John Viner

Understanding Ofsted monitoring visits

Monitoring visits from Ofsted changed under the new framework. We look at the differences and what you can now expect

School inspection is currently set out in legislation through the Education Act 2005. In this act, the regular two-day inspection is described in section 5 and ‘other inspection’ in section 8 (in England). This includes the new ‘short inspection’ of good schools and also applies to outstanding schools (which are exempt from section 5).

So, think of a section 8 HMI inspection as a monitoring visit, whatever category your school is in. A short inspection will not result in individual graded judgements or change the overall effectiveness grade. This is why a conversion to section 5 is necessary in some circumstances, since only a section 5 inspection can change a school’s grade.

Under the common inspection framework, section 8 inspection applies to the following circumstances. 

  • Short inspections of schools judged good at their latest section 5 inspection and those outstanding schools that are not exempt from section 5.
  • Monitoring inspections of schools judged as requires improvement at their latest section 5 inspection.
  • Monitoring inspections of schools judged as having serious weaknesses.
  • Monitoring inspections of schools judged as requiring special measures.
  • Unannounced behaviour inspections.
  • Any inspection that is undertaken in other circumstances where the inspection has no specific designation.

A short inspection of a good or outstanding school will always include whether or not safeguarding is effective. This is not so for other monitoring visits unless safeguarding is an inspection focus. 

A child protection and safeguarding model policy template can easily be adapted to your setting to show your compliance. 

A section 8 inspection will follow the same protocols as a section 5. Notice of a short inspection will be given in a telephone call around noon on the day before the inspection. In the case of monitoring visits to grade 3 (requires improvement) or grade 4 (inadequate) schools, two days’ notice is given to ensure that members of the governing body are available. 

Our Ofsted monitoring inspections guide gives you all the information you need to know for what to expect from each of the monitoring inspections but we’ve picked out some key details for a sneak preview.

Schools with serious weaknesses or in special measures

For schools identified as having serious weaknesses, the relevant authority must submit a revised post Ofsted action plan within ten days. HMI will provide feedback on whether the plan is fit for purpose and the first monitoring inspection will take place between three and six months of the inspection. There could be up to three visits in the first 18 months.

Unannounced behaviour inspections

The first a headteacher is likely to be aware of one is when they receive a call from HMI who declares they’re 15 minutes away. Inspectors arrive on site by 8.15am.

These inspections can take place at any time and there are several possible triggers. A common trigger is a qualifying complaint. This is related to child safety, safeguarding or pupil welfare. 

The behaviour inspection focuses on:

  • pupils’ attitudes to learning and their conduct around the school 
  • how well and how consistently pupils’ behaviour is managed
  • how far the school’s culture promotes and supports good behaviour.

If the inspection is the result of a qualifying complaint, HMI will tell the headteacher but isn’t likely to provide any details. Since this is a behaviour inspection the inspector(s) will likely dip into lessons, observe informal activities and behaviour around the school and look at the school’s records. 

At the end of the inspection, the lead inspector will reach a judgement as to whether leaders have or have not ‘taken effective action’ to improve or maintain standards of behaviour. 

The monitoring report will explain the actions the school has taken and set out any further actions, which can be followed up at the next inspection. If behaviour is judged inadequate then it’s likely that the inspection will be deemed section 5 and turn into a full two-day inspection.

Inspections with no formal designation

This allows Ofsted to inspect schools outside the normal scheduled arrangements. The most likely trigger is a complaint, other than about safeguarding. 

Information from other sources about a sudden decline in standards or high turnover of staff will raise Ofsted’s level of concern.  

Notice period for this type of inspection is half-a-day but Ofsted reserves the right to make an unannounced visit. If the inspector judges that provision has declined since the last inspection the visit will be deemed as section 5. 

Alternatively, if the inspector judges that there has been a decline but not sufficient enough to be a concern, the next section 5 inspection can be brought forward.

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