Special schools escape no-notice inspections after Ofsted backtrack

Special schools will be spared from no-notice inspections “in all but name” after Ofsted decided the schools had a “right” to be treated equally to mainstream schools.

In July, TES revealed that the watchdog’s new inspection framework meant that special schools would be effectively subjected to no-notice inspections, as the inspectorate claimed it needed more time to gather data on such schools.

Under the proposals, special schools would receive a phone call at 9am on the morning that inspectors were due, and the inspection team would turn up at 12pm on the same day.

When the plans were unveiled, they were heavily criticised by special-school leaders, who accused the watchdog of discriminating against the sector.

At the time, Lynn Slinger, headteacher of Forest Way School, an outstanding special school in Leicestershire, described the move as “inspection by another name”.

But this week, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for education, said the watchdog had altered the new inspection framework, which comes into effect this week, in response to the concerns.

Writing in his blog, Mr Harford says: “Over the summer, the helpful feedback we have received, mainly from leaders of these schools has continued to emphasise that they wish to be treated like other schools.

“We have listened and agree that they have a right to this parity. So you will see in the section 8 handbook that special schools and PRUs will be notified of inspection around midday on the day before the short inspection.

“As a result, there will now be no planning visit by the lead inspector to the school’s site on the day of notification.”

Ms Slinger welcomed the move, but pointed out that special schools that are judged to be outstanding are still subjected to inspections, unlike the mainstream sector.

“We are happy with the decision to treat us on an equal footing with our mainstream colleagues,” she said. “We are pleased Ofsted has listened to our feedback as it will make such a difference to our system leaders.”

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