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“Interesting to see that after a year of schools not being inspected, Ofsted find schools have improved” – Nick Brook, NAHT

Amanda Spielman

@Ofsted inspection results show positive picture despite pressures of pandemic – Sector response

Ofsted has today (13 Dec) published data on school inspections carried out since the start of term, which shows that the overall grade profile for schools has improved in comparison with the period prior to the pandemic.

The data shows that, during the 3 months up to the end of November, 83% of schools were judged good or outstanding. This compares with 77% of schools rated good or outstanding between September 2019 – when the new education inspection framework (EIF) was introduced – and March 2020, when inspections were suspended.

The data also shows that schools previously judged requires improvement (RI) or inadequate have done particularly well this term. 72% of previously RI schools have attained a good or outstanding grade since September – compared with 56% during the 2019/20 period, while 56% of those previously rated inadequate have improved to good or outstanding, compared with 40% last year.

For the first time since the government lifted the exemption on inspecting outstanding schools, today’s data includes the new grades for those schools visited this term. Ofsted is currently inspecting previously exempt schools that have gone the longest without an inspection – over half of those inspected this term had not been inspected for over 10 years – so it isn’t surprising that many have not retained the top grade.

At the end of November, 87% of all schools in England were rated either good or outstanding. This is similar to the 86% reported in August 2019, prior to the EIF being introduced and before the pandemic began.

Ofsted has also today published data on post-inspection surveys completed by school leaders since the beginning of this term. It shows that 88% of leaders were satisfied with the overall process of their inspection, and 91% thought that their inspection will help them improve. These figures are similar to the results of surveys completed before the pandemic.

Sector Response

Mary Bousted

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Today’s data release from Ofsted shows that schools and colleges are doing an incredible job in ensuring the education of children and young people continues throughout the pandemic. This is in spite of patchy and frequently unhelpful advice from Government, too often delivered late or during unsocial hours.

“Routine inspections have been an ​unnecessary distraction during this term. Schools have, in too many cases, felt under pressure to divert their time towards preparing for inspection rather than continuing to prioritise support for pupils’ learning. Visits also have a huge impact on the stress and workload of already beleaguered school staff.

“Government has recognised this and has at least paused inspections until January, but they must go further. That is why the National Education Union, alongside the NASUWT, wrote to the education secretary last week calling for a pause on Ofsted inspection until at least after February half-term.

“Education recovery is the most vital work of schools and colleges right now. The rise of Omicron will contribute yet further to the disruption of education, which makes a focus on recovery all the more important. Now is not the time for Ofsted to intrude on the essential service that teachers, leaders and support staff are providing. The inspectorate is simply a burden and should get out of the way.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We’re delighted for schools that have done well in Ofsted inspections this term, particularly as this has been achieved in extremely challenging circumstances. Schools have been hit by wave after wave of pupil and teacher absence because of the impact of Covid, and it is unfathomable that Ofsted has ploughed on with routine inspections regardless. Those schools which have been downgraded may well feel very hard done by. Ofsted says that it takes into account the impact of Covid but as that impact varies to such a great extent this seems to us to be extremely difficult to do in a way that is fair.

“As such, we have repeatedly asked the inspectorate to agree to any request from schools and colleges to defer routine inspections to a later date while this disruption continues. While Ofsted has softened the criteria for deferrals, we do not think it has gone far enough and believe that it should show more empathy for schools and colleges at this difficult time.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“It is interesting to see that after a year of schools not being inspected, Ofsted find schools have improved. This shows not only how hard schools have been working and what a great job they have been doing, but also calls into question the role Ofsted really play in driving school improvement.

“In reality, Ofsted have been more of a hindrance than a help to schools during the pandemic. Inspections are the very last thing schools need given the current Covid situation. School leaders are under enormous pressure just to stay open and minimise disruption for learners. Pupils will be best served by their schools not being distracted by preparation for inspection.

“While Ofsted have paused inspection for the rest of the year, clearly, one week goes nowhere near far enough. This suspension should be extended as long as schools are in the grip of the pandemic, well into the New Year.”

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector, Ofsted

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said:

“I am fully aware that schools are still facing very significant challenges as a result of the pandemic. So, I’m very pleased to report that schools are improving and being recognised for doing so. In fact, inspection results this term are very much in line with what we saw before the pandemic began, if not slightly improved. That will be a reassurance to parents and to schools as well.

“Our inspections are intended to be constructive and supportive, so I’m pleased that our survey results show they are valued by the vast majority of school leaders who have experienced one this term. But inspections are also incredibly important for children, who only get one chance at education and have already lost so much in the last 20 months.

“No two years of inspection outcomes are ever completely alike, because the mix of schools inspected varies each year, but grouping schools by their previous inspection grade makes the data more comparable. The chart below shows the new grade profile for all schools inspected this term, grouped together by their previous grade, alongside the grade profile for schools inspected between September 2019 and March 2020. For example, of schools previously rated RI, it shows that 72% were judged good this term, 27% remained RI and 1% dropped to inadequate.”

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