School Inspection September 2015


With the new academic year comes a new Ofsted inspection framework for schools and handbooks for inspectors.

The high-profile changes continue the process of radical Ofsted reform, including:
Proportionate inspection, with the application of HMI-led ‘short’ inspections, supporting the fact that the vast majority of schools are good or better and remain so.
The significantly raised emphasis on safeguarding, which will be central to every inspection.
The emphasis on the duty of schools to prevent radicalisation and extremism. Leaders should note the need for swift compliance with the Prevent duty.
The Common Inspection Framework (CIF) and the guidance within the School Inspection Handbooks indicate a clear drive for consistency, inclusivity, equality, impartiality and the highest professional standards. The key theme is leadership and its impact – that is, how effectively and continuously leaders are improving outcomes for pupils, staff and their school.
It is important for all leaders to have a good understanding of the breadth and depth of the new expectations. On the following pages, you will therefore find a summary of the major changes to the Ofsted inspection process, along with their implications for school leaders, managers and governors. Included also are a number of key questions for leaders, which, if discussed and reflected upon as a leadership team, will help prepare your school to meet the challenges and expectations of the new framework and guidance. All new inspection documents can be accessed online at:
Principle judgements
For all leaders and staff, the single most important point is to focus on ‘impact’ across all aspects of their work, focusing beyond the actions to be taken, or completed, to look at the difference made. Not only is this key to evaluating, informing and securing continual development, but by focusing on this, everyone will be well-prepared for dialogue with inspectors who will be exploring ‘impact’ across all key judgements, as appropriate for the inspection being undertaken.
There are four principle judgements to be made during a section 5 inspection, three of which are new. These are:
Effectiveness of leadership and management, including attention to safeguarding. There is no longer a separate grade for safeguarding, but it is a limiting judgement – as is the school’s provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. If there are important weaknesses in safeguarding or SMSC, the school may be placed in a statutory concern category
NEW: Quality of teaching, learning and assessment. This reflects the pivotal importance of integrated assessment practices on progress and outcomes. It also seeks to explore the extent to which staff embody a culture of ambition to improve.
NEW: Personal development, behaviour and welfare. This reflects links to safeguarding, SMSC, British values and the Prevent duty. It extends to a new emphasis on self-awareness, recognising the impact of actions and understanding how to be a successful leaner.
NEW: Outcomes for children and other learners. This focuses on the effectiveness of progress from different starting points to achieve or exceed standards for their age. It includes evaluation of readiness for the next year/key stage/school, and evaluation against national performance standards and averages.
As before, inspectors will conclude with a judgement of the school’s overall effectiveness, drawing on the four judgements outlined above. Leaders should note that in order to be judged ‘outstanding’, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment must be outstanding. For EYFS providers, this is a change of emphasis.
Section 8 ‘short’ inspections
A new feature of Ofsted 2015 is the short inspection for good schools. This is not a grade changing inspection and is only designed to seek confirmation that ‘the previous grade for overall effectiveness is accurate, the setting remains good, and that safeguarding is effective’.
Safeguarding is a limiting judgement here. If safeguarding is not effective, HMI will always convert the short inspection to a Section 5 inspection.
Effectiveness of leadership and management
Key theme: its impact and capacity to secure ongoing improvement
In all inspections, section 5 or otherwise, the sharp focus will be on the impact of leaders and governors in driving outcomes for pupils, staff and the school. The premise for this is that the quality of leadership and management has a proportionate impact on the other judgement areas.
HMCI, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has emphasised that inspectors are looking for leaders who are accurately identifying weaknesses and have ‘a firm grip on strategies to address them’. The importance of ensuring self-evaluation processes are regular, rigorous and robust is equally stressed.
The contribution of governors to the school’s performance is also evaluated as part of this judgement. Governors should note the expectation that effective governance goes beyond being well-informed and the emphasis on the importance of holding leaders to account.
Key questions for leaders:
How well do leaders at our school establish, pursue and secure the highest expectations and outcomes for pupils, staff and the school?
To what extent do we have a cohesive and accurate understanding of our strengths, our development priorities, the difference we intend to secure and the impact of our actions?
Significant changes and impact
All leaders should be unequivocally clear about the emphasis on and importance of:
1. SMSC development and the development of British values
2. Safeguarding and the Prevent duty.
SMSC and British values
Before making the final judgement on overall effectiveness, inspectors must evaluate the effectiveness of SMSC. The definitions have not changed since they first appeared in the September 2014 framework, but are listed again. Leaders are also specifically required to ‘actively promote British values’. For a definition, see the document, ‘Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools’. Without effective provision for pupils’ SMSC development, schools cannot achieve an overall grade of good or outstanding.
