Coronavirus: Ofsted says inspections may be deferred

Ofsted will talk to headteachers before inspections to work out if the impact of coronavirus warrants a deferral to a later date, new guidance states.

The watchdog has issued advice to schools, stating that the impact of coronavirus could be considered an “exceptional circumstance” warranting a postponement.

Ofsted sparked anger earlier when the inspectorate tweeted that it was operating “business as usual”.

But in its new guidance, published this evening, Ofsted said the spread of the virus “presents serious challenges for providers that are affected”.

“In line with the potential for this to be an ‘exceptional circumstance’, we will carry out a risk-assessment with the providers when we announce the inspection. This will give the leaders/managers of providers the opportunity to inform Ofsted about any current coronavirus impact on their provision.

“Using this information, we will make an assessment and a deferral decision, as appropriate. When inspections go ahead, inspectors will be sensitive to increases in user absence or absence of key staff, and will reflect this in the inspection report.”

The guidance has been reissued to provide the update on coronavirus.

However the guidance goes on to state that bids to defer a planned inspection on the grounds that the headteacher, centre manager, childcare provider, nominated individual or similar authority is not present “will not be accepted because users are still receiving services from the provider“.

“In the case of illness or death of the headteacher, centre manager, childcare provider, nominated individual or similar authority, the relevant director will determine whether the inspection will take place.”

Schools Week understands the latter guidance has always been part of Ofsted’s policy.

UPDATE: Ofsted has apologised and amended its guidance to take out the reference to the potential death of headteachers.

Ofsted has also issued new guidance to its inspectors, stating that the “first point” of discussion for lead inspectors when they phone schools about future visits will be the “current and potential impact of coronavirus on the operations of the provider”.

Requests for deferral “must then be relayed to the regional duty desk who will make a final decision”, the guidance states.