Ofsted allows newly-trained staff to lead short inspections

Ofsted will allow 25 junior inspectors who signed up to a fast-track training programme with a cash incentive to lead new short inspections.

Payments of £5,360 were made to 25 junior inspectors for a 10-day training programme to prepare them to lead short inspections – a new form of one or two-day visits to schools previously rated ‘good’ – according to a Freedom of Information request by Schools Week.

Less-experienced inspectors would not normally lead inspections, but recruitment issues at the and the new short inspections framework has forced Ofsted to train more junior staff.

The plan was first announced just over a year ago, after Ofsted axed nearly half of its workforce of so-called additional inspectors – external contractors hired to carry out inspections – and brought their jobs in-house. It maintained at the time it was not struggling to recruit.

However the watchdog’s most recent annual report and accounts, released in July, show the it had fallen below its hiring target for short inspections, due to “challenges in recruiting and sourcing high-calibre inspectors”.

Colin Richards, a former inspector, said more than 25 new hires would be needed to ensure that every ‘good’ school would get short inspections within five years of its last inspection, as Ofsted has promised. Day-long inspections such as these are important because inspectors use them to decide whether a school might drop or improve its grade.

Colin Richards

He wants inspectors to be able “fail” their training, so that only decent candidates get through.

His words were echoed by Malcolm Trobe, the deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who said the inspectors needed to be “carefully selected”. Even then, Ofsted must not “over rely” on non-HMI staff, he said.

Details of the training programme undertaken by the new recruits, also obtained by Schools Week, revealed that the 25 inspectors spent the equivalent of just one day out of 10 focusing on short inspections.

Recruits were taught about safeguarding, how to put schools into a “category of concern” and SEND, and were also given a two-hour session on “avoiding complaints” on their fourth day. They also studied the “impact of their body language” when interviewing governors, and how to make sure they left their “baggage at the school gates”.

Although these inspectors will now be able to lead short inspections, a report from a trial run suggests they will still be checked up on to make sure judgments are fair.

Two pilot inspections took place in the south-east and the north-west to assess the effectiveness of new inspectors leading short inspections, the FoI revealed.

These found a “need for specific and tailored training” which accounted for the background and experience of the new inspectors. Meanwhile their first inspection will likely require a “wrap-around” approach to quality assurance.

However, almost every pilot was quality-assured by regular or senior inspector, “and in all cases the judgments reached by Ofsted inspectors were secure”.