Spielman rules out 'inspection frenzy', suggesting 'gradual' Ofsted restart

The Ofsted chief inspector has ruled out an “inspection frenzy” when normal business for the watchdog is resumed, suggesting the reintroduction of full inspections could be “gradual”.

Speaking at the Schools and Academies Show this morning, Amanda Spielman said a “lot of people are rightly worried” about allowing the suspension of routine inspections to “be too prolonged”.

She added discussions are under way to bring inspections back in the new year, with consideration over how it can restart “sensitively and sensibly and in a gradual way”.

Spielman said the inspectorate is thinking “very hard about the context schools are working in”, alongside the “very different context across the country… That really matters to us.”

She also assured the watchdog would “absolutely not going to be going out looking to find fault with people about how they’ve handled their approach to the pandemic. [That’s] really important – we’re not going to be retrospectively judging people back on what they did last summer.”

Education secretary Gavin Williamson, speaking at the show earlier today, said his decision on when inspections restart will be made in the coming weeks, adding that Ofsted plays a “vital role as we work through the pandemic”.

But Spielman moved to reassure schools, saying the inspectorate is not “going to put in place a catch up timetables – an inspection frenzy to try and get back to the cycle of inspections that we were on before March.

“Clearly that would not be feasible, and we don’t have the staff to do it – that would put unreasonable pressure on the system.”

Schools Week reported last month that around 4,000 school inspections may have been missed by the time inspections potentially start up again in January.

Ofsted also now additional powers to routinely inspect ‘outstanding’ schools when normal business is resumed. However the government has given the watchdog until 2027 to complete inspecting the near 3,500 ‘outstanding’ schools.

Spielman said that, since Covid hit, Ofsted has “really looked to see how we can be intelligent, proportionate and constructive”.

She said the autumn “visits” carried through the “spirit of the new inspection framework – how can we make a professional dialogue that supports schools?

She said the feedback has been “overwhelming. We’ve achieved what we set out to do – which is to make something supportive and constructive for schools.”