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Ofsted chief outlines inspection changes

24/03/2014 Kelly
Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has provided more details of the proposed changes to school inspections which were reported earlier in the month.

Sir Michael outlined the reforms in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders conference, in which he argued that institutions which are currently rated as 'good' by Ofsted (60 per cent) should no longer be subjected to routine full inspections.

Under the new system, a full inspection will only be carried out when a steep decline or significant improvement is observed in a good school. Even if some problems are noted in such an institution, a full inspection may not be required if school leaders are being seen to address the problem effectively.

More frequent, light-touch inspections every two to three years are to take the place of the present system. These would be carried out either by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMIs) or a serving school leader working as an associate Ofsted inspector, who would be tasked with engaging in a professional dialogue with senior staff.

Letters would be sent to parents to inform them of the findings of the visits, which are to be "challenging but constructive".

Three important principles are to underpin the planned changes. Firstly, there is a need to undertake a root and branch review of outsourced inspection - an issue which is "too important" for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third-party arrangements.

Secondly, there is to be a move towards more proportionate and risk-based inspection of schools that require greater intervention, along with a gradual shift away from routine 'section five' inspections of good schools.

The final principle is the belief that HMIs should lead the majority of inspections. Accordingly, there is a plan to increase the number of HMI posts over the coming years and include a much larger number of seconded outstanding serving school practitioners.

Similar arrangements to those established for good schools will also apply to those judged 'outstanding' by inspectors. Routine inspections will not be carried out on such institutions, but shorter visits will take place if there is a dip in performance or other concerns are raised.

Sir Michael also called on schools to take more ownership of inspections. He intends to establish a new Fellowship programme to recognise those headteachers who serve the national interest by working with Ofsted to raise standards in England's schools.

Centre-right think tank Policy Exchange recently called on Ofsted to change its inspection regime, recommending the abolition of "unreliable" lesson observations that last less than 20 minutes.

It said there is significant evidence that lesson observations do not accurately reflect the actual progress of pupils in a class. 

The think tank recommended implementing a two-stage approach to school inspections, with tailored inspections being carried out on institutions that fail to perform adequately.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801705851-ADNFCR
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