Safeguarding and the new Prevent duty
There are now five key documents which must inform school safeguarding provision and practice, and are essential reading for all leaders and managers. These are:
Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills from September 2015, Ofsted (Updated August 2015):
Keeping children safe in education: for schools and colleges, Department for Education
(Updated July 2015):
Working together to safeguard children, Department for Education (Updated March 2015, now applicable in full to schools):
Safeguarding children and young people and young vulnerable adults policy, Ofsted (Updated July 2015):
Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales, Department for Education (March
The Prevent duty came into force in March 2015, and requires all schools and early years/later years childcare providers, in the exercise of their functions, to pay due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
Under the new Ofsted framework, inspectors are now required to:
undertake an internet check as part of their pre-inspection planning
consider how well leaders and managers have created a culture of vigilance evaluate how well providers fulfil their statutory and other responsibilities.
Evidence sought includes:
  • a positive culture and ethos
  • effectiveness of safeguarding policies
  • quality of safeguarding practice
  • timeliness of response to concerns
  • quality of work.
The document, ‘Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills from September 2015’ (linked above), outlines the responsibilities placed on governing bodies in relation to safeguarding, including the prevention of links to extremism/terrorism and the creation of a culture in which staff are confident to challenge senior leaders over any safeguarding concerns.
Key questions for leaders:
What evidence do we have to demonstrate effective provision for:
1. the development of SMSC and British values; and
2. the effectiveness and impact of our safeguarding?
The quality of teaching, learning and assessment
Key theme: the pivotal importance of integrated assessment practices on progress and outcomes
Underpinning this criterion is the need for teachers to have a good subject knowledge, a secure understanding of progression within that subject, a knowledge of the children’s skills and achievement to date, and the skills to effectively utilise this information to secure the next step.
Of equal importance is the format and use of classroom-based assessment records and how assessment draws on a range of evidence of what pupils know, understand and can do across the curriculum.
For all leaders, it is not enough to have systems or strategies in place; the focus is on the impact. How well do leaders sustain and improve teaching, learning and assessment?
Key questions for leaders:
How well do our self-evaluation processes explore consistency and differences across groups, subjects, and teaching contexts?
In what ways have we improved teaching, learning and assessment and with what impact?
Personal development, behaviour and welfare
Key theme: self-awareness and understanding of the impact of actions
While giving crucially important diligence to the ‘high profile’ focus on safeguarding, leaders will welcome those elements that focus on creating confident, ambitious learners who understand how their actions have a positive impact on their health, learning, relationships and safety.
The emphasis on self-awareness can be seen in:
Attitudes to learning – to what extent does the school’s culture and actions generate pupils who are aware of their attitudes to learning and the impact of these on their progress? Do they want to achieve well? Are they eager to learn?
Behaviour – to what extent does the school develop pupils’ understanding about the impact of actions that create positive, mutually respectful relationships and lead to successful learning?
Welfare – to what extent does the school develop pupils’ understanding of healthy eating, fitness and safety, helping them to reflect on their own actions and the impact of these?
Governors should note that attendance will be scrutinised, not only for its impact on learning and outcomes, but also as part of the inspection of safeguarding.
It is important to note that there are two separate judgements here: personal development and welfare is one, behaviour is the other. The lowest is used as the overall judgement.
Key questions for leaders:
To what extent do our self-evaluation processes regularly and deliberately seek the views of pupils, parents and others in our school community?
In what ways have we improved our provision, why and with what impact?
Outcomes for children and other learners
Key theme: the effectiveness of progress from different starting points to achieve or exceed standards for their age
Progress made from different starting points, by all pupils and by groups of pupils, is the central focus here. In order to make a judgement on this, inspectors will take account of the school’s current standards and progress, including using the provider’s own data, but with limited criteria:
How well pupils progress from their different starting points, and achieve or exceed standards expected for their age
The extent to which pupils attain qualifications that will help them progress to the next stage of their education, including higher-level qualifications and jobs that meet local and national needs.
Points to note:
When evaluating and comparing progress, inspectors will give most weight to the progress of pupils currently in the school – although comparisons will be made with the progress of previous cohorts. They will also expect to discuss information on the progress of all year groups.
Pupil readiness for the next year, key stage or school will be a focus.
