Guide to Ofsted’s new common inspection framework

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The new common inspection framework applies to all education inspections and will come into force from September 2015.

It applies to all settings on the early years register, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools, and further education and skills providers.

The aim is to standardise inspection to ensure consistency across different remits, and make it easier to compare the inspection of different providers that cater for similar age ranges and when children and learners move from one setting to another.

Shorter more frequent inspection for schools, academies and further education and skills providers judged good at their last inspection, which will be inspected once every three years.

Full inspections of every non-association independent school by July 2018.

Next steps

  • The Department for Education will lay regulations that will enable short inspections to be conducted for schools judged good at their previous inspections.
  • During the spring and summer terms Ofsted will conduct pilot short inspections under the common inspection framework.
  • Train inspectors so they are ready to inspect under the new framework.
  • Continue to engage with key stakeholders and experts on the proposals.
  • Publish the new common inspection framework and supporting handbooks for each sector during the summer term. Each handbook will set out the evaluation criteria for each remit and the specific ways in which the judgement will be made for each sector.
  • Introduce the proposals in September 2015.


Summary of findings from the consultation report, 'Better inspection for all'

The new Common Inspection Framework

The overall response to the proposals was positive. Nearly 5,000 responses were received and the majority of them supported the plans.

Eight out of ten respondents supported a new common inspection framework, saying it was fair that different remits and settings were inspected under the same framework, and that it would make comparison easier, particularly for parents.

Inspecting the curriculum

Seven out of ten respondents favoured plans to report on the curriculum under the effectiveness of the leadership and management judgement.

Short inspections

Seven out of ten respondents were in favour of short inspections for maintained schools and academies judged good at their last inspection.

More than six out of ten were in favour for good FE and skills providers.

Special schools, pupil referral units (PRUs) and maintained nursery schools that are judged good or outstanding will also have short inspections. (These settings are currently not exempt from routine inspections if they are judged outstanding.)

Ofsted does not propose at this time to introduce any form of shortened inspection for good or outstanding early years settings. However, it intends to return to the issue and inspection of early years settings that are co-located with, or managed by, a school at a later date.

Proposals for non-association independent schools

Nearly three-quarters of providers were in favour of non-association independent schools being inspected under the same framework as all other schools.

Inspector quality and consistency

Many respondents commented that inspector quality and consistency were crucial, and some said this was more significant than the specifics of the inspection process.

Ofsted said it is addressing this and has been increasing the number of inspection teams with at least one serving practitioner.

From September, Ofsted will have individual contracts with inspectors for schools, non-association independent schools, and FE and skills providers, and will train inspectors directly.

Ofsted has previously said that it will consider the future of third-party early years inspection contracts when they end in 2016.

Meanwhile, Ofsted confirmed in October that its own in-house inspectors will take on responsibility for re-inspecting 'requires improvement'nurseries in place of outside contractors Prospects and Tribal.

Ofsted inspectors will also complete all re-inspections of providers judged as inadequate where Ofsted is taking enforcement action.

Inspection of outstanding maintained schools, academies and further education and skills providers

Respondents wanted the proposal for short inspections for good schools and providers extended to those judged outstanding.

However, Ofsted’s inspection of schools is governed by legislation that currently exempts outstanding schools from routine inspection, so any change would require a change in the law.

Ofsted will therefore continue not inspecting outstanding schools routinely. However, it still has the right to inspect if there are concerns or performance drops.

Unannounced inspections

Respondents commented on this issue, although there were no specific questions about this, with strong agreement that Ofsted should carry out no-notice inspections where there are safeguarding concerns. However, there was no clear consensus about the routine use of unannounced inspections. Ofsted will continue to give schools around half a days’ notice, i.e. just after midday on the working day before the inspection, and FE providers two working days’ notice.

However, in early years, Ofsted will move towards aligning the notice of inspection with schools. In all cases, Ofsted can inspect without notice when there are concerns, such as safeguarding.


The early years handbook will set out in particular what will be expected of childminders and other providers. this is in response to calls for more detail on how childminders would be affected by the introduction of the Common Inspection Framework.

New inspection judgements

Fifty-five per cent of respondents supported the proposal to introduce the new judgement on the 'quality of teaching, learning and assessment' from September.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents were also in favour of the introduction of the proposed 'personal development, behaviour and welfare' judgement.

There was strong support across all sectors for the proposed 'outcomes for children and learners' judgement, particularly among early years.

Some respondents were concerned that Ofsted would only look at published assessment and exam data when judging outcomes. While inspectors will use this data as a starting point in all cases, they will reach their final judgement by considering the information and context of the school or provider, as revealed by the full range of inspection evidence.

More detail about how judgements will be reached for specific types of provider will be set out in the inspection handbooks.

Since September 2014, inspection reports have included separate grades for early years and Sixth Form. Seven out of ten respondents supported the proposal for specific judgements for early years and Sixth Form that are part of a school, and specific judgements on areas of provision that will be graded for FE and skills providers. These grades may also affect the overall grade awarded for the school’s provision.

Other comments

Nearly half of all comments related to the 'Don't Stop the Music' campaign, which called for Ofsted to include a specific focus on music in inspections and produce evidence of that in inspection reports. They also said that no school should be judged good or outstanding if it is not at least good or outstanding in music. Ofsted said that it cannot focus disproportionately on an individual subject, but agreed that inspection must take account of whether schools offer a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum.

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