The 8 Ofsted inspection changes following Ruth Perry’s death

Everything you need to know about changes proposed by the watchdog

Everything you need to know about changes proposed by the watchdog

12 Jun 2023, 0:01

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An overhauled complaints procedure, earlier re-visits for schools failed on safeguarding and greater clarity on when inspectors will call have been confirmed by Ofsted as it seeks to respond to fierce criticism.

It follows an outpouring of anger towards the watchdog, which has been brewing since March following news of the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Following a meeting with Perry’s family last week, education secretary Gillian Keegan said the government would “take action to offer further support” to school leaders.

She added that she was working to “improve the accountability system”, with some changes “immediate” and others “taking longer”.

Here’s what you need to know about Ofsted and the DfE’s plans.

1. Faster re-inspections for safeguarding failures…

From now on, schools graded ‘inadequate’ overall due to ineffective safeguarding, but where all other judgments were ‘good’ or better, will be revisited within three months of their report’s publication.

Parents will also be informed that a monitoring inspection will happen in the original report.

If a school is able to resolve safeguarding concerns in that time, “it is likely to see its overall grade improve”, Ofsted said.

Ofsted noted that only 1.3 per cent of all state schools were currently judged ineffective for safeguarding, and in the last 18 months, only 12 schools had been judged ‘good’ or better in every area except safeguarding.

But it added: “Although these circumstances are rare, we understand that schools in this situation will want to improve safeguarding quickly and parents will want to know this has been done.”

2. … and academy orders can be revoked

One big concern raised by heads is that ‘inadequate’ Ofsted ratings trigger academisation or rebrokerage to another trust, even if they are later overturned.

If a school is judged to have “successfully” dealt with safeguarding concerns during its monitoring visit, a new inspection report and grade will be issued.

While an academy order will be issued after the first inspection as usual, government has committed that no action will actually be taken on it until the re-inspection.

The education secretary will then decide “whether to revoke any academy order issued to the school, or withdraw any warning notice issued to an existing academy”.

Schools Week understands where a school does improve, the order will be revoked.

3. ‘Greater clarity’ on effective safeguarding

The inspection handbook will also be updated from September to “offer schools greater clarity about the threshold for effective versus ineffective safeguarding”.

Ofsted will also publish regular blogs and host webinars on the issue, with inspector training also reflecting the clarification.

Ineffective safeguarding will also be described “more clearly” in reports to help “reassure parents and others that these judgments are not made lightly”.

4. Consultation to overhaul complaints process

Ofsted has launched a formal consultation today on significant changes to the way it handles complaints about inspections.

It is proposing to replace its current internal review process with a direct escalation to the Independent Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO).

It has also proposed to allow schools to contact Ofsted the day after an inspection if they have “unresolved concerns”.

You can read more about the proposed changes here. The consultation runs until September.

5. Schools told which year they’ll be inspected

As announced by Ofsted’s national director for education Chris Russell in May, Ofsted will give schools more information about the “broad timing” of their next inspection.

Schools will still get one day’s notice, but they will be given more clarity on which year they might expect a visit.

Leaders can usually “roughly estimate” the likely timing, but Ofsted admitted the pause during the pandemic and efforts to inspect all schools by 2025 have muddied the waters.

The watchdog has therefore published a blog post with rough timetables for schools based on when they were last inspected.

For example…

Schools with good or outstanding judgment that had an ungraded inspection recommending a follow-up graded inspection

  • If the ungraded inspection was before September 2021, they will likely be inspected before this September
  • If the ungraded inspection was after September 2021, they will likely be inspected within one to two years

6. Heads told they can share draft report findings

Perry’s family has spoken of the burden she felt as she waited for the report to be published, given she wasn’t officially allowed to talk to them about it.

Ofsted said it would update covering letters that accompany draft reports to “make clear that it is entirely for a headteacher to decide who to share their report with, as long as they are aware that outcomes are provisional until the report is finalised”.

The watchdog will also “provide assurance” to schools that “with a small number of exceptions” staff can choose to be accompanied by a colleague when they talk to inspectors.

It will also host regular webinars to help leaders and staff “understand elements of inspection and address areas of anxiety”.

7. Critical reports will be ‘de-personalised’

The watchdog said it wanted to “de-personalise” language used in inspection reports, amid concerns about the burden placed on individual leaders.

From September, when discussing areas of weakness, inspection reports “will refer to ‘the school’ by default, rather than individuals”.

The contextual information at the end of reports “will also be amended to list all those with responsibility for the school”, Ofsted said.

However, there will still be some instances where leaders or governors are referred to because of their particular responsibilities, such as upholding legislation under the equalities act.

8. DfE expands heads’ wellbeing service

As part of the announcement, the Department for Education (DfE) has expanded provision offered through the government-funded teacher wellbeing charity Education Support.

Its helpline offers emotional support to staff through qualified counsellors.

The DfE said over 1,000 heads had benefited already from £760,000 of investment. Further funding of up to £380,000 will double the number expected to benefit over the next year from 500 to 1,000.

In the longer term, the DfE said it “commits” to a further expansion of its mental health and wellbeing offer beyond this date.

Samaritans are available 365 days a year. You can reach them on free call number 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

Charity Education Support runs a confidential helpline for education staff and teachers – call 08000 562 561. 

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