Leadership Learning: Ofsted Update (December 2020)

Published: 14 December 2020
Our Learn Sheffield Improvement Partner primary team have produced an update about Ofsted which sets the recent announcements in the context of the past fifteen months.

Ofsted – the last 15 months


Ofsted launch their new inspection framework


Just over a year ago now, in September 2019, Ofsted launched the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF). There were some wide-ranging changes in how schools would be inspected. There was a move away from detailed scrutiny and analysis of internal data. The Headteachers of the schools that have been inspected under the EIF have noted how inspectors did not look at the school’s internal data but focused more on observing and discussing the school’s work. School leaders and teachers still have the opportunity to explain their assessment procedures and the rationale behind these and, crucially, what action they have taken as a result of the assessment findings. 

The EIF also brought an increased focus on the quality of education, and, more specifically, the school’s curriculum. The new inspections dedicate a significant amount of time looking at subjects in depth. Inspectors carry out a series of ‘deep dives’ allowing the school to talk in detail about the intent, implementation and impact of the teaching of individual subjects and the curriculum as a whole. The quality of education remains an important focus in section 5 and section 8 inspections.


Covid-19 halts inspections

In March 2020, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced that Ofsted would suspend routine inspections due to coronavirus.

In a video posted on Twitter, Gavin Williamson said "I know that staff shortages are presenting teachers and headteacher with great challenges and I want to say how deeply grateful I am for their civic and community leadership."

"I also want to remove unnecessary burdens to help schools to cope."

"Given the pressures on our school leaders and their staff, it is only right that Ofsted temporarily suspends its routine inspection timetable." 


Shortly after the announcement, the country went into lockdown and schools were instructed to close to the majority of pupils but remain open to vulnerable pupils and key workers’ children.


Autumn Term visits

At the start of September 2020, Ofsted announced that full inspections would not resume until January 2021, although the exact timing would be kept under review. Ofsted released details of its ‘phased return to inspections’ that would start with an interim period of school visits during the Autumn Term. These visits were piloted during September and then fully rolled out in October.

A small number of Sheffield schools have had an Autumn Term visit. The visits started as face to face visits by HMI but then changed to virtual visits later in the Autumn Term as the situation with Covid-19 worsened.

The visits, although not graded, resulted in the publication of a letter on the Ofsted website. These visits focused on:

·         identifying the barriers schools have faced and are still facing in managing the return to full education for pupils

·         how leaders are ensuring pupils resume learning the school’s curriculum in line with DfE guidance, including the blend of classroom teaching and, where necessary, remote education

·         how pupils are settling back into expected routines and behaviours

·         how any identified and specific issues related to special educational needs, disabilities, health, care and well-being for particular groups of pupils are being addressed.


HMCI annual report

On 1 December, Ofsted published its annual report. In the report, Amada Spielman (HMCI) acknowledges that it has been an extraordinary year and schools, as well as society, have been hugely affected by the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Amanda Spielman outlines that the academic year 2019-20 has been a year of 2 very different halves: a ‘pre-Covid’ period from September 2019 to March 2020, and the ‘post-Covid’ period that followed.

The report can be accessed here:



January and beyond

In December 2020, Ofsted announced that there will be no graded inspections until the Summer Term (although this, presumably, will be kept under review).

With regard to maintained schools and academies, Amanda Spielman announced that:

§  From January, we will resume monitoring inspections of schools judged inadequate at their previous inspection and some schools graded as requires improvement. These will not result in a grade.

§  Emergency inspections of schools will continue as they have done throughout the pandemic, in response to any serious concerns raised with Ofsted.

§  Routine inspections, which result in a school being awarded a new grade or being confirmed in its current grade, will resume in the summer term.


We are sure that school leaders will recognise that, over the last 9 months or so, the last thing on the minds of school leaders has been Ofsted and inspections. Schools have had an enormous job to do to ensure they comply with ever changing government guidance relating to Covid-19. Schools across the city have kept children safe and have supported their local communities.

As inspections begin in January, we will inevitably turn our gaze towards the inspectorate. The latest guidance from Ofsted has been set out in the 'January 2021 Maintained Schools and Academies' document which was published on 7 December 2020.


Learn Sheffield Primary Improvement Team (December 2020)




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