This is Section 15 of the Guide to the Law, as published May 2012.
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This section explains the aims of the school inspection process, the circumstances in which a school may be inspected and the procedures which the head teacher and governing body are expected to follow prior to and following an inspection.
The governing bodies of voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and foundation schools designated as having a religious character must arrange a separate inspection of collective worship and any denominational education.
1. Inspection provides an independent external evaluation of a school’s effectiveness. It aims to contribute to school improvement by, for example, highlighting strengths and weaknesses, promoting a culture of rigorous self-evaluation and providing clear recommendations for future action. Published inspection reports provide parents with information to inform their choices and preferences. In addition, evidence from inspection contributes to the development of policy and to wider debate about the education system.
2. Publicly funded schools are subject to regular inspection by Ofsted, which is a non-ministerial government department, separate from the Department for Education (DfE). Inspections are conducted on behalf of the Chief Inspector by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) and Additional Inspectors (AIs). Most AIs are employed by, or work under contract to, external contractors (inspection service providers).
3. The Chief Inspector is required to ensure that all inspectors have the necessary qualifications, experience and skills to perform their functions effectively. In the case of AIs engaged by external contractors, the Chief Inspector publishes details of the requirements and the contractors are responsible for ensuring that AIs meet these. The Chief Inspector also publishes, at intervals of not more than 12 months, the names of inspectors that the contractors intend to use.
4. In the case of a routine school inspection (a “Section 5 inspection”, see paragraph 6 below), AIs need to conduct an inspection to the satisfaction of an HMI before they are permitted to inspect without supervision.
5. As part of a school inspection (both routine and otherwise), inspectors have, at all reasonable times, a right of entry to the school and other premises which pupils may attend. The governing body and staff of the school must give inspectors access to relevant documents and records (including those on computers) and access to lessons and school activities. It is an offence to intentionally obstruct a member of the inspection team.
SECTION 5 INSPECTIONS
6. Routine school inspections are carried out under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005. These inspections are frequently referred to as “Section 5 inspections”. The scope of the inspection is defined in that statute and is set out in more detail in The framework for school inspection (the Framework), which is published by Ofsted.
7. All maintained schools are subject to a Section 5 inspection at least once within approximately five years of their previous inspection. Within this period, Ofsted determines the precise timing of an inspection on the basis of an annual risk assessment and other factors, which are set out in Part A of the Framework. Schools that it considers to be good or outstanding may have up to five years between inspections whereas those that are satisfactory or inadequate will be inspected at least once approximately every three years*.
*To note – Subject to the coming into force of Regulations made under new provisions in the Education Act 2011, certain schools will be exempt from inspection under Section 5. It is intended that ‘exempt’ schools will include maintained primary and secondary schools that were judged to be ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at their latest Section 5 inspection. Such schools will not be exempt from inspection under Section 8 (see paragraph 22). Ofsted will be able to treat a Section 8 inspection of an exempt school as if it were a Section 5 inspection, for example where it believes the performance of the school has declined, and will be required to do so where requested by the Secretary of State.
8. The Framework sets out the inspection process from notification to publication of the report.
9. Ofsted may inspect without notice, but in most cases schools receive notice of up to two days. Notification will normally be to the head teacher, who is expected to inform the governing body.
10. Where notice is given, the governing body must take reasonable steps to notify:
registered parents of registered pupils at the school about the time of the inspection and invite parents to inform inspectors of their views about the school (Ofsted will provide a standard letter in a range of community languages for this purpose);
- the Local Authority (LA);
- whoever appoints the foundation governors in voluntary schools, and for voluntary aided schools, the diocesan authority (if different);
- any appropriate officer of the LA where a registered pupil is looked after by the LA;
- where a maintained school does not have a delegated budget (and so the LA is informed of the inspection by Ofsted), the governing body of the school;
- the Education Funding Agency (EFA) in the case of a school with a sixth-form.
11. Schools should neither arrange lessons or other activities specifically for the inspection, nor cancel or reschedule activities because of the inspection.
12. Inspectors are required specifically to have regard to any views expressed to them by governors, the head teacher, staff, pupils, parents and others that are required to be notified of the inspection.
13. Ofsted must ensure that a copy of the final report is sent to:
- the governing body;
- the head teacher;
- the LA;
- those who appoint the foundation governors and the appropriate appointing authority, if different; and
- the YPLA, if the school has a sixth form.
14. When it receives the report, the governing body (or LA if a maintained school does not have a delegated budget) must arrange for:
- the parents of all pupils to be sent a copy of it within five working days;
- the report to be made available to any member of the public who wishes to see it, at such times and places as may be reasonable;
copies of the report to be provided to anyone who asks (charges may be made, provided that these are not greater than the cost of copying).
15. Governing bodies may wish to consider placing copies of the report on the school’s website and in local public libraries, and sending the report to local newspapers and radio stations. Each school’s inspection report is available on Ofsted’s website at www.ofsted.gov.uk.
16. The governing body should also consider translating the report into other languages where appropriate.
17. Ofsted has a power to produce and publish an interim statement about a school (commonly known as an “interim assessment”), which confirms that Ofsted does not intend to inspect the school for at least a year. It explains the reasons for this and provides a summary of key information about the school. The fact that a school has received an interim assessment does not prevent Ofsted from inspecting within a year if it deems this necessary.
