The role and performance of Ofsted - Education Committee Contents

Letter from Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Ofsted, dated 28 February 2011

I was pleased to have the opportunity to appear before the Committee recently to give evidence as part of the inquiry into Ofsted's role and performance. This scrutiny is a key way in which I discharge my accountability to Parliament, and I welcome the chance to respond to questions and present our evidence.

During the proceedings I undertook to provide you with evidence on the impact of monitoring inspections for schools coming out of special measures. I hope you find the information in this letter useful.

Let me begin by explaining that when a school is placed in special measures, Ofsted invites the headteacher, the chair of the governing body and a local authority representative to a school improvement seminar. The seminar explains how Ofsted monitors and reports on a school's progress, illustrating the sort of evidence of improvement expected at each visit. Almost all the schools invited take up the invitation to this kind of seminar. The participants comment that the most valuable aspect is the help provided in clarifying the issues for improvement raised in the report and discussing with Her Majesty's Inspectors the agenda for their school.

The school improvement seminars set the scene and help schools and local authorities to plan for improvement. During subsequent monitoring inspections, inspectors are expected to add value to the process of improvement. For example, inspectors give a very clear steer that the school must tackle the most significant weaknesses and not be distracted by other issues. This can be critical in ensuring that the senior leadership team remains focused on the main priorities.

Subsequent monitoring inspections focus on close observation of classroom practice and improvements in teaching and learning. They are designed to track progress on all the key issues and the feedback from inspectors has proved to be highly beneficial in helping these inadequate schools to improve. Schools tell us the visits themselves are important in instilling a sense of real urgency and that they value the contributions from Her Majesty's Inspectors.

A survey of headteachers of schools removed from special measures in 2006-07 found that in just over half the schools, headteachers and other staff who had been present at the time of the special measures judgement stressed the value of the monitoring conducted by HMI. These visits were seen as a force for improvement because: they helped the school to focus on identified areas; they kept the school on track, imbued rapid pace and gave a strong steer for improvement. Seventy eight per cent of the headteachers reported that their schools would not have made the same progress at the same rate without the monitoring visits. The monitoring visits unequivocally drive improvement.

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Prepared 17 April 2011