Ofsted monitoring inspections will now take place remotely until half term, following a U-turn by the watchdog.
The inspectorate had been due to begin in-person monitoring inspections of schools from next week.
However, Ofsted announced tonight that following a review of its plans, it has decided that “all planned inspection activity will be undertaken remotely until after the February half term”.
The decision was made “in light of a change in emphasis from the government and clear advice to ‘act as if you have the virus’ over the next few weeks”, the watchdog said.
“We have sought regular advice from Public Health England and we remain satisfied that our planned on-site activity would be safe and appropriate under current restrictions. However, the new government messages and the practical challenges of deploying inspectors across England have prompted this change.”
It comes after Ofsted inspectors who are members of the FDA union “voted overwhelmingly” to call on the chief inspector to suspend routine on-site visits “as a matter of urgency”.
Remote inspections of schools will begin from January 25, with a “particular focus on how well children and learners are being educated remotely”, Ofsted said.
“We will inspect schools rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ as planned, but we will also follow up on complaints raised by parents across all grades of school in order to resolve issues. As these inspections will not involve an on-site visit, they will be unable to cover the full scope of a monitoring inspection. We will publish details of the inspection process shortly.”
However, Ofsted will continue to undertake on-site inspections if it has “immediate concerns – for example about safeguarding, the leadership of a school, or a failure to provide education to children”.