While Ofsted’s ‘School inspection update’ documents are primarily for the use of inspectors, they offer a useful insight into what areas Ofsted are focussing on, how inspectors are told to look at these areas, and the implications for schools.

The March update from Ofsted looks at a number of issues, including the inspection of ‘exempt’ schools, the inspection of schools with a religious character, and what inspectors should look for in relation to careers provision in schools.

This guidance outlines what has been highlighted to inspectors in the update, ensuring you are up-to-date with the latest on how Ofsted is conducting inspections. 


Exempt and non-exempt schools


All ‘outstanding’ schools, apart from outstanding special schools, PRUs and maintained nurseries (these are known as non-exempt), are exempt from routine inspection.

While the updated short inspection guidance (which came into effect in January 2018) changed the way non-exempt schools are inspected, the policy for inspecting exempt outstanding schools has not changed. Inspectors will immediately address any potential change in overall effectiveness identified at a section 8 inspection of an exempt school – i.e. if the school has declined from outstanding, the section 8 inspection will be converted to a section 5.

Paragraph 17 of the ‘School inspection handbook’ has been updated to clarify the position for inspecting exempt schools.

For more information on the new short inspection guidance, have a look at our School Inspection Handbook Section 8 – 3 Minute Read


Gathering data from schools and completing evidence forms


Inspectors have been reminded that they should only ask schools to provide data and other information in the format that the school would ordinarily use themselves. Ofsted has reiterated that they do not expect schools to provide evidence for inspection beyond what is set out in the inspection handbook.

Our Ofsted’s Expectations of Evidence guidance, created in collaboration with our Ofsted expert, outlines the evidence inspectors will expect to see during an inspection.


Schools with a religious character


Ofsted has highlighted that they do not inspect the content of RE and collective worship in schools with a religious character – this is covered by a section 48 inspection (a separate inspection arranged through the relevant religious authority).

If a governing board fails to arrange a section 48 inspection within the prescribed period, this is considered a failure to discharge their statutory duty and can be considered as part of the evidence for a section 5 inspection.


The coasting definition and middle schools


Inspectors have been warned to be cautious about what the coasting measure indicates in relation to middle schools. Inspectors should give consideration to the wider context when a middle school meets the coasting definition. This includes considering the progress made by pupils from when they started at the school to when they leave.

Inspectors have been told to note that pupils at junior schools, on average, have lower progress scores, despite their average attainment being in line with or higher than attainment in primary schools; therefore they would be considered coasting.

The DfE’s statutory ‘Schools causing concern’ guidance provides more detail about coasting measures – our 3-Minute Read breaks down the need-to-know information for schools.


Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils


Representatives from Ofsted met with the GRT parliamentary group in November 2017. The group raised a number of concerns with regards to GRT pupils, such as home education, bullying, the high proportion of children in care, educational outcomes and exclusion.

Inspectors have been told to be mindful of provision and outcomes for GRT pupils and to focus in greater depth when these groups represent a significant number of pupils.


Statutory careers guidance


Ofsted has instructed inspectors to be mindful of the government’s careers strategy (published in December 2017) and the Gatsby benchmarks. Ofsted is expecting to see the benchmarks and other recommendations from the strategy becoming commonplace within schools.

The impact and quality of careers guidance and how well a school is preparing pupils for life after school will be a focus for inspectors.

Our Statutory Careers Guidance – 3 Minute Read summarises the key points from the DfE statutory guidance. Additionally, our Careers Policy is up-to-date and in line with the statutory guidance, ensuring your careers provision meets requirements.




Ofsted (2018) ‘School inspection update: March 2018’