It follows concerns by school leaders and inspectors over the practicalities of the current model when a short inspection is converted into a full inspection, requiring the inspection to be completed within 48 hours.
Short inspections were introduced by Ofsted in September 2015, under the new common inspection framework, for schools previously rated good, and maintained nursery schools rated good or outstanding, to reduce the burden of a full inspection. They last for one day and begin with the assumption that the setting will retain the same judgement.
While Ofsted says that most schools inspected in this way keep the same grade, currently one third of short inspections are converted to full inspections when the lead inspector decides there is insufficient evidence to confirm the school or setting should retain its previous rating, or thinks the school may now be outstanding. A team of inspectors then arrive at the school or setting within 48 hours to gather more evidence and reach a final judgement.
However, Ofsted says conversions can prove challenging for school staff and inspectors. This is because inspection schedules often change last minute, which can mean standing down inspectors at short notice, many of whom are busy school leaders who have booked time off to inspect. Also, the decision to convert a school inspection is usually taken mid-afternoon, and a team of inspectors then arrives at the school or setting early the next day, which schools staff have told Ofsted can be overwhelming.
According to Ofsted, in 20 per cent of cases before a short inspection take places it is already clear that a school or setting is facing complex circumstances that warrant a full inspection. In these cases, the inspectorate says moving straight to a full inspection would be less disruptive and a better use of its resources.
The consultation, which is open until 18 August, puts forward two proposals to improve the conversion process, they are:
- extending the time a full inspection, when converted from a short inspection, must be completed from within 48 hours to within a maximum of 15 working days. This would allow Ofsted to give inspectors five to 10 days’ notice of an inspection, and provide more certainty about the number of days they need to be away from their own school. Although where an inspection converts because of safeguarding concerns, the full inspection will still complete within 48 hours;
- putting in place an automatic full inspection in around one in five cases where Ofsted has prior evidence that a school or setting is in complex circumstances. Ofsted would select these schools and settings through its standard risk assessment process.
The inspectorate says it will continue its current practice of having a small team of inspectors carry out a converted inspection at very large schools over two days, rather than a large team over one day, which schools can find particularly overwhelming.
Around 35 schools are currently piloting the proposed changes, which if accepted, are expected to take immediate effect after the October half term this year.
Ofsted’s national director of education, Sean Harford, said, ‘Short inspections are collaborative experiences, encouraging dialogue between inspectors and school leaders. And they’ve been widely welcomed by head teachers. But we’ve also heard concerns about the practicality of the 48-hour conversion window.
‘We’re determined to keep the benefits of the short inspection model. But as we continue to develop an inspection programme that embraces the knowledge and skills of frontline practitioners, we need to make sure it works for those who give up their time to support us.
‘We are confident that these changes will ensure we use limited inspector time as efficiently as possible, while also reducing the burden on schools.
‘These are not fundamental changes; the inspection methodology will stay the same. And most good schools will still receive short inspections, and most will stay good.’
- To contribute to the consultation click here