Schools could be given up to 15 days to prepare for follow-up Ofsted visits under proposed changes to new short inspections.
The watchdog has launched a consultation on proposals to shake-up the short inspection model, which was launched in September 2015 and involves one to two-day-long inspections for schools previously rated as good.
It follows reports from headteachers and inspectors of challenges with the current system.
School leaders and inspectors have told us that the 48 hour conversion period can be challenging
Under the current system, a lead inspector can call for a full inspection where it is felt that a school may not keep its good rating, or where it could improve to outstanding.
This currently happens in around a third of cases, and a full inspection is conducted within 48 hours.
Ofsted is proposing that, when a short inspection converts, a full inspection will instead be completed within a maximum of 15 working days, giving inspectors between five and ten days’ notice of an inspection.
The watchdog is also suggesting that a full inspection automatically takes place in those instances where Ofsted has “prior evidence that a school is in complex circumstances”, which happens in around one in five cases.
Heads report ‘overwhelming’ process
The conversion period has caused problems for school leaders who work as Ofsted inspectors because it often leads to them being stood down at short notice.
Heads also report that the process can be “overwhelming”, particularly because the decision to call a full inspection is usually taken in the mid-afternoon, and a team of inspectors usually arrives on site early the following day.
It can be a particular burden on large schools, where up to eight inspectors are needed for the full inspection, Ofsted says.
The watchdog also says that in one in five cases, it is already clear that a school subject to a short inspection is facing “complex circumstances that warrant a full inspection”.
“In these cases, moving straight to a full inspection would be less disruptive for the school and a better use of Ofsted’s resources,” Ofsted says.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says the the rapid conversion process has “proved logistically difficult”, with “problems assembling the right inspection team quickly enough”.
“If the proposed change of approach leads to more consistent, more reliable inspections, underpinned by an attitude which is helping a school or college to improve, then we support the rethink,” he said.
Ofsted director admits ‘practicality’ concerns
Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education, claims short inspections have been “widely welcomed” by headteachers, but that his organisation had also heard concerns about the “practicality” of the 48-hour conversion window.
“We’re determined to keep the benefits of the short inspection model. But as we continue to develop an inspection programme that embraces the knowledge and skills of frontline practitioners, we need to make sure it works for those who give up their time to support us,” he said.
The proposed changes would affect all good maintained schools and academies. They would also affect all outstanding maintained nursery schools, special schools and pupil referral units.
Ofsted will pilot the changes in around 35 schools during the summer term.
The consultation closes on August 18, and Ofsted is proposing that if the proposals are accepted, the changes will take effect after October half term.