Release date: 01/10/2020

In recent weeks, NGA has been working with the headteacher unions NAHT and ASCL to lobby Ofsted to change its plan to publish letters about schools following each of its autumn visits. As we set out in our joint letter to the Chief Inspector four weeks ago, we are concerned that the ‘outcome letter’ changes the nature of the proposed collaborative conversations to a form of inspection, which we strongly believe is not in the best interests of schools, their leaders and their pupils at this time.

In response to the ongoing dialogue with Ofsted, NAHT launched a legal challenge regarding the basis for these visits. As a direct result, Ofsted has now admitted that the visits ‘fall within the broad concept of inspections’ having previously encouraged our three organisations to ‘provide assistance in telling schools unequivocally that these are not inspections.’

Emma Knights, chief executive, National Governance Association said: 
“After a challenge by NAHT over the legal basis for these visits, Ofsted has conceded that the visits do ‘fall within the broad concept of inspections’ having previously encouraged our three organisations to ‘provide assistance in telling schools unequivocally that these are not inspections.’ Although this contradiction illustrates its confused rationale, Ofsted is determined to proceed in this manner rather than simply treating them as research visits.
"This lack of compromise is disappointing when schools and school leaders in particular have so much to contend with. Having been briefed by Ofsted, we understand that by and large the pilot visits held in September were welcomed by senior leaders who confirmed that the discussions were collaborative and supportive. The pilot visits were however voluntary and without the publication of an Ofsted letter, an approach which we supported wholeheartedly.”

NGA has provided an information sheet for members about these interim visits, and has stressed that these interim visits should not require any preparation.While governors and trustees are not automatically invited to take part in the visit conversations, Ofsted will try to accommodate discussions with governors/trustees where the headteacher requests it.

NGA will be monitoring the rollout of these visits, and how they are impacting schools and leaders in practice, while we maintain a continue dialogue with Ofsted and colleagues at NAHT and ASCL to feedback on issues which arise. We would therefore like to hear from any members with views on this and experience of either the pilot visits or the interim visits which began this week. Please contact nina.sharma@nga.org.uk. If your school is chosen for a visit and there are any concerns, about the timing or during the visit itself, your school leaders are urged to contact their professional association (ASCL or NAHT) for immediate help.

Ofsted is planning to resume routine inspections in January. Together with ASCL and NAHT, we do not think that this is the right course to take in light of rising COVID-19 infection rates, and the consequent disruption to schools. We will be pressing for the resumption of inspections to be postponed until circumstances are more favourable.

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