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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
  • 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, including the resumption of routine inspections in the autumn 2021 term, and Ofsted’s role in relation to multi-academy trusts (MATs). 

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.

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.

Routine inspections resume after pandemic disruption

During the pandemic, Ofsted’s programme of routine school inspection was paused. Some limited on-site school inspections started again from May 2021; the programme of routine inspection is resuming in the autumn 2021 term.

A new inspection framework from September 2019

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

Removal of outstanding schools’ exemption from routine inspection

Until November 2020, mainstream schools judged outstanding overall, at their last full inspection were exempt from further routine inspection. They are now subject to routine inspection again. For most formerly exempt schools, this will be under a different inspection framework than was in force at the time of their last full inspection.

As at 21 March 2021, around one in five state-funded schools were graded outstanding overall, and 22 per cent of state-funded school pupils were at these schools. 

Documents to download

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