ASCL (@ASCL_UK) has called on Ofsted (@Ofstednews) to defer school and college inspections on request because of the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ofsted resumed all types of routine inspections in September 2021, after they were suspended in March 2020 during the first school lockdown. Around 500 inspections took place between September 2021 and October half-term.
During the autumn term Covid has caused increasingly high levels of pupil and staff absence. The latest set of government statistics showed that 248,000 pupils were out of school because of the virus in the week before most half-term breaks took place.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“Ofsted has to recognise that it is not business as usual in schools and colleges and that many are experiencing huge disruption.
“Lots are juggling online learning and in-person teaching with different groups of pupils at different points in time and with fewer staff available.
“It isn’t fair to insist that schools must be inspected when they are in crisis mode. They need to be able to focus their time and energy on the core business of teaching and supporting children, rather than having to deal with inspections that could easily be done at another time.
“Inspectors won’t be able to form a valid judgement because they aren’t seeing the school as it operates normally. An inspection in these circumstances just adds to the pressure and could end up unfairly punishing a school if it results in an adverse judgement.
“Ofsted introduced changes into inspection handbooks at the start of this term to take coronavirus into account but these changes don’t go far enough in recognising very serious disruption.
“The circumstances vary between schools so we are not calling for a general moratorium on inspections, but for Ofsted to grant deferrals on request. There is a deferral process already in place but the bar for deferrals is set very high and isn’t suitable for this situation.”
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“Ofsted inspections are a distraction to schools while they are still struggling to cope with the impact of Covid and are rightly putting all their efforts into pupil’s recovery.
“The government should back schools and children by pausing inspection, so that all the focus can be where it should be: on the most important task of helping children’s education and wellbeing to recover.”
ASCL has written to Ofsted formally requesting this change in policy. The only exception would be where there are serious safeguarding concerns or concerns about a breakdown in leadership and management. In these circumstances, ASCL would continue to support immediate inspections.