Ofsted plan for shorter and more frequent ‘risk-based’ inspections

Ofsted’s chief inspector has set out plans for “frequent but shorter” inspections for good schools and colleges from next September.

Speaking yesterday, Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) launched an eight week consultation on reforms (click here) to the inspectorate intended to “maintain and accelerate” improved educational standards in England.

Sir Michael said: “Most schools and colleges have been improving over the past couple of years at a faster rate than ever before. It is absolutely vital that this progress is sustained and that our system does not falter.

“The time has come, therefore, to introduce frequent but shorter inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers.

“These inspections will be different to what has gone before. They will have a much clearer focus on ensuring that good standards have been maintained.

“In particular, inspectors will be looking to see that headteachers and leadership teams have identified key areas of concern and have the capability to address them.

“For good schools and further education and skills providers who have the capacity to show this, the changes being proposed will mean that there is no longer any need for a full inspection.”

The shorter inspections for good schools would be carried out by no more than two inspectors on site for one day and are likely to take place every three years.

“Led by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, these short inspections will encourage professional dialogue and the sharing of good practice from across the country. They also mean that we can spot signs of decline early and take immediate action.

“If we find significant concerns then we will carry out a full inspection. Where we think the school or provider may have improved to outstanding, we may also decide to carry out a full inspection to confirm this.”

The consultation also sets out proposals for four categories of judgements; leadership and management, teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare and outcomes for children and learners.

“I believe that our new inspections should place emphasis on safeguarding, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning.”

In March the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange published a report called ‘Watching the Watchmen: The future of school inspections in England’ which made similar proposals.

Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, told Schools Week: “I am pleased to see Ofsted recognise the need for reform to school inspections. Our recent work recommended a new, two stage inspection process with shorter inspections for stronger schools and more tailored support for those in need.”

In addition, the consultation includes plans to introduce a new common inspection framework from next September which will standardise the approach to inspections for nurseries, schools and colleges.

Sir Michael added: “In the past academic year alone 860 schools we inspected, attended by 335,000 children, declined in performance.”

However, no changes are proposed to the inspection frequency of those providers classified as outstanding, inadequate or requiring improvement.

The consultation runs until the 5 December and is available on the website at


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