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School inspections in England: Ofsted

Published Friday, January 18, 2019

This briefing paper gives answers to some common questions on Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools in England. It looks at the practicalities of inspection and the implications of Ofsted gradings. It also provides information on current topical issues in inspection.

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Scope of this briefing

This briefing provides background on Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools in England, and looks at recent developments in this area. It covers issues such as:

  • The frequency of Ofsted inspections.
  • The potential outcomes for schools after inspections.
  • Recent changes to the way Ofsted carries out its role.
  • Commentary on Ofsted’s impact and effectiveness.
  • Current issues in inspection.
  • It mostly covers England. Separate school inspection arrangements apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Ofsted’s remit

Ofsted inspects all maintained and academy schools in England, and around half of independent schools, against the relevant inspection framework. It also inspects other services, including childcare, social care and further education.

Ofsted’s school inspection framework from September 2015

In September 2015, a new common inspection framework was introduced to cover early years providers, state-funded schools, some independent schools and further education and skills providers in England. This framework sets out the principles behind inspection, and is accompanied by separate inspection handbooks for each sector.

September 2015 also saw the introduction of short, one-day inspections for schools graded ‘good’ at their last full inspection.

A new inspection framework from September 2019

Ofsted intends to introduce a new education inspection framework from September 2019, which will focus more on the quality and breadth of the curriculum. A consultation on these changes is underway and will be open until April 2019.

Consequences of inspections for schools

Currently, there are four overall judgements that Ofsted can reach about schools: Outstanding; Good; Requires Improvement; and Inadequate. Inadequate is further subdivided into two categories, serious weaknesses or requiring special measures.

In line with the Education and Adoption Act 2016, an inadequate overall grading of a maintained school triggers the mandatory issue of an academy order.

Commons Briefing papers SN07091

Authors: Nerys Roberts; Laura Abreu; Robert Long

Topics: Ofsted, Schools

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