What is Ofsted?

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If you are a student, you may have come across the name Ofsted. Maybe your school told your class that they would be visiting, or maybe Ofsted actually spoke to you on one of their inspections. Likewise, maybe you have never heard of Ofsted, and that is okay!

Ofsted is a government organisation that is responsible for visiting and reviewing all educational institutions most commonly schools. Ofsted review many aspects of educational institutions, from their academic achievement among students, to the schools safeguarding policies. They then offer their feedback as a report as well as grading the school.

For more information about what Ofsted is and the important role it plays within educational institutions, continue to read through this article.

Who are Ofsted?

Ofsted stands for the Office for Standards in Education. It is a department of the UK government and makes frequent reports to parliament. You can find more information about Ofsted on this Think Student article.

It was founded in 1992 by the conservative government of John Major. It was created following concerns over the lack of inspections within educational institutions.

Ofsted mainly inspects educational institutions such as schools to ensure they are safe and effective environments for children.

You can find out more about this from this government website.

What is the role of Ofsted?

The main role of Ofsted is to improve the lives of children and young people by raising the standards in education. By this, they aim to ensure all schools are safe environments whilst expressing equality and supporting all children to succeed.

They are responsible for carrying out inspections and reviews of a range of educational institutions. These include state primary and secondary schools as well as some independent schools.

Ofsted will publish information regarding the standards of schools on their website. This is a useful tool for parents when looking to decide on a school for their child.

Ofsted are also responsible for acknowledging and possibly investigating any complaints about a school they receive from parents, teachers or members of the public. Some of these complaints or concerns may raise potential safeguarding issues.

 Anyone can raise a concern with them about an educational institution, as a parent, teacher, student or member of the general public.

Ofsted is an important organisation in monitoring schools. This is because they ensure that schools are safe environments to support the education of children and young people. They take a very structured approach and publish all of their findings publicly.

What is Ofsted looking for?

Ofsted will focus on the overall function and effectiveness of the educational institution it is inspecting.

The main aspect of the school Ofsted will look for is a high level of achievement amongst pupils. An overall high achievement by the pupils will indicate the quality of the teaching and lessons. In contrast, low achievement will suggest the quality of teaching is poorer.

Ofsted will also look for a safe environment for all pupils. Inspectors will likely complete a general health and safety check around the school.

Ofsted will look for the promotion of equality and diversity within the school environment. This will enable then to check for any discriminatory behaviour by teaching staff as well as the type of anti-bullying policies in place.

Finally, Ofsted will check for any safeguarding issues. This will be done through health and safety checks of the school and checking teaching staff records. Likewise, Ofsted may look at the schools record of pupils to see for example whether an emergency contact number is available.

For more information about what safeguarding is in schools, check out this helpful article from CPD Online College.

What is an Ofsted rating?

Ofsted will rate educational institutions using grades on a four-point scale:

  • Grade 1This means outstanding. To achieve this, the school must meet all of the criteria outlines by Ofsted at the highest standard. This includes the quality of education and effective safeguarding.
  • Grade 2This means good. To achieve this, the school must meet all of the criteria at either outstanding or good.
  • Grade 3This means requires improvements. If a school receives this, it means that one or more key areas of the criteria needs improving.
  • Grade 4This means inadequate. If a school receives this, it means that overall the quality of education is poor and ineffective. In this case, Ofsted may frequently complete inspections to monitor the schools improvements.

Ofsted grade schools based on four key areas:

  1. The effectiveness of leadership and management
  2. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  3. The personal development, behaviour and welfare
  4. The outcomes for pupils

The grades a school receives can have a massive impact on whether or not parents choose to send their child there. Therefore, achieving a grade 1 or 2 is generally what schools will aim for.

To find out more, follow this link to visit the Cascaid Ofsted website.

What does an Ofsted inspection involve?

There are two main types of inspection. A section 5 inspection is the most common type lasting for 2 days. It is mainly used for secondary schools. A section 8 inspection only lasts for 1 day. It is used for good or outstanding primary schools or nurseries.

Ofsted inspections generally take place after pupils return for the autumn term. Ofsted will contact the school the day before the inspection to inform them of an arrival time, usually between 10.30am and 2pm.

The inspection itself mainly involves Ofsted inspectors observing lessons led by a range of teaching staff over different year groups. Ofsted will gather evidence which the school should provide, including school records.

Inspectors often speak to a range of teachers, the head teacher and some pupils from different year groups. They sometimes ask students and staff to fill out surveys about the school to give general feedback and raise any concerns. These are usually anonymous.

All of the information collected during the inspection is then used to form a report. Inspectors will then grade the school based on their findings. The full report and grade will then be shared with the school and published on Ofsted’s official website.

For more information on how Ofsted conduct an investigation, check out the school inspection handbook here on the Gov.uk website.

How often are schools inspected by Ofsted?

According to the Education and Inspections Act 2006, Ofsted have a duty as well as legal obligation to inspect all education institutions. Click here to find out more about this act on the legislation government website. Although most inspections are organised, Ofsted can often turn up unannounced throughout the academic year to complete smaller inspections.

How often schools are inspected by Ofsted will usually depend on the grade they achieved in a previous inspection. Schools that previously achieved a grade 1 or 2 will have a section 8 inspection every 4 years.

Alternatively, schools that previously only achieved a grade 4 are monitored and subject to frequent inspections. Usually a full section 5 inspection will be carried out within 30 months.

When several schools join together to form an academy, Ofsted treat this as a new school. Therefore, an inspection will be carried out within three years.

If Ofsted receive complaints about a school, a reinspection is unlikely. However, if the complaint is serious or raises a safeguarding concern, Ofsted may decide it warrants a further inspection.

If any significant changes occur at the school, it will be subject to a full section 5 inspection. This is despite any previous achievement of a grade 1 or 2. Likewise, if a school requests for an inspection usually via the schools governing body, this will be carried out as a section 5 inspection.

How often are private schools inspected?

Not all private schools are inspected by Ofsted. Instead, many private schools are inspected by an Independent Schools Inspector (ISI) or an Independent Schools Council (ISC). These often complete an inspection every three to six years.

According to the Gov.uk website, “half of all Independent schools are inspected by Ofsted”. These inspections similarly to state schools are completed around every three years.

For more information about how private schools are inspected, check out this helpful article by the Independent Schools Inspectorate website.

Ofsted inspects many different types of schools, including Faith schools and Grammar schools. More information on these types of schools can be found by checking out this Think Student article on Faith schools and this Think Student article on Grammar schools.

Hopefully, if Ofsted ever come into your school, you now have a good understanding of who they are and what role they play.

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