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Changes to the conduct of Ofsted inspections

Starting this term (September 2023), Ofsted is changing how it inspects schools. These changes are not huge, but they affect the inspection process and some of the protocols involved. Although the changes may be relatively small, they are still significant for all schools. The aim is for Ofsted to be more transparent.

Notice of Inspection

The timing of inspections will be looked at. The one-day notice will continue, but schools may be given greater clarity about the year they will be inspected. This will help schools with a historical ‘outstanding’ judgement to know when they will likely be visited. Schools that may not have experienced an inspection for a long time are being offered face-to-face seminars in small groups led by HMI.

Provisional judgements

Inspectors will emphasise to headteachers that judgements given at the end of their time in school are provisional and subject to change. The covering letter to the school that accompanies the draft report will underline this point. Headteachers must think carefully about who to share initial judgements with until the report is finalised.

De-personalising reports

It is important to note that reports will not mention individuals and will attempt to depersonalise them. The contextual information at the end of the report will be amended to list all people responsible for the school. It will be made clear that in almost all cases, staff can choose to be accompanied by a colleague when talking to an inspector.


One of the key changes relates to safeguarding. Inspectors will return within three months if a school is judged to be good or better in all areas apart from safeguarding. If the safeguarding issues have been addressed correctly, the inadequate grade will likely be revised. The report for a school in this situation will explain more clearly why the inadequate judgement was made. There will be more transparency about what ineffective safeguarding looks like, explained through various blogs and webinars. School leaders and governors should take note.


Ofsted has begun a consultation process to consider how to deal with complaints more promptly and effectively. Ofsted aims to be more transparent and to make it simpler to complain about an inspection. The process will examine how professional dialogue during an inspection could be further developed to avoid post-inspection complaints. The aim will also be to make it easier to contact Ofsted immediately after the inspection. If there is a concern about the process or outcome, a senior HMI can be contacted the day after. Ofsted intends to replace the current internal complaints system and escalate complaints directly to the Inspection Complaints Adjudication Service for Ofsted (ICASO).

Gathering Additional Evidence

Ofsted has issued a protocol on arrangements for gathering further evidence if an inspection is incomplete. In certain circumstances, Ofsted may delay the publication of the inspection report to obtain additional evidence. This could include a further visit to a provider, without notice, to gather the additional evidence required to complete the inspection.


The government and Ofsted seem to be making a genuine effort to support schools and reduce the stress of inspections while still maintaining rigour. Most people will agree that increasing transparency and improving complaint procedures are positive changes.

Providing greater clarity on what constitutes effective safeguarding will help school leaders evaluate their own measures with more confidence. The decision to revisit schools with ineffective safeguarding and otherwise good judgements may lead to separate and more regular safeguarding inspections in the future.

While some leaders may feel that informing historically outstanding schools about their upcoming inspection year doesn’t go far enough in reducing stress, the seminars will likely offer valuable support to those who haven’t been inspected for some time.

It may be argued that these changes don’t do enough to support leaders’ well-being, but clearly, efforts are being made to increase transparency and provide schools with better opportunities for dialogue within the inspection process.

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