Exclusive: Ofsted pauses all inspection activity

All routine Ofsted inspections will now be put on hold, Schools Week can reveal.

The watchdog has halted inspections following prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier today to scale up coronavirus prevention measures.

An Ofsted spokesperson told Schools Week they are “putting a hold on all this week’s routine inspections of schools, social care, early years and further education providers.

“We are in discussions with the DfE about the longer-term picture.”

Ofsted had come under fire for not halting inspections sooner. However, on Friday evening the watchdog said it would talk to schools before deciding whether to they had “exceptional circumstances” that warranted a deferral.

It was then clarified on Saturday that the chief inspection Amanda Spielman would personally sign off on any decisions not to defer.

However Ofsted has put all inspections on hold following the government’s announcement this evening to urge further measures to stop the virus spreading, such as social distancing.

Further guidance published by Ofsted on Tuesday stated all inspectors have returned to their schools.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman added: “It’s clearly the right thing to do when teachers and social workers are under pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. We all need to support them in their work.”

She said the inspectorate will monitor what’s happening across education and will “reserve the right to inspect where we believe the safety of children could be at risk, or we have other serious concerns”.

Meanwhile education secretary Gavin Williamson teachers are on the “frontline of our national effort” and the move will “help schools to focus on their core functions at a difficult time”.

UPDATE: The Independent Schools Inspectorate has also deferred all of its inspections scheduled for this week due to the “exceptional circumstances and significant challenges schools are facing”.

Kate Richards, the ISI chief inspector, said the decision was taken by the Department for Education. Schools will be updated with further information “as soon as possible”.