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Changes to the school inspection system, which would offer a ...
Changes to the school inspection system, which would offer a

short inspection to the most effective schools, were proposed by the

Office for Standards in Education today.

In a consultation paper which will be distributed widely in

England from 16 November, OFSTED is seeking views on the detailed

operation of a differentiated inspection model. This would be

piloted in 1999 and fully implemented from January 2000.

The principle of a lighter model of inspection for the best

schools has already been accepted by the government; the consultation

exercise, which runs until 25 January 1999, is about how it should


OFSTED anticipates that some 20 to 30 per cent of primary and

secondary schools might match the criteria to be eligible for short


At the same time OFSTED is proposing to reduce the notice of

inspection to all schools from the current two terms to between four

and eight weeks.

The criteria suggested to identify the most effective schools

will combine the following:

- high key stage/GCSE results in English, mathematics and

science compared with all maintained schools and/or

compared with similar schools;

- trend data which show that results have improved at a

better than average rate, taking account of a school's

starting point, or that very high achievements have been


- very favourable findings from the previous inspection,

particularly in relation to teaching, progress, management

and school improvement.

The short inspection, which cannot cover every aspect in the

current Framework or necessarily see every subject or teacher, will

provide a 'health check' for good schools. It will identify good

practice and confirm whether a school remains effective. The short

inspection will focus particularly on standards, the quality of

education provided and leadership and management of the school.

A common element of all inspections will be the summary report,

which will provide parents with the same core of information from

both types of inspection, enabling comparisons to be made.

Inspections will still have to report on whether a school

requires special measures or has serious weaknesses, and evaluate the

rate of school improvement. In addition, inspectors will explicitly

identify 'coasting' schools - those where standards are below what

the pupils are capable of when compared with similar schools.

OFSTED, which is proposing to offer governors of effective

schools the option of a full inspection if they prefer, estimates

that a short inspection will reduce the number of lessons observed by

at least a half and the overall time in school to between 25 and 60

per cent compared to the full model.

Introducing the proposals for consultation, Her Majesty's Chief

Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead said: 'These proposals are part

of our continuous refinement of inspection to enable resources to be

focused on weaker schools and to offer maximum value for money from


'It is also an opportunity radically to reduce the period of

notice of inspection in response to the complaints about the effects

of apprehension and stress.

'I believe these proposals will offer real benefits without

weakening the crucial function of inspection in monitoring standards

and providing accountability.'


1. The OFSTED consultation paper Proposals for a Differentiated

System of School Inspections will be sent out from week beginning 16

November to all schools, local education and diocesan authorities,

associations representing teachers, governors, parents, inspectors

and other interest groups. Responses are required by Monday 25

January 1999. Copies can also be obtained from the OFSTED

Publications Centre (tel. 0171 510 0180) and from OFSTED's website:

2. Both the long and short inspection models will still meet the

conditions of the 1996 School Inspections Act which require

inspection to report on:

- the quality of education provided

- the educational standards achieved

- the efficiency with which resources are managed

- the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of

the pupils

3. They will also satisfy the statutory requirement of the regular

inspection of all schools, the production of a report for the

appropriate authority and a summary for parents, and the role of the

registered inspection and lay inspector in every team.

4. If a short inspection reveals significant weaknesses, it is

anticipated that a full inspection of the school would be arranged

within six months. The maximum interval between inspections will

remain six years. For the best schools this will mean a gap of five

or six years between inspections. Schools in special measures or

with serious weaknesses would be inspected again in about two years,

while for the remainder of schools, reinspection is likely to follow

within four or five years.

5. The first inspections of all maintained secondary schools in

England were completed in summer 1997 and of all primary and special

schools in summer 1998. The current inspection framework will

continue to be used for pupil referral units until the initial

inspection cycle is completed.

6. OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established

under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the

inspection of all schools in England. Its staff include HMI, who

draw on inspection evidence to report on good practice in schools and

on a wide range of other educational issues.


School standards minister Estelle Morris welcomed the publication

today of Ofsted's consultation paper on the introduction of a new

more focused school inspection regime.

Speaking at today's launch Ms Morris said,

'Ofsted is now a clearly established part of the educational

landscape in England and has a vital role in helping us to raise

school standards. The government has shown it is fully committed to

the regular external inspection of all maintained schools to provide

schools, parents and the local community with independent advice

about how well each school is performing.

'Today's announcement of a shorter, more focused approach for our

best schools, consistent with the principle of intervention in

inverse proportion to success will build on the programme of

inspecting all schools in recent years. This will allow more

resources to be directed towards inspections in underachieving

schools where they are most needed.

'I also welcome today's proposal that all schools will benefit from

a shorter period of notice before inspection. It will reduce the

unnecessary paperwork and stress which teachers and governors feel

resulted from the two terms' notice under the present system and will

allow the inspectors to see schools as they actually are.'

Ms Morris continued,

'The inspection regime proposed today will help identify schools

which are coasting - where pupils may appear to do well in absolute

terms but are not achieving their full potential. Such schools can

now be clearly identified and action must be taken to improve their


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