Within the 20 specified groups, leaders should identify those that will need to be a focus within their own school assessment, tracking and evaluation processes. Specified groups include the highest and lowest attaining children, SEN groups, EAL and ethnic minority groups, and disadvantaged pupils (i.e. those receiving Pupil Premium funding).
Inspectors will scrutinise pupils’ work to consider how well pupils are on track. Leaders should consider how well their own self-evaluation systems give regular, rigorous and robust attention to this, identifying consistencies or differences across subjects, year groups, contexts and key stages.
Key questions for leaders:
Can we demonstrate that our pupils are progressing well from their different starting points and achieving or exceeding the standards expected for their age/transition to the next stage?
What evidence do we have to demonstrate improvements as a result of action taken?
Inspection timing
The general principle is that a school should be inspected within five years from the end of the school year in which it was last inspected. The timing of an inspection can be informed by an Ofsted risk assessment, which normally begins in the third school year after the most recent inspection.
Behind the introduction of the short inspections is not only recognition of the increasingly high proportion of good or better schools, but the desire to focus Ofsted resources on ‘more frequent checks’ to prevent slippage and support for the schools that do need to improve.
Maintained primary and secondary schools and academies that were judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection are exempt from inspection. Like all schools, however, they are still subject to Ofsted risk assessments, plus triggers such as safeguarding issues or performance.
Short inspections
Under the new Ofsted model, schools rated as good in their last section 5 inspection will be subject to short, one-day inspections approximately every three years. All leaders and staff should be aware that a short inspection does not result in individual graded judgements and does not change the overall effectiveness grade of the school or provider.
There are three possible outcomes for short inspections:
1. The school continues to be a good school.
2. The school remains good and there is sufficient evidence of improved performance that it is reasonable to believe the school may be judged outstanding. The short inspection will be converted to a section 5 inspection, usually within 48 hours.
3. HMI have insufficient evidence to satisfy themselves that the school remains good, or there are concerns. The section 8 short inspection will be converted to a section 5 inspection, usually within 48 hours.
The sole principle judgement in a short inspection is the effectiveness of leadership and management. It addresses:
pupils’ SMSC development, including the development of British values
support for disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils
how well the school sustains and improves the quality of teaching, learning and
the contribution and impact of governors.
Please note: Schools with a religious character will be inspected separately under section 48 of the Education Act 2005.
Inspector meetings with governors
These take place without the headteacher or senior leaders. It is crucial, therefore, that governors are able to talk with confidence and accuracy about their school and the impact of their work as leaders.
In these meetings, HMI will test whether leaders and governors have identified weaknesses or areas needing development at the school and are tackling them quickly and effectively.
This means a secure understanding of school strengths and areas for improvement, as well
as a ‘hands-on’ approach to action.
Key question for leaders:
What does our evidence say about us and how are we using this to focus and drive improvement?
Key question for governors:
What have we done, why and with what impact?
What documentation is required?
For short inspections, schools will be notified at or shortly after midday, the day before the inspection will begin. For Section 5 inspections, schools will now be notified of inspection during the afternoon before the inspection begins.
The school improvement plan and a summary of the school self-evaluation are required to be available for the start of the inspection. For the full list of school-based documentation to be
made available to inspectors, see page 16, paragraph 38 of the section 5 School inspection handbook.
Key question for leaders:
To what extent does our self-evaluation succinctly summarise impact, evidence and next steps?
Have we got clarity about our key school improvement priorities, the intended difference to be secured, how we will get there and any impact to date?
Pre-inspection information
The lead inspector will prepare for the inspection by gaining an overview of the school’s recent performance and any changes since the last inspection. He or she will look at:
the school’s previous inspection report
findings of any recent Ofsted survey
Parent View 
data from RAISEonline
data on attendance and exclusions
issues raised by or the findings from the investigation of any qualifying complaints
information available from the Provider Information Portal
the wider contextual influence of Local Authority performance
information on the school’s website.
Parent View
Leaders are becoming increasingly attentive to the information presented on Parent View.
Responses from Parent View do inform pre-inspection planning, and, although inspectors do not investigate individual complaints, any wider issues raised will be taken into account.
During an inspection, however, inspectors will consider findings from the school’s own parent and pupil consultations or surveys.
Key questions for leaders
To what extent does information on Parent View celebrate our school’s strengths and the quality of our provision?
How well do we use our website to communicate information, to celebrate successes, and to support aspirations and achievement?
Judgements and implications
The now familiar four-point grading scale will be used in all section 5 inspections to make the principle judgements:
grade 1: outstanding
grade 2: good
grade 3: requires improvement
grade 4: inadequate