Ofsted visits to schools and colleges to begin this month

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Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) will visit around 1,200 schools across England this autumn term, Ofsted confirmed today as it published operational notes about visits to state schools, further education and skills providers (FES) and independent schools.

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Ofsted aims to tell parents, government and the public about how schools are managing the return to full education of their pupils, the majority of whom have not been in school for more than 5 months due to the impact of COVID-19. The visits, initially announced in July, will include schools of different types and of all Ofsted grades across England. Visits will be based around constructive discussions with the school or college leaders; they are not inspections, so will not result in a grade.

We will notify a school of the visit on the day before and talk about the practicalities of the visit – including any specific considerations related to COVID-19. Normally, 2 inspectors will visit a school for 1 day, when they will have collaborative conversations with school leaders.

On the visit, they will talk about any barriers that the school is facing in managing the return to opening fully, how pupils are getting back into expected routines and their behaviour, and the school’s safeguarding arrangements. Inspectors will also talk to school leaders about how remote learning fits into their wider curriculum plans. After a visit, the inspector will write a short letter, which will be published on our reports website.

HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said:

We are looking forward to visiting schools this autumn term to find out how they are managing the return to school. I’d like to stress that school leaders and teachers should not do anything in advance of these visits, and nor should they prepare any paperwork just for us. Schools are busy enough welcoming back children at the moment, and we do not want to distract from that. These visits will be collaborative conversations that will help us all understand how well pupils are getting on as they return to school and get back into routine.

The first visits will take place at the end of this month. Inspectors will observe social distancing and all other national or local guidance from the government to carry out these visits safely.

Ofsted will be carrying out similar interim visits to FES providers. These will also not involve any graded judgements. They will help learners, parents, employers and government understand how providers are meeting the needs of students and apprentices in this period.

During their visit, inspectors will ask leaders what steps they are taking to provide an appropriate curriculum as they return to full education and training programmes in autumn, and how they are ensuring that young people are learning in a safe environment.

For independent schools, Ofsted is continuing with some additional inspections conducted outside the standard inspection cycle, which may include pre-registration, material change, emergency, and progress monitoring inspections. These aim to help increase the number of school places where they are needed, and to ensure that children are safe. The Department for Education will commission Ofsted for each such inspection.

Full inspection is set to resume in January 2021, but this is being kept under review.

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