Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum from OFSTED (OFS 20)

10 September 2001

Dear Headteacher,


  I have written to you separately to introduce the consultation on the new inspection arrangements from 2003. In the meantime, the current phase of inspections goes on and we will keep these arrangements under review.

  I am heartened by the many positive comments about how much better inspection is now than it was the first time schools were inspected. The vast majority of schools are content with their inspections and welcome, in particular, the stronger dialogue that now characterises inspection.

  We are making a number of changes from September, which I hope you will welcome. These include changes to increasingly involve schools as partners in the inspection process, and to reduce bureaucracy. The main changes are outlined below.

Pre-inspection commentary

  The registered inspector will provide you with a copy of the pre-inspection commentary shortly before or at the beginning of the inspection and will give you opportunity to discuss the hypotheses in it.

  The pre-inspection commentary draws on all the evidence available before the inspection, including discussions at the preliminary visit. It provides a focus for the inspection, and includes hypotheses and issues that the inspection team will follow up. Providing schools with a copy is intended to make the inspection process more open and to further encourage dialogue between the school and the inspection team. It will give you an opportunity to consider evidence you wish to offer in response to the hypotheses and issues.

Information requirements in Forms S1 and S2

  Schools are no longer required to complete Tables E1 and E2 about staffing, nor complete questions B17-19 (Secondary) or B16-18 (Special) about post-16, 17 or 18 destinations.

  The intention here is to reduce bureaucracy. Inspectors will need some of the information to carry out the inspection, for example a staff list, and your registered inspector will tell you what is needed. You will, however, be able to provide it in whatever form it is available.

Internet versions of Forms S1 - S4

  Versions of Forms S1 - S4 which can be completed by schools in their usual word processor have been posted on the Internet at:


  This is to make completion of Forms S1 - S4 easier. We have had many comments (all critical!) about the current dos-based software and the difficulties some schools have had in printing these forms.

Teacher recruitment

  Where schools have difficulties in filling vacant posts, a statement reflecting this will be included in the report. It will also include a commentary where these have a detrimental effect on quality or standards.

  We are aware of difficulties that some schools are experiencing, and the changes we are implementing are intended to recognise this. Inspectors will need a little more information than is currently included in Forms S1 and S2, including the number of vacant posts at the time of the inspection, the number of vacancies filled by staff on temporary contracts of one term or more and less than a term, and the number of supply staff.

Contributors and barriers to school improvement

  When evaluating school improvement, inspectors will take account of how national and other initiatives have helped. Conversely, they will evaluate and report on any barriers to improvement.

  The intention here is to highlight the catalytic effect of various initiatives. At the same time, I am aware that headteachers are concerned about the weight and impact of bureaucratic demands on schools. Inspectors will evaluate and report on these, and take account of any barriers to efficient development that might arise from external demands and factors such as staffing difficulties.

Teaching quality percentages

  The percentages of lessons judged to be very good or better, satisfactory or better, and unsatisfactory or worse will no longer be included in the summary report.

  We recognise that when only a small number of lessons is seen, the percentages are not necessarily helpful in giving a fair picture of teaching in the school as a whole. Judgements about teaching are based on more than the statistical data.

Reporting on subjects in secondary school reports

  Each subject report will include an overall judgement about the quality of provision, and a brief list of the key strengths and areas for improvement.

  This brings the reporting of subjects at Key Stages 3 and 4 into line with the reporting of sixth form subjects and of curriculum areas in colleges. The change is intended to be helpful in identifying matters for school development, and providing an overall view of different subjects.

Key Stage 3 Strategy

  In pilot schools for the Key Stage 3 Strategy, inspectors will assess the quality of what they see in the usual way using the criteria in the framework.

  Schools will use the frameworks for teaching in ways that suit them. Inspectors will not be looking for adherence to the frameworks or rigid use of any particular lesson structures. They will assess the impact of teaching and planning, in whatever form, as usual. Schools outside the pilots are taking their first steps in implementing the strategy. Inspectors will recognise this, and that schools will make their own decisions about how the strategy can best be used in their circumstances.

Sixth form inspection

  Greater attention will be given to the inspection of sixth forms in schools.

  For schools with sixth forms this will mean additional inspection time. Schools with sixth forms that are being inspected in the autumn term have had a leaflet explaining how their inspections will change, and this will be more generally published this term. The new arrangements bring school sixth form and college inspections into line. Although for schools it will mean more inspection, I hope schools will benefit from the focused evaluation and reporting on a part of the school that has often had limited coverage in reports.

  I am keen to reduce the inspection burden on schools, and some of the changes outlined above are intended specifically with this in mind. I recognise that schools want to be at their best for inspection but there are three things I do not want you to require of your staff prior to inspection. Please do not:

    —  have schemes of work re-written;

    —  have school policies re-written; and

    —  ask staff to prepare lesson plans specifically for the inspection. Inspectors will use teachers' planning in whatever form it normally takes. OFSTED does not have a preferred format for such plans.

  Also, from September, inspectors will not expect you to provide copies of the school's previous inspection report.

  I hope you feel the changes are helpful, and I welcome your comments on how inspections are going and how they can be improved.

Mike Tomlinson, HMCI

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