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Changes to inspection handbooks for September 2022

Ofsted has today published updated inspection handbooks for all our education remits.

This is standard practice to ensure the handbooks are up to date. The changes will take effect from the start of the new academic year.

We have also published a blog by Chris Russell, National Director of Education, which explains the changes in detail and why we’ve made them.

These are the main changes to be aware of:

Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have an impact on early years settings, schools, and further education providers, and is likely to affect how they make decisions for some time. However, education providers are moving on from an emergency response to the pandemic and returning to more usual ways of working. To reflect this, relevant paragraphs regarding temporary COVID-19 measures have now been incorporated into the main sections of each of the handbooks, to make it clear that inspectors will continue to take account of issues that providers may be facing.

Transitional arrangements

When the education inspection framework (EIF) was introduced in September 2019 it was recognised that the new focus on the curriculum would mean schools and FE providers might want to change their approach – and would need time to do so.

Transitional arrangements were therefore included within the ‘Good’ grade criteria for the quality of education judgement. These arrangements meant that any school or FE provider that was still in the process of updating its curriculum could receive a good grade, provided other aspects of the provision were good.

The arrangements were originally planned to remain in place until September 2020, but were extended as many settings were forced to re-prioritise their curriculum plans in response to the pandemic.

The transitional arrangements have now been removed from the updated handbooks. In their place, a new grade descriptor has been added to the quality of education judgement, acknowledging that settings are no longer facing emergency measures and are taking longer-term approaches to return pupils and learners to the curriculum they always intended.

This change does not mean that schools and FE providers will now be expected to meet every single handbook criterion to remain good. Inspectors will continue to reach their judgements based on the best-fit approach set out in the handbook. And providers will still be evaluated based on their individual context, taking into account their pupils’ and learners’ specific needs.

Graded and ungraded inspections

The updated school inspection handbook also sees Section 5 inspections now referred to as ‘graded inspections’ and Section 8 inspections of good and outstanding schools called ‘ungraded inspections’. The purpose of each inspection type and how they are carried out remains unchanged. The change in name is simply aimed at promoting a better understanding of the types of inspection Ofsted conducts and why, especially among parents.

Structural changes to the EY inspection handbook

In the early years inspection handbook, we have added a new part, which includes guidance on how to apply the EIF in specific contexts and provisions, such as childminders and out-of-school settings.

There is no change to inspection policy. However, we have taken the opportunity to consider some of the terminology we use in the handbook, and have revised this to provide greater clarity for Ofsted inspectors and the sector.

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