suddenly expect you to meet every single criterion to remain good. Inspectors will continue to use the best-fit approach that is set out in our handbooks when coming to their judgements. For more information please see our blog.

Individual school inspection timings

The timing of a school inspection depends on several factors including:

  • the grade the school last received
  • the type of inspection due
  • whether the school has become an academy or been re-brokered to a new trust

Our school inspection handbook outlines inspection timings for all types of school. However, if you are a new school, we have specific guidance on how we select new schools for inspection.

The guidance for sixth form colleges is in our further education and skills handbook.

This year’s SATs and exam data

The EIF focuses on what teachers intend pupils to learn and whether they have learnt it. Inspectors do not rely on data when making inspection judgements. They will draw on the evidence they collect through their deep-dive activities, as well as any validated published data, when considering the impact of the curriculum.

This will especially be the case with this year’s SATs data, and any other published exam data, which inspectors will view cautiously. Inspectors will look at these results only as part of the wider picture they gather on inspection about the quality of education that pupils receive. No judgements will be made on the basis of 2021/22 data alone.

Inspections and teacher workload

Inspections and internal data

Inspectors do not look at non-statutory internal progress and attainment data on inspection. That does not mean that schools cannot use data if they consider it appropriate. But inspectors focus will be on the curriculum (what teachers intend pupils to learn) and how schools are ensuring that pupils are learning the intended curriculum. We hope that this helps us to play our part in reducing the unnecessary workload that can be generated by an over reliance on internal progress and attainment data.

Talking to pupils on inspections

When making judgements, inspectors take a range of evidence into account, including discussions with pupils. Inspectors do not emphasise one specific type of evidence above all others.

Inspectors talk to pupils both formally and informally to gather evidence. Inspectors ask pupils about their experiences of the teaching, learning and behaviour in the school, including how the school deals with or prevents bullying and how it deals with any form of harassment and violence, discrimination and prejudiced behaviour, if they happen.

Inspectors use discussions with pupils to evaluate the impact of the education provided by the school. Their focus is on finding out whether pupils have learned what the school has intended and whether it is embedded and understood. These conversations provide valuable evidence, but they would never be the sole reason for inspectors’ judgements.

Upcoming webinars

As part of responding to feedback, we are holding more webinars this coming term. These are on:

  • EIF inspections in special schools
  • Governance and inspection (rescheduled to 8 November)
  • How schools are inspected – a detailed walk-through of an inspection

Please sign up for as many sessions as you wish at this page: Ofsted webinars (

Please also share this with your colleagues.

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