Ofsted has today unveiled its new five-year strategy – setting out its key areas of focus until 2027.
The watchdog states that its role to “raise standards and improve lives . . . has become
more important” following Covid disruption and sets out plans to tackle illegal schools, safeguarding failures and evaluate its framework.
The strategy sets out eight strategic priorities, including how Ofsted plans to fulfil them. However, a number of the actions have been announced previously.
Here is what schools need to know:
1. More section 5 inspections to aid ‘professional dialogue’
Ofsted will increase the proportion of graded Section 5 inspections it conducts in order to “allow more time for professional dialogue and evidence-gathering”.
The watchdog said this was part of the £24 million spending review boost, and had been announced before. But it was unable to provide further details.
Ofsted repeated its commitment to inspect all schools by June 2025 and said it will “enhance” its inspections of private schools to ensure “swift intervention can happen where standards are poor”.
The performance of Ofsted’s frameworks, including the education inspection framework (EIF), will also be evaluated.
Ofsted say that as a result of the actions, 90 per cent of providers will agree their inspection will help them to improve standards.
Additionally, nine to 12 months after the inspection “most providers” will agree they made changes to improve standards.
2. More powers to keep children safe
Ofsted will work with the Department for Education to increase its powers to act when children are being educated in illegal schools.
National reports have suggested the inspectorate will receive powers to enter and close illegal schools. Additionally they state inspectors will soon be allowed to seize evidence from the school – a power the watchdog has long called for.
Inspections will look at how schools address harmful sexual behaviour, a change introduced in the wake of the Everyone’s Invited scandal.
Local safeguarding partnerships will be inspected by a new joint targeted area inspection programme while Ofsted will work with other agencies to “ improve sharing of safeguarding information and data-sharing”.
New area SEND inspections were also cited.
3. Work to ensure ‘MATs held to account through inspection’
The strategy promises that Ofsted will continually review its approach and advocate for additional powers where required.
While thousands of schools are now controlled by MATs, Ofsted warns that “the laws that govern how we inspect and regulate have not changed”.
The watchdog says it will “work with the DfE on their regulatory review looking at accountability and regulation of MATs – including how trusts will be held to account through inspection in the future”.
As a result, Ofsted says it will make sure: “MATs are held to account through inspection”.
4. Research remit to be broadened
Ofsted promises to share insights on the long-term impact of Covid and “fill gaps in knowledge by carrying out rigorous research” of areas such as multi-academy trusts and alternative provision.
It will also collaborate with other organisations to “broaden the data we analyse” and “make our own data as accessible as possible”.
These insights will improve practice as they are used by schools, decision-makers and inspectors, Ofsted say.
The inspectorate also promises to create ‘state of the nation’ subject reports to build understanding around the quality of subject teaching.
5. At least 3-year inspector retention target
Ofsted say to complete its “ambitious work programme” it needs a “proactive and flexible” approach to recruit and retain its workforce.
It will also need to “develop specialist knowledge in growing areas of work”, such as MATs.
The watchdog will develop a new workforce strategy to recruit and retain “highly professional, credible people, many with specialist knowledge”.
In turn, Ofsted say the average length of service for inspectors will be “at least between three and four years, with a high proportion of those who leave becoming externally contracted inspectors”.
The watchdog did not state if this represented an increase in the current average service length.
It will also aim to improve the diversity of staff across all grades.
6. Promise to improve early years
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman previously said that early years was “the area in which our work can have the most impact” and it is a key focus of the strategy.
The inspectorate states it will “develop specialist training on early years education” to enhance the understanding of high-quality teaching.
Ofsted also promises to improve the quality of early years providers which in turn will reduce the need for future monitoring and enforcement.