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Ofsted will not return to a full programme of graded inspections until September

@Ofstednews will inspect schools and further education & skills (FES) providers in the summer term to provide reassurance about how well children and learners are catching up, but it will not resume a full programme of graded inspections until September.

The majority of summer term activity will remain lighter-touch, monitoring inspections

The Education Secretary has today (29 March) confirmed his request that Ofsted step up its inspection programme over the summer term, with a view to returning to a full programme of inspections from September 2021.

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“I have asked Ofsted to resume inspections in the summer term in a way that is fair and proportionate to schools and other settings that we know are still emerging from the immediate impact of the pandemic, whilst making sure parents have the necessary reassurance that only Ofsted can bring.

“I will continue working closely with HM Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, to make sure plans are in place as we work towards the inspection regime returning in full from September.”

Amanda Spielman100x100Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said:

“Inspections play an important role. They look at the quality of education received by children, they provide information to parents and the government, and they help headteachers identify areas for improvement.

“Our inspections this summer will recognise the current challenges facing schools and help support the catch up of all pupils. We will not grade schools before the autumn – unless we see significant improvement or we identify significant concerns. This continues our step-by-step approach towards a full programme of graded inspections in the autumn.”

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said:

“Schools have recently returned to onsite education and are fully focused on supporting their pupils as we emerge from lockdown. It is critical that any activity by Ofsted helps, not hinders, those recovery efforts.

“Not visiting secondaries while they undertake the challenging task of grading GCSE and A Level students, is the right thing to do.

“On its plans for monitoring inspections, the most important thing is for the inspectorate to engage properly with the profession in shaping the amendments to inspection methodology and handbooks, to ensure that monitoring inspections take full account of the extraordinary situation in which schools are operating.”

KevinCourtney100x100Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“It is widely accepted that education recovery is not a one-term effort, and so we believe that by September, Ofsted inspections will still be an unnecessary pressure on staff who must be allowed to concentrate on this vital work. Worse, inspections would constitute a hindrance, particularly as the intention is to revert to using the Education Inspection Framework.

“We have long warned that this framework is extremely difficult for primary schools and will force more schools to take their focus away from the needs of the children they teach and towards a rigid view of curriculum. It is all too clear that in its efforts to appear relevant, Ofsted will simply redouble the negative consequences of inspections on teacher and school leader workload.”

During the summer term, the majority of Ofsted’s activity will continue to be lighter-touch monitoring inspections, as have been in place since January, with a fuller inspection only taking place where there has been a clear improvement from a current Inadequate or Requires Improvement rating, or where there are serious concerns, particularly in relation to safeguarding.

This approach balances the needs of parents and carers to have confidence that standards are being met, alongside schools’ and the wider education sector’s continued prioritisation of their students’ recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

Ofsted has set out further detail of its plans for the summer term, covering the full range of its inspection activity, including state and independent schools, further education providers, early years and initial teacher training.

Ofsted is currently running pilot inspections, as it finalises its approach to making sure inspections and judgements over the summer term are sensitive to the context of the pandemic. Ofsted will publish its updated inspection handbooks next month.

The Department is expecting schools and other settings to be returning as quickly as possible to a full breadth and depth of provision, whilst considering additional interventions that need to be put in place to meet students’ needs in light of the pandemic, for example around attendance or behaviour policies that support young people to quickly re-engage with education. This will be particularly important in helping students who have fallen behind to receive academic and pastoral support, which can only happen when students are in regular attendance at school or college.

Following extensive discussion with government and education leaders, Ofsted today confirmed that it will undertake on-site, lighter-touch inspections in the summer term. Unlike ‘full’ inspections, these visits will allow inspectors to assess how well schools and FES providers are educating their learners and keeping them safe, but they will not result in a grade.

However, where the evidence strongly suggests that a school’s current grade is no longer a fair reflection of its work – for example where the school is graded ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ but has clearly improved – inspectors will be able to convert to a full, graded inspection either immediately or later in the term. As always, Ofsted will do the same if a visit to a higher-graded school highlights a significant cause for concern.

Ofsted is currently piloting some limited changes to inspection methods to take account of the challenges raised by COVID-19. An updated set of inspection handbooks with full details of these changes will be published after the Easter break. Ofsted is also working closely with Sir Kevan Collins on how its work can support the longer term education recovery.


Any graded inspections carried out in the summer term will maintain the 4 key education inspection framework (EIF) judgements, but with additional flexibility in recognition of current contexts.

All inspection activity will typically be on site. Before the inspection, providers and inspectors will agree safety measures to ensure the inspection is COVID-19 secure. Inspectors will also take a lateral flow test before arriving at the setting.


Monitoring inspections will begin from 4 May, under the EIF. These will not result in a change of grade.

Where inspectors find evidence that an inadequate school has improved, they can convert the monitoring visit to a full inspection, which would be graded. If schools judged ‘requires improvement’ on 2 or more consecutive occasions are found to have improved, inspectors will recommend that a full inspection is carried out before the end of the summer term.

Ofsted will also inspect ‘good’ schools that, due to the pandemic, have not had an inspection within the statutory 5-year window.

Ofsted will also inspect some ‘outstanding’ schools that request an inspection, prioritising those that have gone the longest without an inspection.

Other than where significant concerns are raised, Ofsted will not inspect secondary schools during the first half of the summer term, to allow them to focus on teacher-assessed grades.

Ofsted will continue to prioritise emergency inspections of all schools where significant concerns are raised.

Further education providers

New provider monitoring visits (NPMVs) will continue throughout the summer term. And Ofsted will continue to conduct emergency monitoring visits or full inspections of providers where serious concerns are identified.

From 4 May, monitoring visits to requires improvement and inadequate providers will also resume, where appropriate.

Full EIF inspections of new providers that have had an NPMV will also begin in the summer term.

Early years

Graded inspections of some registered early years providers will begin from 4 May. Ofsted will continue to carry out urgent inspections where there are significant concerns about a provider.

Non-association independent schools

Additional inspections of non-association independent schools, as commissioned by DfE, will continue throughout the summer term. And from 4 May, standard inspections of some independent schools will resume.

Initial teacher education

Initial teacher education (ITE) inspections will begin from 4 May. These will be carried out in line with Ofsted’s new ITE inspection framework.


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