Ofsted, the national regulator for education institutions has announced a series of changes to the way they carry out inspections of schools and other educational institutions. These changes come following the tragic death of head teacher Ruth Perry, which raised concerns about the inspection process.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the recent changes are “a really important step” and that Ofsted is committed to continue to improve the process of inspection and raising school standards.

So, what are these changes?

1. Inspecting safeguarding

Two new changes announced:

  • Inspectors will return to schools within three months of an inspection report being published to evaluate progress. If the school has taken steps to resolve the safeguarding issue identified, there is a strong possibility that its overall grade will improve. Where a school does improve, according to Schools Week, any associated academy order for academisation or rebrokerage will be revoked.
  • There is now more clarity in the inspection handbook on the safeguarding requirements for schools and parents about the threshold for ineffective and effective safeguarding.
2. Complaints

Ofsted is introducing a formal consultation on significant changes to the complaints system to resolve complaints made by schools more quickly through improved dialogue between Ofsted and providers. A link to the consultation, which closes on 15 September 2023, is here.

3. Information on inspection timetable

Ofsted has published a timetable to provide an indication as to when schools can expect an inspection. Schools will still get one day’s notice as before, but the timetable will give more clarity about the month and year they are likely to be inspected. More details are here.

4. Inspection reports

Ofsted is currently exploring ways to depersonalise language in their inspection reports to shift focus from individuals and refer by default to ‘the school’. They will also amend the contextual information to refer to all those with responsibility for the school.

Ofsted will also make it clear that headteachers will be allowed to share the provisional outcomes of inspections privately with colleagues and get support from them before the report is finalised and shared with parents. They will also assure schools that staff can choose to be accompanied by a colleague when they talk to inspectors. Ofsted will also host regular seminars to help staff understand the inspection process and address any areas of anxiety.

5. Wellbeing support

The DfE already funds the charity Education Support which supports the well being of school leaders and staff. The DfE has confirmed that the programme will now double in size to support an additional 500 heads by March 2024 and further commits to expand its mental health and wellbeing offer beyond March 2024.

The changes related to increased clarity about the timing of the next inspection and seminars for schools between inspections will take effect immediately. The remaining changes will be introduced from September 2023.

Ofsted says that these changes will make a real difference and will ensure that Ofsted continues to be a valuable source of impartial information, trusted by teachers and leaders. It says that it provides independent, up to date evaluations on the quality of education and that it wants the inspection system to be as helpful as possible to everyone. It goes on to say that the reforms aim to reduce stress for teachers and school leaders around inspection time, while making sure school inspections are rigorous and accurate. While some changes are not immediate, the hope is that it will lead to a safer and more positive environment for both students and staff in the future.

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Esther is an experienced and trusted advisor to the firm’s education clients and supports universities, FE colleges and schools in dealing with a range of sensitive and complex employment and education related issues. As well as being a solicitor, she is a qualified workplace mediator, using her mediation skills to help nip workplace issues in the bud. She also regularly undertakes investigations into matters involving both staff and students.

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Published: 19th June 2023
Area: Education

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