Created in collaboration with our Ofsted expert. 




Whilst changes to Ofsted’s section 8 inspection will have a significant impact upon schools, section 5 inspections remain similar to how they were in the Autumn term 2017.

Currently, inspectors tend to focus on the following during an inspection:

  • How well schools secure the culture of safeguarding across the whole school, and how effective leaders are at leading and managing this culture
  • The performance of significant pupil groups, e.g. pupils with SEND, disadvantaged pupils, the most academically able pupils and pupils with EAL.
  • How the school ensures pupils receive a broad and balanced curriculum
  • For primary schools, the teaching of reading across the whole school and particularly how this is developed for pupils in KS2
  • The impact and effectiveness of middle or subject leaders 

Though full inspections are broadly the same as they were in 2017, there are some significant changes that schools should be aware of. This guidance explores any significant changes to Ofsted’s approach to inspections and what schools can expect Ofsted to focus on during the Spring term 2018. 

Focus for section 5 inspections in the Spring term 2018


In the Spring term 2018, schools should expect the following to be a focus of inspections:

  • Inspectors will need to gather stronger evidence to support their judgements on personal development and welfare, particularly giving strong evidence on making judgements about how well schools cater for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development.
  • For many primary schools with nursery provision, inspectors will focus on the provision for two-year-olds. Evidence will be particularly gathered on the safeguarding and welfare of two-year-olds and the quality of provision.
  • Inspectors will be far more focussed on using work scrutiny, which will no longer focus on assessment and marking, but the quality of teaching and especially how teachers contribute to lessons and challenge pupils.
  • Greater detail of how schools keep pupils safe from the risks of radicalisation and extremism will be incorporated into inspecting the culture of safeguarding.
  • For schools that are judged as ‘inadequate’, inspectors will focus on the staff responsible for leading, managing or governing the school that are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.

Personal development and welfare


Inspectors will look to collect significant evidence on pupils’ confidence, self-awareness and their understanding of what it means to be a successful learner. In particular, pupils’ physical and emotional welfare will be looked at to assess how well schools ensure pupils are physically and mentally well. Inspectors will also focus on pupils’ knowledge and ability to manage bullying, as schools must now ensure that pupils are taught how to keep safe.

In relation to behaviour, inspectors will focus on how pupils conduct themselves, their self-discipline, and how pupils behave in lessons and what impact this has upon other pupils. Inspectors will also look at how the school encourages pupils to attend regularly and how well they work with pupils that are persistently absent, meaning that schools should ensure they have robust policies in place for managing persistent absences.



There is now a clear emphasis on ensuring that schools are implementing broad and balanced curriculums in which pupils’ physical and SMSC needs are met. This was traditionally the area with least focus in inspections; however, this has changed for Spring 2018.

Example quotes from inspection reports that evidence this shift are:

Deliberate and effective action is taken to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their physical wellbeing.”

“The school’s thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their physical wellbeing enables pupils to thrive.”

Provision for two-year-olds


Ofsted recognises that many primary schools have nursery provision for two-year-olds. Such schools must demonstrate that they effectively meet the needs for these children and that they comply with the EYFS framework. In short, it is not acceptable to have the same provision for two-year-olds as for three-year-olds – statutory guidelines note that not only is staffing provision different, but safeguarding and provision must be different.

Schools should look closely at the EYFS framework and ensure that their provision meets the needs of two-year-olds.

Work scrutiny


The traditional view of work scrutiny was used by inspectors to look at how assessment is followed and a broad remit on the focus on the presentation.

Work scrutiny will now focus clearly on triangulating evidence and, therefore, will look at the focus on how well teachers pitch their learning tasks and how well pupils are challenged. Inspectors will also look and check if pupils are working at age appropriate levels.

Radicalisation and extremism


Schools’ procedures relating to protecting pupils from radicalism and extremism are traditionally part of the safeguarding element of inspection; however, the focus has moved away from staff training to what schools’ practices are.

The key aspect of a school’s role in relation to the risk of radicalisation and extremism is to protect pupils and build their resilience to these risks.

In relation to practice, schools should:

  • Ensure staff are able to identify pupils who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and know what to do when they are identified.
  • Ensure that protecting pupils from radicalisation is seen as part of the school’s wider safeguarding duties.
  • Be able to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the risk of radicalisation in their local area.

Inadequate judgement  


Where a school has been judged as inadequate, inspectors will focus on whether the staff members responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are demonstrating the capacity to secure necessary improvement in the school. 

Schools that can demonstrate their capacity for securing improvement have:

  • Demonstrable and sustainable improvement.
  • Self-reliance.
  • Accuracy and rigour of self-evaluation.
  • Clear and relevant strategies for identifying and tackling weaknesses.



Ofsted (2017) ‘School inspection handbook’