Ofsted

Ofsted inspectors will take Covid-19 tests before carrying out on-site monitoring visits later this month, the watchdog has announced.

The inspectorate’s new ‘supportive’ monitoring visits will begin from January 18, despite partial school closures having been enacted last week.

We are arranging a testing programme, which will enable inspectors to take a test before face-to-face visits

New guidance from Ofsted confirms that inspectors will visit school sites as “some aspects of a visit can only be done on site, so we will continue to visit in person where we can”.

To accommodate these visits, Ofsted has said its inspectors will be given “up-to-date guidance on safety and supplied with PPE”.

“We are arranging a testing programme, which will enable inspectors to take a test before face-to-face visits”, the guidance adds.

The site visits or inspections will be “risk assessed based on the nature of the premises and the urgency of the work” and leaders may ask for a deferral if “for any reason a visit is not possible”.

Geoff Barton, general of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the union is ” at a loss to understand why these visits need to happen in person”.

“When the Prime Minister announced the new national lockdown, he instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Surely, in-person Ofsted visits are not the most pressing priority in the midst of a national crisis, and it would be more sensible to conduct these remotely while the lockdown restrictions are in place.”

Last week Gavin Williamson announced that parents who feel their child’s school isn’t providing “suitable” remote education can report them to Ofsted.

The new guidance explains the monitoring visits will “look at how well schools are educating pupils in the current circumstances – which for most pupils means being educated remotely”.

Ofsted to check on remote education

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Gavin Williamson

The Department for Education published updated expectations for remote learning last week, including an increase to the number of hours schools are expected to provide, and details of daily checks on whether pupils are engaging in work.

The watchdog added it will consider complaints made by parents about remote education in order to “help resolve issues and make sure children are being well served”.

However the guidance advises that parents should first raise any concerns with a teacher or headteacher.

This morning Ofsted also released a short guide for schools on what is working well within remote education.

Advice includes dividing content into smaller chunks as pupils find it harder to concentrate when being taught remotely and that feedback and assessment are “still as important as in the classroom”.

Schools Week revealed on Friday that parents had turned the tables on Williamson by contacting Ofsted to praise schools and complain about his performance – with the inspectorate being deluged with 5,000 emails.

It is understood the inspectorate is currently working through the backlog to sort the positive messages from genuine complaints.

Under the new monitoring inspections, schools will not receive a grade. However, the latest guidance confirms Ofsted’s routine inspections are still slated to return in the summer term.

The guidance also states that Ofsted will introduce full graded inspections of initial teacher education (ITE) under the new ITE inspection framework from April.

Prior to the inspections the watchdog will carry out a “a thematic survey of ITE providers from January 2021” which will focus on how Covid-19 has affected the provision of ITE.

The findings will be published in a report in April.