On 25 January 2021, Ofsted began additional monitoring inspections of schools and colleges which have been judged previously to be ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’. These inspections will be undertaken remotely until 8 March at the earliest. The inspections are different to the interim visits Ofsted conducted in the autumn term, as they will result in a judgement (though not a grade). Any inspections before February half term will last for up to two days, depending on the size of the school; following half term, visits will usually last for one day.

The NEU has a series of concerns about these inspections:

  • The NEU does not believe Ofsted should be carrying out any inspections at the moment, apart from where there are serious safeguarding issues. We believe that inspections should not resume until the end of the pandemic and September at the earliest.
  • We believe that any inspection activity carried out under the current circumstances will be unsafe, unnecessary and unfair.
  • We have particular concerns around the inspection of remote learning. Ofsted has said the inspections will focus on overall learning provision, rather than the quality of lessons, and has stated that inspectors will not make judgements on individual lessons. However, school and college leaders will be asked to agree that HMIs can sit in on remote lessons as part of the monitoring inspection.
  • Given how hard schools have been working – with such little notice – to re-write lesson and curriculum plans to provide remote education to pupils of all ages, the NEU believes scrutiny by Ofsted of remote lessons is inappropriate. Because it would form part of an overall judgement of learning provision, it will put unnecessary pressure on teachers whose lessons are watched.
  • In addition, we do not believe Ofsted inspectors have the training or experience to inspect or make judgements on remote lessons.
  • Ofsted has clarified that any observation of remote lessons would be to look overall at the curriculum, rather than at a discrete area (e.g. progression in reading in Year 1, as opposed to Phonics).
  • Ofsted has stated that it will be up to the school or college’s leader to determine whether it will be helpful for HMIs to observe remote lessons.
  • The NEU advises head teachers and senior leaders to exercise their professional judgement in deciding whether it will be appropriate for inspectors to observe remote lessons, what purpose this will serve and, if appropriate, which remote lessons or learning HMIs can visit. Leaders should set out clearly to staff what HMIs will be allowed to do, and the reasons why.
  • Teaching staff should ask for written clarification from their leadership team of the expectations and the reasons for decisions.
  • In terms of recorded lessons, Ofsted has stated it is not its preference for inspectors to view recorded lessons and has said individual teachers would need to give their permission if the school intended to provide them.
  • The NEU advises head teachers and senior leaders not to provide recorded lessons to Ofsted inspectors unless they feel there is a clear and compelling reason to do so, and in every case to ask for written permission from individual teachers before doing so. Teachers should seek support from their union rep if they feel they are under pressure to give permission.
  • Ofsted’s guidance on remote learning has made clear that it does not believe live lessons are a “gold standard” and that not all remote education should take place online. The NEU advises school and college leaders to keep this in mind when discussing remote learning with inspectors.

The judgement

Following the inspection, the lead inspector will make a single overarching judgement. This will be either of the following:

  • Leaders and those responsible for governance are taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances.
  • Leaders and those responsible for governance are not taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances.

This is not a graded judgement and will not change a school’s current grade.

In reaching the judgement, HMI will consider how effectively leaders are:

  • adapting the existing curriculum;
  • providing education remotely;
  • providing education for vulnerable pupils and other pupils attending schools;
  • and will also consider leaders’ plans to support pupils with SEND.

Please see our guidance on the differences between the autumn interim visits and the additional monitoring inspections, taken from Ofsted’s amended operational note.

Please see links below for further information: