Ofsted has today announced changes to improve aspects of its work with schools. Changes to inspection processes, a revised complaints procedure and new wellbeing investment from the Government, are part of a package of measures being announced following a wide-ranging debate about the impact of school inspections.
This follows the story of Mrs Perry who took her own life while waiting for an Ofsted report to be published which would downgrade her Caversham Primary School in Reading from outstanding to inadequate due to ineffective safeguarding. An inquest later this year will fully consider the circumstances, but her family says the inspection process caused her significant distress.
In April, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman made a statement broadly setting out some changes Ofsted was considering making to inspections. She asserted that they have been in regular discussion with union leaders, other sector representatives and the Department of Education (DfE) about a package of measures to improve aspects of their work with schools.
Revisions to school inspections will cover the following areas: inspecting safeguarding, complaints and information for schools.
Only 1.3% of all state schools are currently judged ineffective for safeguarding, and in the last 18 months only 12 state schools have been judged good or better in every area apart from safeguarding. This figure has remained broadly the same pre-and post-COVID.
New plans will see inspectors return more quickly to schools graded inadequate (within 3 months) where this is only due to ineffective safeguarding, and parents will be informed of this intention in the report. The hope is that if the school has been able to resolve the safeguarding concerns it is likely to see its overall grade improve.
If the school has successfully dealt with safeguarding concerns in that time, this will be recognised through a new inspection report and grading, meaning the school will only have an overall judgement of inadequate for a short period. The Secretary of State for Education will then be able to decide whether to revoke any academy order applying to the school, or withdraw any warning notice issued to an existing academy, and will not have taken any decision pre-empting the re-inspection.
The Department for Education (DfE) already funds the charity Education Support, to provide wellbeing help for school leaders, and that programme will now be doubled in size to support an additional 500 heads by March 2024. In the longer term, the DfE commits to further expand its mental health and wellbeing offer beyond March 2024.
Proposed changes to Ofsted’s complaints process will increase transparency and make it easier for schools to raise concerns. A formal consultation on significant changes to the complaints system is to be launched, aimed at resolving complaints more quickly through improved dialogue between Ofsted and providers, reducing the administrative burden on those making a complaint, and increasing transparency in the process. This could see complaints being escalated to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO) at an earlier point in the process.
Information for schools
Schools will be given more information about the broad timing of their next inspection. Schools will still get one day’s notice of an inspection, but more clarity about the year they are likely to be inspected will be provided. This will be particularly helpful for schools that have been exempt from inspection for many years.
Inspectors will be clear that it is up to a headteacher to decide which colleagues, or others, they share their inspection outcome with – being aware that judgements are provisional until the report is finalised. Provisional outcomes can sometimes change and shouldn’t be published or shared with parents until finalised. This will also now be set out in the covering letter that accompanies draft inspection reports.
From September, when discussing areas of weakness, inspection reports will refer to ‘the school’ by default, rather than individuals. The contextual information at the end of reports will also be amended to list all those with responsibility for the school.
Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education said that Ofsted is crucial to raising school standards and that school leaders must be provided with the support they need. She continued by stating that today’s announcement is a “really important step. I have committed to continuing our work on improving the way we inspect our schools with Ofsted and the family of Ruth Perry following her tragic death”.
Changes to the operation of Ofsted’s processes is crucial and the move to implement measures which will prioritise safeguarding, deal with complaints more effectively and provide more information and clarity on procedures will hopefully see positive outcomes.
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