Ofsted Inspection Framework 2021

Key Changes to Ofsted Inspections from September 2021

Before your next Ofsted inspection, make sure you and your colleagues read this summary of changes to the Ofsted framework in 2021.

Following the return to full inspections in September 2021, Ofsted has published a guide to school Ofsted inspections, which delves into the key changes to inspections from September 2021 onwards.

To give you an overview, I’ve summarised the vital takeaways to share with the rest of your peers.

The Ofsted Inspection Schedule

‘Good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools

A school that was formerly judged good or outstanding by Ofsted at a section 5 inspection is usually then inspected under section 8 roughly every four years. For the first routine inspection after 4 May 2021, this interval will be extended by up to six terms.

Formerly ‘exempt’ outstanding schools

Maintained and academy primary and secondary schools judged ‘outstanding’ between May 2012 and November 2020 have been ‘exempt’ from routine inspections. Following a change in regulations, all outstanding schools are now subject to routine inspection.

‘Requires improvement’ schools

Schools assessed as ‘requires improvement’ are usually reinspected under section 5 within 30 months. For the first section 5 inspection ‘after the pandemic’, this period will be extended by up to six terms.

An ‘RI’ school may have a monitoring inspection – but this is not a certainty. A school that has received two successive ‘RI’ judgements is normally scrutinised under section 8 and then reinspected under section 5 within 30 months. Once again, for the first section 5 inspection ‘after the pandemic’, this period will be lengthened by up to six terms.

The initial call

The preliminary telephone call to schools will typically be between 10.30am and 2pm on the day before the Ofsted inspection. Important material will be provided by the inspection administrator, including the information that schools are expected to make available by 8am on the first day of the inspection.

Covid Measures and School Inspection

Ofsted is clear that it will conduct onsite Ofsted inspections and that face-to-face meetings are the typical expectation. Nevertheless, the handbook makes provision for some flexibility:

 ‘…it may be pragmatic to carry out some elements of the inspection through video/telephone calls. This will be agreed upon with the headteacher at the start of the inspection. It will usually only be used to involve governors/trustees and others with leadership responsibility in inspection who are unable to attend the school site.’

(Paragraph 28)

The school inspection handbook makes it clear that during the Ofsted inspection preparation telephone call, the headteacher and lead inspector ‘will agree on safety protocols that the inspection team will follow to ensure that the inspection is completed in a Covid-19 secure way’.

It is important to remember that even though Covid restrictions and mitigations have now been withdrawn by the government, the situation and specific circumstances of each school are of course unique.

Additions to the Ofsted Framework for September 2021

There are important additions to both the section 5 and section 8 handbooks, which include advice for inspectors on:

  • How Ofsted will evaluate a school’s use of tutors (section 5) to encourage ‘recovery’, including how their implementation supports the aims of the school curriculum. This change will be incorporated into the ‘quality of education’ decision.
  • Harmful sexual behaviour, bullying and harassment (section 5 and section 8) – Inspectors will require schools to presume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around the school even where there are no specific reports. The anticipation is that schools will be working to avoid this through a whole school behaviour policy with suitable sanctions, pastoral care and meticulously planned relationships, sex and health education curriculum, which incorporates tackling the topic of consent.
  • The school’s provision for the early career framework, which is now statutory for all early career teachers (ECTs) (section 5), includes deciding the efficacy of support for ECTs and the quality of mentoring.
  • Careers information, education and guidance (see section 5), which collates Ofsted’s position and clarifies how inspectors will assess and report on these characteristics of a school’s work.

Quality of Education

Key requirements around the quality of education remain largely as they were. Namely, inspectors will scrutinise the curriculum through the lens of the three ‘I’s’ – intent, implementation and impact.

You must know which subject areas are strengths within your school and which might require further development, as this will potentially form the structure of your ‘Deep Dives’.

Deep Dives

Your ‘Deep Dives’ means that inspectors will gather evidence on the intent, implementation and impact of your school’s curriculum. It will be done in partnership with leaders, teachers and pupils. The idea of ‘Deep Dives’ is to determine a coherent evidence base of ‘quality of education’.

Here’s an overview of what inspectors will be looking for within each subject when they’re considering each of these aspects to reach a ‘quality of education’ decision:


  • You need to demonstrate ambitious aims for all pupils, supported by coherent curriculum planning, sequencing, and connecting of learning.
  • Inspectors will want to see that any pupils who are behind age-related expectations are given chances to learn the knowledge and skills they need to catch up.
  • Teachers will need to demonstrate an understanding of cognitive science – namely that concepts are introduced in small steps and aren’t moved on until learning is secure, and with due regard for working memory.
  • All class teachers should understand, explain, and demonstrate the intent behind your school’s curriculum.
  • The intent is further evidenced in children’s work, and how they talk about specific subject areas.


  • You need to ensure that all teachers are equipped with good subject knowledge and are supported by the necessary resources and professional development to deliver the curriculum effectively.
  • Inspectors will be looking for consistency throughout your school, with different class teachers using the same approaches, particularly in areas such as maths and phonics.
  • The key ‘impact’ question – do children remember what they have learned? And what do teachers do if they discover they haven’t?


  • The key ‘impact’ question – do children remember what they have learned? And what do teachers do if they discover they haven’t?
  • Assessment should be used to identify when children have reached the understanding they need to move on to new material (knowing when children are ready to go deeper).

Further Support to Prepare Your School for Ofsted Changes  

At Services For Education, we have a broad selection of resources for teachers to help your school prepare for Ofsted inspections and improve the learning environment for pupils, including:

For any further guidance or advice, contact us today.

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