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Why does Ofsted inspect schools?

We inspect schools to provide information to parents, to promote improvement and to hold schools to account for the public money they receive. School inspections are required by law. We provide an independent assessment of the quality and standards of education in schools, and check whether pupils are achieving as much as they can.

Who inspects schools?

Her Majesty’s Inspectors and Ofsted Inspectors (who in most cases are serving school leaders who inspect for Ofsted for an agreed number of days each year) carry out the inspections. All inspectors have been trained to, and assessed against, Ofsted’s standards.

When do inspections happen?

When Ofsted has judged a school to be good or outstanding after a section 5 inspection, we will then normally go into the school about once every 4 years to confirm that the school remains good or outstanding and that safeguarding is effective. This is called a section 8 inspection of a good or outstanding school. Ofsted does not give graded judgements on a section 8 inspection of a good or outstanding school, but if we find some evidence that the school would now be better than good, or standards may be declining, we will carry out a full section 5 inspection with graded judgements. Usually this is within 1 to 2 years of the date of the section 8 inspection, but if we have serious concerns about a school, for example in relation to safeguarding, we will deem the section 8 inspection to be a section 5 inspection immediately.

Although most good or outstanding schools will be inspected as outlined above, some good or outstanding schools will automatically receive a section 5 inspection instead of a section 8 inspection if our risk assessment process indicates that the quality of provision in the school may have deteriorated significantly, or if a school has undergone significant change, such as in its age range.

A school judged as requires improvement at its last inspection is a school that is not yet good but overall provides an acceptable standard of education. The school is inspected again within a period of 30 months. If a school has been judged as requires improvement at 2 successive inspections, it will be subject to monitoring from inspectors to check its progress and is inspected again within a period of 30 months.

Outstanding schools that were formerly exempt from routine inspections

Between 15 May 2012 and 13 November 2020, maintained primary and secondary schools and academies judged to be outstanding in their overall effectiveness at their most recent section 5 inspection were exempt from routine inspections. These schools are now once again subject to routine inspections under section 5. This also applies to academy converter schools that were formerly exempt because the overall effectiveness of their predecessor school was outstanding at its most recent section 5 inspection.[footnote 1]

All formerly exempt schools must receive an initial inspection under section 5 or section 8 before 1 August 2026. Those schools that were last inspected under section 5 before September 2015 will receive an initial section 5 inspection. Those last inspected under section 5 after this date will receive an initial section 8 inspection. If an initial section 8 inspection indicates that outstanding performance may not have been maintained, we will normally carry out a section 5 inspection within the next academic year or as soon as possible thereafter and, in any event, before 1 August 2027. Beyond these initial inspections, future inspections for these schools will take place as set out in section above.

How long do inspections last?

A standard inspection under section 5 usually lasts 2 days. However, section 8 inspections of good or outstanding primary schools and good or outstanding maintained nursery schools with fewer than 150 pupils normally last for 1 day. The number of inspectors on the inspection team will vary according to the size and nature of the school.

What judgements do inspectors make?

Inspectors will make graded judgements on overall effectiveness and the 4 key judgements:

  • the quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management

When applicable, inspectors will also make a graded judgement on the effectiveness of the early years or sixth-form provision in the school.


Overview of Ofsted Report June 2022