Ofsted looking at ‘frequent but shorter’ inspections for good providers

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has laid out plans for “frequent but shorter” inspections for good FE and skills providers from September next year.

Sir Michael this morning launched an eight-week consultation on reforms to the education watchdog’s inspection regime intended to give “much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained”.

“Most schools and colleges have been improving over the past couple of years at a faster rate than ever before,” he said.

“This is hugely encouraging and testament to the commitment of leaders and teachers to deliver a higher standard of education for our children and young people. They have responded to Ofsted’s more challenging inspection frameworks, in particular the introduction of the ‘requires improvement’ judgement and our insistence that only good is good enough. This has been central to driving improvement.

“It is absolutely vital that this progress is sustained and that our system does not falter. Over two thirds of good schools and colleges maintain their performance, and so there is a strong case for more proportionate inspections which focus on a professional dialogue between head teachers and inspectors. But by no means all of them do. In the past academic year alone 860 schools we inspected, attended by 335,000 children, declined in performance.

“The time has come, therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and FE and skills providers. These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.

“In particular, inspectors will be looking to see that headteachers and leadership teams have identified key areas of concern and have the capability to address them. For good schools and FE and skills providers who have the capacity to show this, the changes being proposed will mean that there is no longer any need for a full inspection.

“Led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, these short inspections will encourage professional dialogue and the sharing of good practice from across the country. They also mean that we can spot signs of decline early and take immediate action. If we find significant concerns then we will carry out a full inspection. Where we think the school or provider may have improved to outstanding, we may also decide to carry out a full inspection to confirm this.

“At the moment, it can be five years or even more between inspections for a good school or provider. This is too long. It’s too long for parents and employers. It’s too long for us to spot signs of decline and it’s too long for improving institutions to show that they are now delivering an outstanding standard of education.

“Parents and employers also need to know how schools are performing on a more regular basis. Shorter but frequent inspections of good schools and colleges will mean that we can keep them much better informed.”

The shorter inspections plan, which applies to schools as well, would be carried out by no more than two inspectors on site for one day and are likely to take place every three years.

Among the reform proposals is the introduction of a single common inspection framework for nurseries, schools and colleges, as exclusively revealed by FE Week two months ago.

The consultation also sets out proposals for four categories of judgements — leadership and management; teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and outcomes for children and learners.

“I believe that our new inspections should place emphasis on safeguarding, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in fe and skills, and the quality of early learning,” said Sir Michael.2

Only then will we be able to make sure that all children and learners are properly safeguarded and prepared for life in the modern world.”

However, no changes are proposed to the inspection frequency of those providers classified as outstanding, inadequate or requiring improvement.

The consultation is available on www.ofsted.gov.uk and runs until December 5.

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