What is Ofsted and how does it inspect schools?

Most parents will no doubt already be familiar with Ofsted and it’s bound to be a name that you will keep hearing throughout your child’s secondary school education.

When you start looking at different schools, it’s worth bearing in mind the work they do as you will want to read the most recent inspection report.

Every week the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) carries out hundreds of inspections and regulatory visits at schools throughout England and publishes the results online.

They are public documents so anyone can read them and it can be a useful insight into a school – as long as the inspection was recent as improvements may well have been made in the meantime if it was a less than positive verdict.

All schools are required by law to be inspected but how it is visited will depend on how it has previously been judged.

For example – after a school is rated as outstanding it will then be exempt from routine inspections.

But a school placed in special measures due to concerns about standards, will be monitored and inspected more frequently.

A full inspection normally takes two days. 

When they arrive the inspectors will look at the school’s self-evaluation and analyse the pupils’ progress and attainment. 

They talk to the headteacher, governors, staff, and pupils, and consider your views as a parent.

Inspectors spend most of their time observing lessons and looking at the quality of teaching in the school, and its impact on learning and progress.

They also look at the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils, the promotion of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development; and how well the school is led and managed.

Parents are given the option of providing their views. 

After the visit, the lead inspector reports her or his judgement to the headteacher and governors.

The inspectors’ findings are published in a report for the school, parents and wider community.

This provides information about the effectiveness of the school’s work and contains recommendations about what it should do to improve.

If Ofsted judges a school to be ‘inadequate’, it will be placed in one of the following two categories – special measures or serious weaknesses.

The former means the school is failing to provide pupils with an acceptable standard of education, and is not showing the capacity to make the improvements needed.

Inspectors will visit the school regularly to check progress, until it can be removed from the category. 

It will then be inspected after about two years.

The latter category means one or more of the key areas of the school’s performance require significant improvement, but managers have demonstrated the capacity to improve.

Inspectors will visit the school regularly until it can be removed from the category.

It will be inspected again within 18 months of its last inspection.

If a good rating is given, the school will receive a one-day inspection around every three years.


UNDERSTANDING OFSTED REPORTS


Schools will be graded as one of the below:

Outstanding

Good

Requires improvement

Inadequate


  • Reports are published on the website reports.ofsted.gov.uk and can be found by searching under the name of the school 
  • Ofsted reports directly to Parliament and is independent and impartial
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