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Scope of briefing

This briefing provides background on Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools in England, and looks at recent developments in school inspection. It covers issues such as:

  • The frequency of Ofsted inspections
  • The potential outcomes for schools after inspections
  • The types of evidence inspectors look at as part of the inspection process
  • Recent changes to the way Ofsted carries out its duties
  • Current issues in inspection

It mostly covers England. Separate school inspection arrangements apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ofsted’s remit

Ofsted inspects all maintained and academy schools in England, and around half of independent schools, in line with the relevant inspection framework. It also inspects other services, including childcare, social care and further education.

A new inspection framework from September 2019

Ofsted introduced a new Education Inspection Framework in September 2019. The new framework has a greater focus on the quality and breadth of the curriculum.

Consequences of inspections for schools

Currently, there are four overall judgements that Ofsted can reach about schools: Outstanding; Good; Requires Improvement; and Inadequate. Inadequate is further subdivided into two categories, serious weaknesses or requiring special measures.

In line with the Education and Adoption Act 2016, an overall grading of inadequate for a maintained school triggers the mandatory issue of an academy order.

Proposals to remove outstanding schools’ exemption from routine inspection

Currently, mainstream schools judged outstanding at their last full inspection are exempt from further routine inspection. This means that some outstanding schools have not been inspected for considerable periods; the Department for Education (DfE) has said that around 1,000 exempt schools have not been inspected for a decade or longer. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has called for the exemption to be removed. In January 2020, the DfE launched a consultation on removing the exemption. This will close on 24 February 2020.


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