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Ofsted visits to schools and colleges to begin this month

@OfstedNews will be visiting schools and further education and skills providers this autumn term 

Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) will visit around 1,200 schools across England this autumn term, Ofsted confirmed today (2 Sept) as it published operational notes about visits to state schools, further education and skills providers (FES) and independent schools.

Commenting on plans for school visits by Ofsted during the autumn term, with full inspections set to return in January 2021,

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

“We believe that Ofsted visits in the autumn term will be a distraction for schools rather than a support. Publishing the Ofsted letter will make it look and feel like an inspection visit even if it’s not one. Parents are much more concerned to hear from the school itself about how their children are settling back into school with all the challenges that will bring, and schools will be focussed on doing this.

“Schools have enough to contend with at the moment with huge amounts of change being implemented on all school and college sites, and with organising and monitoring classroom/year bubbles on top of teaching and rehabilitating their pupils/students. These visits will just provide additional stress and work for Heads and SLTs who have more than enough on their plates at the moment.

“January is far too soon to return to full inspections of a ‘normal’ curriculum, and we believe that autumn is too soon to begin these visits. Ofsted need to re-think.”

Ofsted aims to tell parents, government and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education of their pupils, the majority of whom have not been in school for more than 5 months due to the impact of COVID-19. The visits, initially announced in July, will include schools of different types and of all Ofsted grades across England. Visits will be based around constructive discussions with the school or college leaders; they are not inspections, so will not result in a grade.

We will notify a school of the visit on the day before and talk about the practicalities of the visit – including any specific considerations related to COVID-19. Normally, 2 inspectors will visit a school for 1 day, when they will have collaborative conversations with school leaders.

On the visit, they will talk about any barriers that the school is facing in managing the return to opening fully, how pupils are getting back into expected routines and their behaviour, and the school’s safeguarding arrangements. Inspectors will also talk to school leaders about how remote learning fits into their wider curriculum plans. After a visit, the inspector will write a short letter, which will be published on our reports website.

Amanda Spielman100x100HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said:

“We are looking forward to visiting schools this autumn term to find out how they are managing the return to school. I’d like to stress that school leaders and teachers should not do anything in advance of these visits, and nor should they prepare any paperwork just for us.

“Schools are busy enough welcoming back children at the moment, and we do not want to distract from that. These visits will be collaborative conversations that will help us all understand how well pupils are getting on as they return to school and get back into routine.”

The first visits will take place at the end of this month. Inspectors will observe social distancing and all other national or local guidance from the government to carry out these visits safely.

Ofsted will be carrying out similar interim visits to FES providers

These will also not involve any graded judgements. They will help learners, parents, employers and government understand how providers are meeting the needs of students and apprentices in this period.

During their visit, inspectors will ask leaders what steps they are taking to provide an appropriate curriculum as they return to full education and training programmes in autumn, and how they are ensuring that young people are learning in a safe environment.

For independent schools, Ofsted is continuing with some additional inspections conducted outside the standard inspection cycle, which may include pre-registration, material change, emergency, and progress monitoring inspections. These aim to help increase the number of school places where they are needed, and to ensure that children are safe. The Department for Education will commission Ofsted for each such inspection.

Full inspection is set to resume in January 2021, but this is being kept under review.

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