Ofsted inspection: latest handbook updates

Updated on 17 July 2018

School Inspection Handbook: July 2018 updates

Ofsted published an updated version of its School Inspection Handbook on 17 July 2018.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education, explained that there would not be major changes to the inspection handbooks for September 2018 (see page 2 of the July 2018 school inspection update).

The minor changes in Ofsted’s latest update to the School Inspection Handbook include:

  • Further clarification on the inspection of religious education and collective worship added to the annex
  • More points added to its clarification for schools about what inspectors look at (these points are also covered in its updated mythbusting guidance)
  • Further explanation about the implications for schools causing concern

Find out more about these changes below.

Clarifications relating to RE in VC schools and section 48 inspections 

Denominational religious education, the school ethos and the content of collective worship are inspected under section 48 of the Education Act 2005. However, the handbook now clarifies that section 5 inspectors may look at the content of religious education (RE) in voluntary controlled (VC) schools (see page 74).

This is because VC schools follow the local agreed RE syllabus of their local authority (LA).

The handbook now also includes an explanation of how timings for section 48 inspections may differ from those for section 5 inspections (see pages 75 to 76).

More Ofsted myths addressed

The “Clarification for schools” section, regarding myths and misunderstandings (see pages 12 to 16 of the handbook), includes new sections on performance management, safeguarding and the curriculum.

It now explains that, for example:

  • Inspectors will consider performance information, data and analysis in whatever format your school uses
  • Attainment of past pupils doesn’t determine inspection outcomes
  • There’s no expectation about how primary schools should carry out assessment or record pupils’ achievements in any subject, including foundation subjects
  • Inspectors won’t check on the process for the performance management arrangements for school leaders and staff
  • Ofsted doesn’t require your school to provide anonymised lists of teachers meeting or not meeting performance thresholds for pay progression
  • There’s no expectation that schools need to have policies relating to staff behaviour in any particular format
  • Ofsted doesn’t expect you to retrospectively apply for references for staff appointed prior to and continuously employed since the introduction of the vetting and barring requirements
  • Inspectors will discuss with your school leaders their curriculum vision and ambitions for their pupils, including consideration of EBacc subjects as part of their curriculum offer

Processes for schools deemed to be causing concern

The handbook now explains that maintained schools and pupil referral units that have been issued with an academy order, and academies which are rebrokered to new sponsors following termination of their funding agreements, won’t normally receive monitoring inspections (see paragraph 112).

The local authority, proprietor or trust still needs to prepare a statement of action. Its purpose should be to set out how the relevant authority and the school will facilitate the transition to the new academy.

The statement must also address any safeguarding concerns (see paragraph 113).


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