Created in collaboration with our Ofsted expert




The actual judgment of ‘requires improvement’ – the revised term for ‘satisfactory’ –  obviously causes great concern for a school’s stakeholders. For many schools, the judgment is similar to being in the category of ‘special measures’, and for stakeholders, the judgment and implications for the school can be unclear.

This document outlines why a school may be judged to require improvement and explores what action a school needs to take to overcome the judgement.


What happens when a school is given this judgement?


When a school receives its final judgment as requires improvement, school leaders are recommended to consider how they can implement key strategies that will help them improve school standards quickly.

The Ofsted report ‘Getting to good: how headteachers achieve success’ draws on evidence from good practice case studies where headteachers have improved judgments from satisfactory to good or better. Although this document has been archived by Ofsted, it is still available to read and contains many valuable suggestions for raising expectations, tracking and monitoring pupil progress and sustaining improvements.   

Schools judged to require improvement will be re-inspected under section 5 of the Education Act 2005 (a ‘full inspection’) and this could be up to 30 months after the publication of the previous report.

Recently appointed headteachers of schools judged to require improvement will be amongst those who may have questions/concerns about the scheduling of their next inspection, and schools falling into this category may have been recommended to undertake a pupil premium review and a governance review.


An overall requires improvement judgment when the school leadership is judged as ‘good’


Some schools may have an overall judgment of requires improvement but the leadership and management elements of the inspection have been judged as good. This outcome is given to a school where the capacity of the leadership has demonstrated real change. Often, the leadership team has a robust plan in place to improve outcomes and to improve teaching and learning. The judgment relates to the capacity of the leadership team and generally, Ofsted reports will highlight that the leaders, given more time, will have the capacity to advance the school to a good judgment within the allotted 30 months.


What action needs to be taken?


Improve the quality of teaching and learning quickly


An inspection which highlights an overall requires improvement judgment demonstrates that the quality of teaching is not good enough because the pupils are not making good enough progress.

The quality of teaching is now assessed "over time" and contrary to popular belief, the inspection is not a snapshot of the school’s performance. People may use these words but they do not reflect current practice of Ofsted.

An Ofsted inspection judgment that a school requires improvement also highlights that the school's leadership team has not established a systematic way of assessing and checking pupils' progress. Schools must have a school-wide consistent tracking system, which highlights the progress of all pupils and significant groups of pupils as they progress across the school. Schools must have a stringent tracking and assessment system, which highlights that leaders are closely tracking the performance of all groups. This will ensure that leaders will hold teachers accountable for the progress within their classrooms. By making this system transparent, school governors can also make leaders accountable.


Review the School Development Plan


Schools that are judged to require improvement must develop a robust School Development Plan (SDP) with clear and measurable targets focussing on better outcomes for all groups of pupils. The SDP will be at the centre of the school’s response to ensuring that the school is quickly working towards becoming a good school.

Many schools that are working to overcome a requires improvement judgment will highlight clear impact statements or milestones on their journey towards significant improvement. All actions should have clear and precise timescales and will focus on measurable outcomes. An example of this is illustrated below.

“To significantly improve the quality of the teaching of reading and assessment of reading so that in all year groups, 70 percent of all pupils will reach age-related expectations and 15 percent of all pupils will be working at greater depth by the end of the academic year.”

By setting such an ambitious but measurable outcome, it demonstrates the ambition of the leadership team and focusses on precise targets to improve the outcomes for all pupils.


Governance review


An external review of governance looks at how well a school’s governing body is working. An external system leader or governance professional should work with the governing body, headteacher and clerk to improve the performance of the school’s governing body.


The aim is to help the governing body to:

  • Be more skilled, focussed and effective.
  • Be more aware of the freedoms that it has to work in different ways.
  • Be clear in its vision for the school or academy and how, together with the school leadership team, it can achieve this.
  • Be confident that it has a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensure that all safeguarding responsibilities are enforced.
  • Have the right number of skilled and committed governors to meet the needs of the school or academy.
  • Hold school leaders to account for improving outcomes for all pupils, including those who are disadvantaged.
  • Be clear about how it ensures that its young people are well prepared to be responsible citizens in Britain.


Pupil premium reviews


A pupil premium review concentrates on how a school is spending its pupil premium funding. The purpose of the review is to improve the school’s pupil premium strategy, so that funding is spent on approaches proven to be effective in improving the achievement of disadvantaged pupils.

A pupil premium review will:

  • Evaluate the impact of a school’s ability to support disadvantaged pupils and raise their attainment so that the gap against their peers significantly narrows.
  • Ensure that school leaders, including governing bodies, are accountable for the effective direction of pupil premium funding, making sure that it is not simply absorbed into mainstream budgets, but instead is carefully targeted at the designated children.
  • Clearly identify how pupil premium funding is being spent.
  • Ensure that pupil premium spending is evaluated, minimising the risk of funding being spent on activities that have little impact on achievement for disadvantaged pupils.
  • Encourage school leaders to seek ways to persuade parents and carers to apply for free school meals where pride, stigma or changing circumstances act as barriers to its take-up.




Schools that have received a requires improvement judgment must demonstrate that all school leaders have the capacity to ensure the school can progress significantly. Schools that have been judged to require improvement for the second time with the same leaders may well be judged as ‘inadequate’ because they have not moved the school forward significantly.