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School inspections in England: Ofsted

Published Friday, April 20, 2018

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 briefing

This briefing provides background on Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools in England, and looks at recent developments in school inspection. It covers FAQs including:

  • How often are Ofsted inspections carried out?
  • What consequences do the different inspection grades have for schools?
  • What evidence do inspectors look at as part of the inspection process?
  • How does a school complain about an Ofsted inspection?

The briefing mostly covers England. Separate 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.

Inspection arrangements 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 inspections, and is accompanied by separate inspection handbooks for each sector.

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

Consequences of inspections for schools

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, to convert the school to sponsored academy status.

Complaints about Ofsted inspections

Ofsted has published complaints procedures; individuals and schools concerned about inspections should follow these. There are time limits on lodging some complaints.

Complainants unhappy with Ofsted’s response may be able to ask the Independent Complaints Arbitration Service for Ofsted (ICASO) to examine their case, but ICASO cannot overturn an Ofsted inspection judgement. Some complainants may also be able to ask the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) to look at their complaint, but again the PHSO cannot overturn Ofsted’s findings.


Commons Briefing papers SN07091

Authors: Nerys Roberts; Laura Abreu

Topics: Ofsted, Schools

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