Ofsted monitoring inspections guide

Understand what to expect from monitoring visits under the new Ofsted CIF with this guide from John Viner

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John is a full-time writer, teacher trainer and consultant with Adept Education Associates. He served for 28 years as a primary headteacher and has led five schools including a successful training school and a large coastal school. He has...

The regular two-day inspection is described in section 5 of the Education Act 2005 and ‘other inspection’ in section 8 (in England). This includes the new ‘short inspection’ of good schools and also applies to outstanding schools (which are exempt from section 5).

A short inspection will not result in individual graded judgements or change the overall effectiveness grade. This is why a conversion to section 5 is necessary in some circumstances since only a section 5 inspection can change a school’s grade.

Short inspections of good schools (or non-exempt outstanding schools)

HMI will arrive on site no earlier than 8.00am, meet with senior leaders and determine the plans for the day. HMI will have key lines of enquiry around whether the school remains good or outstanding, though these may change in the light of emerging evidence.

There will always be a safeguarding check and inspection of the single central record, then they will focus on evidence of how effectively the school’s leaders, including governors, are:

  • sustaining a good quality of education for pupils
  • demonstrating capacity to remedy any minor weaknesses that are not of sufficient concern for HMI to convert the inspection to a section 5 inspection.

HMI will report to the headteacher whether the school remains good, in which case the section 8 status is maintained, or if there are any reasons to convert to a section 5 inspection. In this case the inspection is re-designated from the first day, making the following day the second day of the inspection.

The framework permits the second day to take place within 48 hours, which allows for any difficulties in assembling a team but most commonly it’s the following day.

Schools judged as RI at a sec​tion 5 inspection

Schools in RI will be re-inspected within two years, so the initial monitoring inspection will take place at some point in the first 24 months, sooner rather than later in most cases. 

This inspection will focus only on the reasons the school required improvement and can have several outcomes. HMI could decide that further monitoring activity is required, in which case there will be at least one further monitoring visit.

If HMI believes the school has made exceptional progress, they can bring the next full inspection forward and, conversely, if they believe that the school would benefit from more time for improvement, they can recommend that the re-inspection is moved to the end of the two year period.

At the end of the monitoring inspection HMI will make a single judgement, whether or not the school leaders and governors/relevant authority are or are not ‘taking effective action to tackle the areas requiring improvement identified at the last section 5 inspection in order to become a good school’. 

HMI will hold a feedback session for stakeholders and there is an expectation that as many governors should be there as possible.

Schools judged to require ‘si​gnificant improvement’ (serious weaknesses)

For schools identified as having serious weaknesses, the relevant authority must submit a revised action plan within ten days. HMI will provide feedback on whether the plan is fit for purpose and the first monitoring inspection will take place between three and six months of the inspection. There could be up to three visits in the first 18 months.

The inspection will focus only on the actions taken by the school’s leaders and governors to tackle the areas for improvement that judged the school to have serious weaknesses.

Monitoring inspections will also consider the progress the school has made since the judgement. This is likely to be a rigorous process with leadership and governance in the spotlight and is all about capacity to improve.

Where HMI judges that there is a good rate of improvement, they may allow the school time to improve before the section 5 re-inspection, which will take place within 18 months.

If leadership and governance are strong and having a significant impact on the school’s performance, HMI can convert the visit to a section 5 inspection which can remove the school from serious weaknesses.

Monitoring inspections for sch​ools in special measures

The relevant authority must submit its plans to HMCI within 10 days of the inspection and will receive written advice from HMI on them.

These schools are re-inspected within two years and in the interim are likely to have up to five monitoring inspections, the first of which is likely to happen within three to six months.  

The expected timescale for the removal of special measures given the current rate of improvement is a crucial factor. The Act states that ‘a school that is taking effective action will be on course to have special measures removed within 18 to 24 months of the monitoring period following the inspection that placed the school in special measures.’

The first monitoring inspection begins with a meeting between HMI, the school leaders, the chair of governors and a representative of the relevant authority.

The focus of the inspection will be the steps that the school is taking towards the removal of special measures

The focus of the inspection will be the steps that the school is taking towards the removal of special measures. Subsequent monitoring visits will also consider the support being provided or commissioned by the relevant authority.

At the end of the first monitoring inspection the lead inspector must weigh up the evidence of actions and their impact and judge if the school is making sufficient progress towards the removal of special measures.

Subsequent visits will focus on the impact of the support the school is receiving, the effectiveness of the actions it is taking and whether it is making progress towards the removal of the category.

Schools in special measures need not have the full tariff of five monitoring visits. If, at any point, HMI is of the opinion that special measures are no longer required, the monitoring visit is deemed section 5 and a full inspection report is written.

Last Updated: 
05 Feb 2016