Closed petition Suspend all Ofsted inspections from now until September 2022

School leadership teams are struggling to cope with the pressure of managing the impact of COVID. Many school leaders are exhausted. Managing the constant change, COVID and the loss of staff, in school assessment (Exams and SAT’) plus the demands of Catch-up. The stress is a serious welfare concern.

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Suspend Ofsted from now until September 2022. Ofsted could instead provide schools with support on Catch-Up and their journey back to some degree of normality in our school. If stress levels are not reduced our schools management could be in danger of a catastrophic collapse.

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Government responded

This response was given on 15 December 2021

Ofsted provides vital independent assurance about the quality of education and safeguarding in schools, as they respond to the pandemic. There are no plans to suspend inspection until September 2022.

The Government recognises the huge and ongoing efforts made by school leaders, teachers and staff, who are striving every day, to give pupils the education and support they need during this unprecedented period. Every part of the education system, including Ofsted, has an important role to play in making sure pupils are receiving the best possible education and are kept safe.

As has already been announced, Ofsted will not inspect in the last week of this term, to allow schools to put in place contingency measures for January, in the context of the Prime Minister’s wider announcement on the pandemic response. In addition, Ofsted will not inspect secondary schools during the first week of schools’ return in January, while they undertake on-site pupil testing. There are, however, no plans to suspend Ofsted’s inspections more generally.

Ofsted inspection provides independent assurance about the quality of education and safeguarding in schools. That is particularly important in the context of the pandemic precisely because of the impact it has had, and continues to have, on pupils’ education. School inspection provides important recognition of the work of schools, and key information for parents about the quality of education their children are receiving.

Ofsted resumed its routine programme of graded inspections in September 2021. This includes inspections of outstanding schools that were, up until recently, exempt from routine inspection. This means all schools are now subject to regular inspection by Ofsted. Ofsted is aiming to ensure all schools have at least one inspection between last term and the end of summer 2025, a year earlier than originally planned. This is in order to provide a quicker assessment of recovery in schools across the country.

Ofsted’s inspections are guided by its ‘School Inspection Handbook’. The Handbook was updated for inspections from September to ensure that they take full account of the disruption and challenge that all schools have faced, and the unique experience each school has had in responding to the pandemic. The update followed a process of piloting and engaging with school leaders to ensure appropriate adjustments were made to reflect the circumstances.

As part of the inspection, inspectors will always discuss the impact of the pandemic with leaders, and seek to understand how they have responded in the best interests of pupils, and the impact of what they have done. The central focus of inspections – the curriculum – is in keeping with the important work that schools are doing right now to make sure pupils are receiving the best possible support at this time. Ofsted’s inspections also provide important assurance about the effectiveness of aspects of pupils’ wellbeing and safeguarding.

The Government understands that Ofsted has conducted over 1000 school inspections this term, and where inspections have taken place the outcomes have often been very positive, and similar to the picture before the pandemic. It is the case that a significant proportion – around half - of outstanding schools that were previously exempt from routine inspection, and may not have been visited for over a decade, have not retained the outstanding grade. But the vast majority of outstanding schools inspected this term have been judged either outstanding or good. The large majority of good schools continue to be good or have improved to outstanding. In addition, the large majority – a higher percentage than before the pandemic – of schools that were previously less than good (requires improvement or inadequate) are now being graded as good or better. A suspension of inspection would mean these achievements are not recognised and would leave improving schools stuck in their former inspection grade. That is not in the interests of schools or parents.

Ofsted recognises that there will be acute issues affecting schools that mean that an inspection should be deferred. It has amended its published deferral policy regularly throughout the pandemic to ensure that inspectors are able to respond sensitively when schools are facing particularly acute challenges. Ofsted is committed to judging each and every request on its own merits, according to the individual circumstances relating to COVID-19. The Government understands that Ofsted is in practice agreeing to most deferral requests it receives from schools.

Schools are continuing to operate in extraordinary times. It is right that this is recognised through the accountability arrangements. This means a continuation of inspection, undertaken under arrangements that take into account the ongoing impact of the pandemic, and with inspections being deferred where schools are facing acute issues relating to COVID-19.

The Government and Ofsted will continue to keep arrangements under review in light of the pandemic, and work closely with, and listen to, those in the sector, including where there are any concerns, and will seek to respond and reassure wherever possible.

Department for Education