Ofsted inspection results can make or break the reputation of an academic institution, be it a secondary school or another type of education provider. Although the main aim of the inspections is to identify areas of improvement, there is no doubt that they have become a massive ranking factor for parents choosing a school for their children. After all, wouldn’t you rather send your child to an “Outstanding” school as opposed to a “Requires Improvement” school?
Disclaimer: This article attempts to simplify, condense, and further explain Ofsted’s official resources and information packs on the topic. This article should not be used in any circumstances as a replacement for Ofsted’s official documentation on the topic. As time goes on, this article’s content may not be as up to date as the official government releases. Due to this, I recommend that you check the following Ofsted resources as well when you get the chance:
- Short, more simplified read: Ofsted school inspections: A guide for parents
- Long read: Ofsted school inspection handbook*
- Additional Ofsted resources on the topic
(*) Currently, there are two distinct handbooks for Section 5 and Section 8 school inspection types. From the 1st of September, Ofsted have combined both inspection types into a single handbook. I’ve decided to link this handbook as it will become more relevant as time goes by. You can learn more about the different school inspection types here.
As this is a general guide to the topic, there are bound to be sections of the article that you feel aren’t relevant to your specific question. In this instance, simply head over to the table of contents at the top of this article and you can navigate to your specific question and, hopefully, get a satisfying answer as quickly as possible.
Table of Contents
Who is Ofsted and what do they do?
The Office for Standards in Education, more commonly known as Ofsted, is a non-ministerial department of government. They are responsible for both inspecting and regulating organisations (and sometimes individuals) that provide education. Ofsted’s findings are reported to the following entities:
Put short, Ofsted are (mainly) responsible for inspecting public education-providing organisations, from nurseries all the way up to secondary schools (and now some universities). They also inspect around 50% of independent schools (you can read more about that here). Ofsted check an organisation alongside the relevant inspection handbook and according to Ofsted’s assessment, they award a rating to the organisation. The possible ratings are as follows:
- Outstanding (best)
- Requires improvement
- Inadequate (worst)
You can find the Ofsted rating, as well as the overall report, of any education provider that has been inspected on their website here.
How often do Ofsted inspect schools?
According to Ofsted’s parental guide, they visit a school on average once every 4 school years. For schools whose last inspection was before the 4th of May 2021, the maximum interval between Ofsted inspections is 7 school years. For other schools, the maximum interval between inspections is 5 school years. This is due to the maximum interval between Ofsted inspections recently increasing as stated in Ofsted’s new combined handbook.
It is important to note that the time between school inspections can change due to numerous factors including but not limited to:
- Ofsted receiving safeguarding reports associated to a particular school
- The previous Ofsted rating and report given to a school
- The school requesting an Ofsted inspection
To summarise, Ofsted tend to visit schools once every 4 school years, however, if Ofsted is notified of a change in circumstances that may be affecting safeguarding or other important elements, they may bring forward the scheduled inspection date and reassess the school.
How much notice do Ofsted give schools?
Using Ofsted’s own school inspection handbook again as a guide: under normal circumstances, Ofsted contact the school between 10:30am and 2pm on the school day before the inspection has been scheduled to take place.
That said, Ofsted reserve the right to carry out any type of inspection (ungraded, graded or urgent) without any notice. If Ofsted decide this is necessary, they will typically telephone the school only 15 minutes before arriving. In a situation where the headteacher is unavailable to receive this notification, it will simply be passed onto the next most senior member of staff available at the school. A follow up email confirming the inspection is customary and typically follows from the telephone notice.
Upon receiving Ofsted’s notice of an inspection, schools can, under very specific circumstances, request that the inspection be delayed until a more appropriate time. You can read more about Ofsted’s inspection deferral policy on the government website here.
How long does it take for Ofsted to publish their report on a school?
After a school inspection has taken place, the school, the parents, and even the students are all dying to know what Ofsted thought of the school. After all, an Ofsted report could change the course a school takes for the months and years to come. So, when do Ofsted draw up their report and publish their findings?
Paraphrased from Ofsted’s school inspection handbook: after the inspection has taken place, the school will receive a confidential, non-published draft report within 18 working days. At this point, the school will have 5 working days to comment on the report. After 30 working days have passed since the end of the inspection, Ofsted will consider all comments made by the school and publish their final report.
After three working days have lapsed since the final report has been shared with the school, it is usually uploaded to the government website for the public to see. You can find your school’s current or previous Ofsted reports here.
What days of the week can Ofsted inspect schools?
Ofsted inspections can take place on any school day so long as five days have passed since students have returned for the autumn term. As with the rest of the information provided in this article, this is directly stated in Ofsted’s school inspection handbook. This means that Ofsted can inspect schools even on Mondays and Fridays if they choose to, contrary to popular belief.
How long do Ofsted school inspections last?
When Ofsted turns up at a school, either announced or unannounced, the school can typically expect the inspection to last 2 days. For very small schools or particular types of schools, inspections can sometimes be wrapped up in a single day.
The duration of an Ofsted inspection can he impacted by many factors including but not limited to:
- The size of the school
- The availability of senior staff at the school
- The availability of teachers at the school (for example, if many teachers are out on a school trip, inspectors may come back the following day)
- The time of arrival of the inspectors
As you might expect, if inspectors have any unique, unconventional circumstances prop up at the time of inspection, these could also extend the duration of the inspection.