Press release: New era for Ofsted inspection

Speaking to over 400 headteachers, college principals and early years professionals, Sir Michael Wilshaw praised the achievements of great education leaders over recent decades and set out how changes to Ofsted inspection are designed to support further improvement in the system.

The event, in London, is the first of 8 conferences around the country designed to share the details of the new inspection model with the sector.

From September, Ofsted will inspect good schools and further education and skills providers once every 3 years under a new short inspection model. Inspectors will start from a premise that the school or provider is still good and focus on ensuring that those standards are being maintained. They will check that leaders have identified key areas of concern and that they have the capacity to address them.

These short inspections will typically last one day and be led by one or two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI), with bigger teams for further education colleges. Where HMI feel more evidence is necessary to confirm the judgement, or to establish whether the school or provider may have improved or declined, the visit will be converted to a full inspection and continue, most commonly, for an additional day.

Describing the nature of the new short inspections, Sir Michael said:

“Make no mistake, this is a very different inspection model to what has gone before.

“The starting assumption of Her Majesty’s Inspectors will be that the school or college is good. This should engender an atmosphere in which honest, challenging, professional dialogue can take place.

“Leaders will have nothing to fear from accurately identifying at the outset any weaknesses in their provision – as well as the strengths – based on their own evaluation. HMI will be looking to see that the leadership has a clear understanding of the key areas for development – and a credible and effective plan for addressing these.

“Short inspections will reduce the burden of inspection without losing the rigour which parents and the public rightly expect of Ofsted.”

In his speech Sir Michael also announced plans to recognise ‘exceptional leaders’; outlining how, from September, when inspectors identify an early years leader, headteacher or college principal who has played a key role in turning around other institutions, Ofsted will send a letter to them acknowledging their leadership as exceptional. A copy of this letter will go to the Secretary of State and Ofsted’s Annual Report will also feature those leaders who have been recognised in this way.

On the importance of recognising these achievements, Sir Michael said:

“Those leaders who are taking risks, putting themselves out and disseminating good practice beyond their own institution need to be celebrated as exceptional reformers.”

As well as short inspections for good schools and further education and skills providers, September will see a number of other changes. A common framework for inspection is being introduced encompassing registered early years settings, maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers, so that common judgements and terminology can be used across all these sectors. A young person, parent or employer should be able to pick up any of Ofsted’s inspection reports and be able to understand them quickly because the format and judgements are the same.

Sir Michael also announced his intention to open up Ofsted’s complaints process to greater accountability. Each Ofsted region will set up a ‘scrutiny committee’ made up of HMI and leading headteachers, early years and college leaders not involved in carrying out inspections for Ofsted. They will assess and rule on the internal reviews of complaints about inspection.

The new school year will bring significant changes to the way Ofsted contracts with, trains and manages inspectors for schools and further education and skills providers. From September, Ofsted Inspectors, directly contracted by the inspectorate, will undertake inspections. Seven out of 10 of these inspectors will be serving practitioners from good and outstanding schools and colleges. All of their training, quality assurance and performance management will be directly overseen by HMI. Even higher quality and greater consistency will be Ofsted’s watchwords.


  1. The new inspection framework and associated materials, including videos of education leaders talking about their experience of the new inspection model will be published on the website.
  2. Further conferences will held around the country over the next four weeks in: Birmingham, Leicester, Peterborough, Manchester, Bristol, Portsmouth and York.
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), academies, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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