Early years settings, schools and colleges will share common inspection framework

Early years settings will be inspected under a new common inspection framework alongside schools and further education colleges, in plans put out for consultation by Ofsted today.

Schools and further education and skills providers with good grades will also receive more frequent but shorter inspections every three years.

Although there are no plans to introduce this for early years providers with good grades at this time, Ofsted said it intended to return to the issue and the inspection of early years settings that are co-located with and managed by a school, at a later date.

However, the proposal for shorter, more frequent inspections does not apply to outstanding provision, as this would require a change in law.

As already confirmed, Ofsted will bring inspections in-house for schools and FE providers from September 2015, with the majority of inspections led by HMIs.

Ofsted said it would consider the future of early years inspection contracts when they end in 2016.

The new Common Inspection Framework will be adapted to suit nurseries, schools and colleges, including the independent schools that Ofsted inspects, making it easier for parents, employers, pupils and learners to compare different providers and make more informed choices.

Setting out the consultation proposals, Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said, ‘I’m determined to use inspection to challenge the system to do better, ’ and said that ‘good was now the only acceptable standard.’

He said that the change from satisfactory to requires improvement had ‘galvanised the system to do better’ and had ‘a profound effect on improving standards.’

More than 750,000 children were now in schools that had improved since the requires improvement grade was brought in, proving that inspection works, he said.

But Sir Michael added that he was worried that some schools could ‘slip’ back.

In the past academic year, 860 schools that were inspected, attended by 335,000 children, had been downgraded.

‘The time has come therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers. These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained,’ he said.

If Ofsted finds significant areas of concern, inspectors will carry out a full inspection.

Sir Michael said that they would not be ‘drive-by inspections’, but would be rigorous.

He said that if inspectors found no credible plan for improvement the lead HMI would call for a Section 5 inspection.

Where schools have improved to the point where they would be likley to be judged outstanding inspectors can recommend a full inspection.

There will be four categories of judgement: leadership and management; teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; outcomes for children and learners.

However, guidance for inspectors in inspection handbooks will be specific for each remit to reflect the needs and expectations of different phases and age groups.

Short inspections for primary schools will last one-and-half days, while secondary school inspections will last two days. They will receive half-a day's notice.

After good schools have received three short inspections in a row, Ofsted may go to a full unspection.

As of 1 September, schools with EYFS provision have received a separate grade for this, which will contribute to the judgement about the overall effectiveness of the school and this is expected to continue.

Sir Michael also confirmed that he had decided not to consult on carrying out no-notice inspections.

In the wake of the 'Trojan Horse' schools' affair, 40 schools have received no-notice inspections. The chief inspector confirmed that he intended to carry out more of these in the next year, where Ofsted's local intelligence suggested concerns.

As already announced,  schools will no longer have to register provision for two-year-olds separately, under changes proposed by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill and subject to Parliamentary approval.

Schools’ provision for two-year-olds that is on the Early Years Register will now be inspected as part of a school inspection using the new Common Inspection Framework.

Commenting on the importance of the consultation for early years providers, Nick Hudson, Ofsted’s director of early years, said, ‘This framework we’re consulting on will apply to all early years settings.’

He added, ‘We will look at harmonising notice across remits where it’s appropriate. I will expect that we will get a response on that from the sector. What we’re indicating here is that we’re interested in views about harmonising those notice periods.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, ‘Ofsted has missed the opportunity for the major reform it promised, and that teachers and learners desperately need.’

The union has called for local inspections with Ofsted evaluating them.

‘Ofsted’s proposed reforms fail to deal with quality assurance problems in its inspection regime, its deliberate attempts to lower teacher morale, and the fear it inflicts on school and college leaders. None of this helps teachers to do a better job, and too often it damages children’s education.’

It said that the proposals were ‘nowhere near radical enough’ but was heading in the right direction with some of the proposals.

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