Ofsted’s response to consultation on short inspections

Ofsted has today published its response to the consultation on changes to the way in which section 8 “short” inspections for good schools are carried out.

The original proposal was that, rather than scheduling follow-up “conversion” days, normally the following day and certainly within 48 hours, the period would be extended to a maximum of 15 days. In our response to the consultation, SSAT strongly disagreed with this proposal because of the additional burden it would place on staff in the interim period and the concern that attention would be focused on preparing for inspection rather than teaching and learning. One of the drivers of the proposal was the difficulty the 48 hour window posed for Ofsted’s scheduling of inspectors rather than a clear educational reason.

In response to the consultation, Ofsted has decided to retain the current 48 hour window “wherever possible” but has said that it might go up to a maximum of 7 working days “where circumstances dictate that to be necessary”. This clearly goes some way towards addressing SSAT’s concerns although, as ever, the proof of the pudding will lie in how many conversions take place beyond the 48 hour guideline. There is an assurance, however, that, if the follow-on inspection cannot be scheduled within 48 hours, it will not take place later than the end of the week following the initial short inspection.

A second proposal was that some good schools should receive a full, 2 day section 5 inspection. Again, SSAT expressed concerns that this could lead to some schools feeling that they were being treated unequally and that a decision to go for a section 5 could be an indication of the likely final inspection judgement.

Ofsted has decided that this proposal will be implemented and that two day inspections will be scheduled for good schools “where our risk assessment tells us that a short inspection would be highly likely to convert”. Apparently 20% of all good schools currently fall into this category. The risk assessment criteria are under review but you can read Ofsted’s risk assessment methodology; it proved virtually impossible to locate on their website.

They have also announced that an additional inspector will be deployed to short inspections of secondary schools with more than 1100 students to allow more efficient collection of evidence. All these changes will take effect following the October half-term break.

All these changes will take effect following the October half-term break.

As one consultation closes, however, another opens. Because of the current issues with inspectors being held on contingency, stood down at the last minute or unable to commit because they are serving practitioners (who now account for 70% of the inspection workforce), a new consultation has opened on a proposal to reduce the number of short inspections that convert.

If inspectors consider that an existing good school might be found to be inadequate following a second day or if there are serious safeguarding or behaviour concerns, the conversion will take place as normal. However, if inspectors are confident that “an adequate quality of education is being provided, behaviour is good and safeguarding is effective” but not that the school would remain good following conversion, these schools would be given clear areas for improvement, time to address them and then a full section 5 inspection would be scheduled. This would be 5 to 6 years after its previous section 5 and typically within a year or two of the short inspection; in other words, it would not go back into the 3 year short inspection cycle, while retaining its current overall effectiveness judgement of “good” until its re-inspection.

In Ofsted terms, an “acceptable” standard of education takes account of teaching, learning and assessment, outcomes, the curriculum and SMSC. It is not clear at this stage if the same criteria will determine whether a school’s provision is “adequate” or not.

Similarly, if a school is considered to be moving towards outstanding, these areas of strength will be identified in the letter following inspection but there will not be a conversion. The lead inspector will instead recommend that its next inspection should be a full section 5 and the timing for this will be determined by the relevant Ofsted regional director. (As now, schools will continue to be able to request an early inspection via their regional director.)

We would be interested to hear your views on these follow-up proposals before submitting our response to the consultation. We also strongly recommend that you make your own views known directly. The consultation documents can be downloaded at:


It closes on the 8th November and any subsequent changes to inspection practice will be implemented early next term.

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