Beware of consultants who claim to be ‘Ofsted inspectors’, schools warned

Ofsted has warned headteachers not to employ school improvement consultants who claim to be inspectors.

In official guidance published today, the inspectorate reveals that it has banned its workforce from using the title “Ofsted inspector” outside of official business.

Many headteachers have employed external consultants to carry out mock Ofsted inspections of their school in a bid to prepare for a visit from the watchdog.

But in July Ofsted announced it was clamping down on the practice, and it has banned its inspectors from carrying out so-called “mocksteds” in their own time. The decision came after a number of companies were found to be offering schools “the full Ofsted experience”, charging upwards of £800 a day to carry out fake inspections.

Now the watchdog has issued guidance for schools saying that while it cannot tell headteachers how they spend their money, they should avoid any consultants using the official title “Ofsted inspector”.

“Ofsted has repeatedly made it clear that the only necessary way to prepare for inspection is to be delivering a quality education,” the guidance says. “Our contracts with OIs [Ofsted inspectors] restrict them from calling themselves Ofsted inspectors when doing anything other than inspection activity for us.

“As such, we advise schools to exercise caution in recruiting any consultants who describe themselves as Ofsted inspectors.”

The advice is part of Ofsted’s move to bring all inspectors “in-house” in an attempt to improve the quality of inspections. As part of this shift, it has shed 1,200 additional inspectors.

The guidance on the new inspection personnel admits that: “Ofsted cannot prevent self-employed individuals (as some of our OIs will be) from legitimately obtaining other work.” But it stresses that: “OIs are strictly prohibited from carrying out so-called ‘mocksteds’.”

Headteachers’ leaders have welcomed the decision to crack down on mocksteds. NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby stated that mock inspections had increased the pressure on schools, which was “not healthy”.

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