Ofsted is not expecting to resume graded inspections in January, the chief inspector of schools has said.

Speaking at the launch of the watchdog’s latest annual report, Amanda Spielman said Ofsted needed to “take account of the national situation, and we’ve always said that the timing and form of our return was under review”.

I’m not expecting us to be doing graded inspections from January

It comes after Schools Week revealed last month that ministers were considering new proposals from Ofsted for inspections to restart but without grades being issued.

Routine inspections were halted in March following the announcement that schools would close to all but the most vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

Ofsted launched a programme of ungraded visits of schools this term, which moved online following the announcement of a second national lockdown.

Inspections were supposed to resume in January, but with school attendance plummeting and leaders dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks across the country, the government has come under increasing pressure to postpone their reintroduction further.

“I’m not expecting us to be doing graded inspections from January,” Spielman said this morning.

“We need to take account of the national situation, and we’ve always said that the timing and form of our return was under review. We do understand what teachers are going through.”

Spielman also said that when inspectors do return they will “not be looking at the challenges of the lockdown and we will not be expecting people to have performed miracles, but rather to have done their best in the circumstances”.

Asked what form Ofsted’s work would take from January, Chris Russell, the watchdog’s acting national director of education said Ofsted had “a range of other inspection tools that we could use to meet the circumstances”.

“There are many things that we could do short of full graded inspections. And clearly all of those we will be ensuring that we can operate safely within the context of Covid,” he said.

Russell also confirmed that Ofsted felt its current education inspection framework was the “right vehicle” to use once full inspections resume, but said the watchdog would make “any slight modifications” needed as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Spielman also confirmed today that as the national lockdown ends this week, inspectors will resume in-person visits to schools.

“With the reduction in restrictions, we will be going back in for the remainder of the autumn visits.”