Ofsted’s Work with Schools: Key findings from the Education Committee’s Report


14th May 2024

A few months ago the Education Committee of the House of Commons published its report on Ofsted’s work with schools, concluding the Committee’s inquiry into how well Ofsted is fulfilling its role and how it could be improved. We set out the key recommendations of the report below.

Recommendations

Some of the recommendations of the report included the following:

  • The frequency of inspections should be reduced, along with better use of risk assessments to identify schools in most need of inspection.
  • Inspectors must fully consider a school’s size and context in reports and judgments, including the number of pupils from disadvantaged groups and those with SEND, and these factors must be visible in the final report.
  • The Department for Education (“DfE”) and Ofsted must undertake a programme of research to fully understand the causes of inspection-related workload pressure and assess what changes could be helpful in reducing this.
  • Ofsted should consider the case for a small increase in the notice period given to schools, with five days put forward as an appropriate suggestion. Ofsted should consider whether schools could be given a specific term in which to anticipate an inspection, and whether smaller schools should be given a longer notice period or greater flexibility around deferrals.
  • Ofsted must ensure that they are matching inspectors’ expertise with the appropriate phase and subject as much as possible and, at a minimum, must ensure that the lead inspector always has expertise in the relevant type of school.
  • Ofsted must ensure that it is publishing as much information as possible to maximise the transparency of its work.
  • Ofsted and the DfE should work together to develop an alternative to the current single-word grade, looking at other jurisdictions to explore what has worked well outside the English context.
  • Ofsted and the DfE should conduct an in-depth review of the complaints process, to include exploring the option of setting up an independent body with the powers to investigate inspection judgments.
  • The DfE must authorise Ofsted to develop a framework for the inspection of Multi Academy Trusts as a matter of urgency and set out a plan for building the appropriate expertise and capacity in this area.
  • Ofsted should review its policy on ‘inadequate’ judgments due to ineffective safeguarding and ensure that schools are only judged ‘inadequate’ in cases where they are fundamentally failing to keep children safe.

Going forward, the Committee will want regular updates on how Ofsted respond to the seven areas of concern set out in the coroner’s regulation 18 report on the death of headteacher Ruth Perry of Caversham Primary School, who took her own life after the school was downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’.

These seven areas of concern are:

  1. Schools that are deemed ‘inadequate’ in all areas can receive the same overall label as a school which is good in all areas but has some safeguarding issues which could be repaired by the time the report is published.
  2. An ‘almost complete lack of Ofsted training or published policy’ in four key areas, relating to identifying and dealing with stress in school leaders.
  3. The absence of a clear path to raise concerns during an inspection if these concerns cannot be resolved with the lead inspector.
  4. The lack of clarity in respect of confidentiality requirements and the need for a written policy in relation to this.
  5. Timescales for report publication.
  6. The absence of a full learning review by Ofsted and the lack of policy requiring this.
  7. An Ofsted witness was unable to clarify what additional support was being provided by the Government to school leaders.

Conclusion on Ofsted's work with schools

It will be interesting to see what further changes are made to inspections following the recommendations of the report and how this changes the current perception of Ofsted by those who interact with it. We can expect Ofsted’s progress in 2024 to be closely scrutinised.

If you would like to read the full report you can do so here. You may also want to read our article on the findings of the Beyond Ofsted inquiry, a separate inquiry into the future of school inspection. You can find it here.

Blake Morgan

At Blake Morgan we have developed significant expertise in advising clients about how to respond to criticisms in the wake of Ofsted inspections and/or pursue their complaints processes. If you have any queries relating to an Ofsted inspection please contact Trish D’Souza, Legal Director in our Education team.

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