Ofsted inspections explained for parents
Reading Ofsted reports is likely to be one of the first things you do when you’re choosing a school for your child, but what do the inspections actually involve?
Regular inspections are an important part of making sure that schools are providing children with a good education – and as a parent, the reports can be a vital source of information about your child’s school. All state schools are inspected by Ofsted, but what actually happens when the inspectors visit?
Which schools are inspected by Ofsted?
All state-maintained schools in England are inspected by Ofsted. This includes local authority-run schools, academies and free schools. ‘We also inspect those independent schools that are not associated with one of the independent schools inspectorates,’ adds Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director for Schools.
How often are schools inspected?
The frequency of inspection is determined by how good a school is. Good schools are inspected within five years of their last inspection, and Outstanding schools (except special schools, pupil referral units and maintained nursery schools) are exempt from inspection.
However, from September 2015, Good schools will have shorter but more frequent inspections every three years. ‘This will help to make sure that Good schools continue to provide a good quality of education, and will minimise the chances of standards slipping in between inspections,’ explains Sean.
Schools that have an Inadequate or Requires Improvement judgement are inspected more often, with inspectors monitoring their progress on a regular basis.
How much notice do schools get?
Normally, schools get half a day’s notice of a full inspection, but Ofsted has the power to go into schools without any notice if it considers it necessary. This could be if they have received concerns about a school, possibly from a parent.
What happens during an inspection?
Usually, inspections last for two days, although the new inspection framework means that Good schools will have one-day inspections. The number of inspectors varies depending on the size and type of a school, but the team will include Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) and/or contracted Ofsted inspectors – normally practising headteachers and deputy heads.
Before the inspection, the inspectors gather information about the school by reading the previous Ofsted report, reports of any interim monitoring, any complaints that have been raised about the school, academic data, information about funding, and information from the school’s website. They also send a letter to parents inviting them to share their opinions about the school on Ofsted’s Parent View website.
‘During the inspection, inspectors will observe lessons, check records and gather a range of evidence to inform their judgements, including speaking to staff, governors, pupils and parents and scrutinising pupils’ work,’ Sean explains. ‘Through these activities we are able to build a clear picture of what life is like at the school and how well pupils are learning.’ The main focus is on teaching and learning; inspectors will sit in on lessons, look through children’s books and folder and talk to them about not just their understanding, but also how engaged they are in their learning.
What are the inspectors looking at?
Ofsted inspectors look at four main areas: pupils’ achievement; the quality of teaching; the behaviour and safety of pupils; and the quality of leadership and management. They’ll also make a judgement on Early Years provision. ‘From this, inspectors make a judgement on the overall effectiveness of the school,’ Sean explains.
How quickly do schools get the results?
Most schools get a draft copy of the report soon after the inspection. ‘This is an opportunity for them to check it for factual accuracy and make any comments before it’s published,’ Sean says. The final report is then usually sent to the school within 10 days, and published on Ofsted’s website within 15 days, although if a school is judged Inadequate, this can take up to 28 days to allow extra moderation.
What are the possible outcomes?
Schools receive a judgement for each of the four inspection areas, and an overall judgement. There are four categories: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement (previously Satisfactory) and Inadequate. Currently, 17% of primary schools are Outstanding, and 66% are Good.