18. Ofsted will publish an interim assessment where it decides that a school previously judged good or outstanding is not to be inspected within three school years from the end of the school year in which its last Section 5 inspection took place. (The provisions for interim assessments will not apply to ‘exempt’ schools).
19. A draft version of the interim assessment will be provided to the school to enable it to comment on factual accuracy.
20. Ofsted must ensure that a copy of the final assessment is sent to:
- the governing body;
- the head teacher;
- the LA;
21. Those who appoint the foundation governors and the appropriate appointing authority, if different; and the EFA for England, if the school has a sixth form. When it receives the assessment, the governing body must arrange for:
- the parents of all pupils to be sent a copy of it;
- the report to be made available to any member of the public who wishes to see it, at such times and place as may be reasonable; and
- one free copy to be provided to anyone who asks.
OTHER OFSTED INSPECTIONS (SECTION 8 INSPECTIONS)
22. In addition to the regular programme of Section 5 inspections, Ofsted inspects schools for a variety of reasons, such as:
- to gather evidence for reports and advice on curriculum subjects;
- to assess specific themes and initiatives, for example, literacy and numeracy in primary schools;
- to monitor progress in ‘satisfactory’ schools and those causing concern.
The outcomes of these visits are published on Ofsted’s website.
ABOUT SCHOOLS CAUSING CONCERN
23. At the end of an inspection, inspectors must consider whether a school falls into one of the “schools causing concern” categories: special measures or significant improvement (“notice to improve”). Guidance on all categories of schools causing concern and the powers available to LAs and others to challenge and support these schools is given in section 16 of this Guide, Schools Causing Concern.
INSPECTING RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AND COLLECTIVE WORSHIP
24. The governing body of a voluntary or foundation school which has been designated by the Secretary of State for Education as having a religious character is responsible for making sure that the content of the school’s act of collective worship, and any denominational religious education provided for pupils, is inspected approximately every five years (This is required by Section 48 of the Education Act 2005 and is commonly referred to as a “Section 48 inspection”). These aspects of the school’s provision will not be included in the Section 5 inspection arranged by Ofsted. The governing body may arrange for the Section 48 inspection also to cover the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school.
25. The contractual arrangements for the carrying out of Section 48 inspections, including fees, are a matter for the governing body. When choosing an inspector for the Section 48 inspection, the governing body (or in the case of a voluntary controlled school, the foundation governors) must consult one of the following bodies shown in the table below.
|School designation||Consultation body|
|Church of England or Roman Catholic||The appropriate diocesan authority|
|Jewish||Jewish Studies Education Inspection Service|
|Methodist||Education Secretary to the Methodist Church|
|Muslim||Association of Muslim Schools|
|Sikh||Network of Sikh Organisations|
|Seventh-day Adventist||Education Department of the British Union
Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists
26. It is recommended that governing bodies arrange for the Section 48 inspection and the Section 5 inspection to take place concurrently, or as close as practicable to each other. The Section 48 inspection should not normally take place later than the end of the term following that within which a Section 5 inspection takes place. Ofsted has agreed protocols with a number of faith-group representatives to facilitate this.
27. A grant is available towards the cost of the Section 48 inspection. For Church of England, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Sikh and Seventh-day Adventist schools, the process for claiming the grant is managed by the individual faith groups. For other schools, the grant is available through the DfE Inspections Unit. Claims are made using grant form DRE1.
28. An inspection report must be prepared within 15 working days of the end of the inspection. The governing body must publish this in the same way as for Section 5 inspections, which includes sending a copy of the report to the parents of all registered pupils.
COMPLAINTS BY PARENTS ABOUT SCHOOLS
29. Ofsted has powers to investigate certain complaints by parents about their child’s school for the purpose of deciding whether to use its inspection powers. It has powers to obtain information to facilitate an investigation.
30. If requested to do so, the governing body must provide Ofsted with any information held by it which Ofsted specifies and any other information that the school considers to be relevant to the investigation of a complaint.
31. Should Ofsted consider it appropriate for the purpose of an investigation that Ofsted meets with parents, the governing body (or in the case of a school which does not have a delegated budget, the LA) must co-operate with Ofsted in arranging the meeting, including allowing a meeting to take place on the school premises, fixing a date for the meeting and notifying parents and the LA of the meeting. A representative of the governing body and the LA may also attend the meeting.
32. If Ofsted prepares a report of an investigation, that report must be passed to the governing body (or in the case of a school which does not have a delegated budget, the LA). The body must then send a copy of the Ofsted report to all registered parents.
WHAT LEGISLATION DOES THIS REFER TO?
The Education Act 2011
The Education (Investigation of Parents’ Complaints) (England) Regulations 2007: SI 2007/1089
The Education (School Inspection) (England) Regulations 2005: SI 2005/2038.
FURTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Ofsted publications include:
Priced Ofsted publications are available from the Stationery Office (tel: 0870 600 5522)
Other Ofsted publications are available from Ofsted’s publications centre (tel: 0702 637833 or email: email@example.com)
All Ofsted publications can be accessed from its website: www.ofsted.gov.uk