Scope of briefing
This note provides background on Ofsted inspections of state-funded schools in England, and looks at recent developments in school inspection. It covers FAQs including:
- How often are Ofsted inspections carried out?
- What consequences do the different inspection grades have for schools?
- What evidence do inspectors look at as part of the inspection process?
- Who holds Ofsted to account?
- How does a school complain about an Ofsted inspection?
This note mostly covers England. Separate inspection arrangements apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Ofsted inspects all maintained and academy schools in England, and around half of independent schools, against the relevant inspection framework. It also inspects other services, including childcare, social care and further education.
Ofsted’s school inspection framework from September 2015
In September 2015, a new common inspection framework was introduced to cover early years providers, state-funded schools, some independent schools and further education and skills providers in England.
Schools graded good at their last inspection receive a short, one-day inspection after around three years, rather than a full re-inspection within three to five years, as previously.
Consequences of inspection outcome for schools
There are four overall judgements that Ofsted can reach about schools: Outstanding; Good; Requires Improvement; and Inadequate. Inadequate is further subdivided into two categories, 'serious weaknesses’ or ‘requiring special measures’.
Following the passage of the Education and Adoption Act 2016, an inadequate overall grading of a maintained school triggers the mandatory issue of an academy order.
Complaints about Ofsted inspections
Ofsted has published complaints procedures and individuals concerned about inspections should follow these. There are time limits on lodging some complaints.
Complainants unhappy with Ofsted’s response may be able to ask the Independent Complaints Arbitration Service for Ofsted (ICASO) to examine their case, but ICASO cannot overturn an Ofsted judgement. Some complainants may also be able to ask the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) to consider their complaint but again the PHSO cannot overturn Ofsted’s findings.
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