Leadership Learning: Ofsted Inspection scheduling from September 2021

Published: 20 September 2021
A blog from the Learn Sheffield Improvement Partner (LSIP) team about the scheduling of inspections from September 2021, as Ofsted resume its full programme of routine inspections.

Back in March 2020 Ofsted suspended routine inspections due to Covid-19. Some types of inspections continued, including, the monitoring of schools judged ‘inadequate’ and ‘requires improvement’ and the monitoring of some good schools. Ofsted also carried out inspections where there were concerns or where a school requested an inspection (don’t think there were many of those!). From September 2021, Ofsted has resumed its full programme of routine inspections.

Trying to gauge when a school will be inspected is tricky at the best of times. The impact of the pandemic has meant that there is a back log of inspections nationally and in our region (the north-east, Yorkshire and Humber). With this in mind, Ofsted has made changes to the inspection scheduling information published in the Section 5, School Inspection Handbook (September 2021). The scheduling information is summarised below.  


Outstanding schools (paragraph 46)

·         These schools have been formerly exempt from routine inspection but now they are subject to routine inspection

·         This also applies to academy converters that were just outstanding prior to converting

·         All outstanding schools must receive an inspection before August 2026

·         Those that had a Section 5 inspection before September 2015 will receive a Section 5 inspection and those after this date are likely to receive a Section 8 inspection

·         Then 4-yearly after this.


Good and outstanding schools (paragraph 48)

·         These schools are usually inspected every 4 years – likely to be a section 8 inspection (but could be a section 5 inspection as a result of Ofsted’s risk assessment process). However, these inspections have been extended up to 6 terms due to Covid-19

·         If the school was judged to be good and declining or good and improving at their last section 8 inspection, then they are typically inspected within 1-2 years. So, if you are a school where this applies and it has already exceeded this timescale, it is prudent to expect an inspection this academic year

·         If a school was good and improving or good and declining and it has since become an academy, the guidance states that the inspection is likely to be ‘at least one year after converting to an academy’

·         It is worth noting that if, on a section 8 inspection of an outstanding school, there are concerns that the performance of the school could be declining to ‘requires improvement’ (i.e. two grade drops) the section 8 inspection will usually convert to a full, section 5 inspection within 48 hours.


New academies (paragraph 46)

·        Where a school becomes an academy they are usually inspected within 3 years. However, this has been extended by up to 6 terms due to Covid-19

·        New converter academies whose predecessor school was judged good or outstanding will usually have a section 8 inspection (unless the outstanding school was last inspected before September 2015, then it will be a section 5 inspection)

·        If an academy has been re-brokered, they are usually inspected within 3 years, but this too has been extended up to 6 terms extended.


Requires improvement schools


·         These schools will usually receive a Section 5 inspection within 30 months. However, this has been extended by up to 6 terms due to Covid-19.



The changes to the scheduling of inspections may give some schools a little ‘breathing space’ while Ofsted reduce the back log of inspections. However, with this comes an element of uncertainty and trying to gauge when a school will be inspected will be difficult. Ofsted remind us that schools can be inspected at any time. A sobering thought but this usually happens only where there are significant concerns.

As the year unfolds and as more of our schools are inspected, we will hopefully be better placed to gauge when schools are likely to be inspected. If you do have any concerns about the scheduling of inspection, please do contact Learn Sheffield.


Learn Sheffield Primary Improvement Team (September 2021)

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