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Ofsted today sets out its schedule and criteria for school inspections for the new millennium. Inspecting schools -...
Ofsted today sets out its schedule and criteria for school inspections for the new millennium. Inspecting schools - the framework for the inspection of schools in England, details Ofsted's new procedures for short inspections for the most effective schools, and shorter notice of inspection for all schools. The revised framework takes into account the new policy developments and feedback from all the major stakeholders.

Around 20% of schools are expected to be eligible for short inspections in the first year. From January 2000 all schools inspected will only receive from six to 10 working weeks notice of an inspection instead of two terms.

For short inspections, inspectors will spend only two or three days

in the school and they will not report in detail on each subject taught.

In secondary schools, inspectors may look at subjects outside their own specialisms. Teachers will continue to be offered oral feedback, but will receive written detail of the judgments of their lessons only after full inspections.

To identify the most effective schools, which will be eligible for short inspections, the following criteria will be used: the quality of education as revealed by the previous inspection report; the trend in test/GCSE performance of the school; and the standards achieved in test/public examinations compared to all schools in England, and/or compared with similar schools.

Each criterion carries equal weight and Ofsted has set thresholds for each. This ensures that schools in all socio-economic circumstances are eligible for a short inspection. Schools should be able to judge from their PANDA reports whether they are likely to qualify for a short inspection.

Schools selected for a short inspection can request a full inspection; however, such a change will only be made in exceptional circumstances. The criteria to be applied in these cases might include the school being the subject of major reorganisation which has had a significant impact on its management or composition; or if a new headteacher has been appointed in the term preceding the inspection.

Inspectors will continue to judge whether a school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and thus requires special measures, or, although providing an acceptable standard of education, nevertheless has serious weaknesses.

However, from January 2000 inspectors will also have to consider whether a school, although not identified as having serious weaknesses, is judged to be underachieving.

Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools, said: 'Ofsted is committed to improving the quality of inspections we provide. The introduction of short inspections and the reduction of the period of notice given to schools will bring a new dimension to the inspection process.

'Now that we have inspected all schools, we can reduce the burden on successful schools, and focus instead on driving up standards in schools that are failing, have serious weaknesses or are justcoasting along.'

The new arrangements were widely welcomed following a national consultation exercise by Market and Opinion Research International (MORI) completed in January 1999.

All schools in England will receive free copies of The framework, and it is also available on the Ofsted website.

Ofsted has also revised its three handbooks of inspectors' guidance on school inspections to take into account the changes in the new inspection regime.

These will complement the framework, giving guidance on inspecting different types of school. The handbooks cover secondary schools, primary and nursery schools, and special schools and pupil referral units.

The handbooks are primarily documents for inspectors, but they also include guidance for schools on self-evaluation and a CD-ROM containing all inspection forms.


1. Inspecting schools - The framework for the inspection of

schools in England, (HMI 214) is on the Ofsted website. It is

being sent direct to all schools, LEAs and other educational


2. The three Handbooks are:

Inspecting schools: handbook for inspecting primary and nursery

schools (ISBN 0 11 350109 9)

Inspecting schools: handbook for inspecting secondary schools

(ISBN 0 11 350110 2)

Inspecting schools: handbook for inspecting special schools and

pupil referral units (ISBN 0 11 350111 0)

The handbooks, priced at£15 each, can be ordered from the

Stationery Office, Tel 0870 600 5522.

3. 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 her

majesty's inspectors (HMI), who draw on inspection evidence to

report on good practice in schools and on a wide range of

educational issues.

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