Ofsted 'interim visits' for 1200 schools during autumn term

Ofsted has announced plans to undertake ‘interim visits’ to more than a thousand schools before Christmas, including all schools currently graded inadequate. However the visits will not be inspections and will not result in a grade being given to the school. Instead they will be ‘based around constructive discussions with the school or college leaders’, the inspectorate says.

The visits will begin from 28 September 2020, and continue until December 2020. Schools will be notified they are to be visited the day before, and will have the ability to request that the visit is deferred. There will usually be two Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) who will visit the school for one day, and among the topics which they will discuss with school leaders will be any barriers that the school is facing in managing the return to opening fully, how pupils are getting back into expected routines and their behaviour, and the school’s safeguarding arrangements. Inspectors will also talk to school leaders about how remote learning fits into their wider curriculum plans, and about provision for pupils with SEND.

The visits will not involve visiting lessons or looking at pupils’ work. HMIs will also not meet with governors, trustees, MAT leaders etc, unless such meetings are requested, and there will also be no parent, pupil or staff questionnaires undertaken. Ofsted have said that schools will not be required to conduct any preparation in advance of a visit. Following each visit the lead HMI will write a short letter summarising their discussions with school leaders, which will be published on the Ofsted reports website.

HMIs will visit around 1200 state-funded schools during the autumn term. There will also be visits to further education and skills providers (FES) and independent schools. Ofsted intend for the state-funded schools visited to be a broadly proportionate representation of the sector, with schools from different regions and geographical features (e.g. cities, coastal towns, rural etc). Schools across all Ofsted grades can be visited, and all schools currently graded inadequate will receive a visit. As they are not full inspections, no schools will be legally exempt from the visits. At present the intention is for Ofsted to resume full inspections from January 2021, but the inspectorate say this is being kept under review.

Announcing the details of the interim visits, HM chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: ‘We are looking forward to visiting schools this autumn term to find out how they are managing the return to school. I’d like to stress that school leaders and teachers should not do anything in advance of these visits, and nor should they prepare any paperwork just for us. Schools are busy enough welcoming back children at the moment, and we do not want to distract from that. These visits will be collaborative conversations that will help us all understand how well pupils are getting on as they return to school and get back into routine.’

However, despite these assurances that no preparation is required, there is concern among some sector unions that the interim visits will be a burden on schools. Responding to the announcement Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  ‘We believe that Ofsted visits in the autumn term will be a distraction for schools rather than a support. Publishing the Ofsted letter will make it look and feel like an inspection visit even if it's not one. Parents are much more concerned to hear from the school itself about how their children are settling back into school with all the challenges that will bring, and schools will be focused on doing this’.

More details of Ofsted interim visits: https://tinyurl.com/yx9a9mm8

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