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No, Ofsted is not talking to you.

To Proprietors, Governors, Trustees, Headteachers and other school leaders at independent schools that are inspected by Ofsted – Ofsted are not talking to you in this blog above. Really? Yes - I mean it, they are not talking to you. I bet you are thinking “and who are you?” Are you an Ofsted inspector?

No, I am not an Ofsted inspector. But I spend a lot of time reading relevant guidance documents and handbooks, condensing the information then sharing it with you.

Why, you ask?

Because I have to. If I am to provide a full service for my clients.

I am a school improvement consultant. I am all about promoting excellence through continuous school improvement however, I only work with one type of school - yours. Independent schools that are inspected by Ofsted are also known as non-association independent schools. This is because they do not belong to any of the 7 associations that make up the independent schools council. So, instead of being inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate like other independent schools - they are inspected by Ofsted.

Anyway, why do I have to spend so much time talking about Ofsted inspections?

Because Ofsted does not always include non-association independent schools when they talk about school inspections.

When Ofsted says “school” they are almost always talking about maintained schools and academies. Which makes sense because non- association independent schools form a very small proportion of the schools they inspect. After all, independent schools are meant to be free from many of the regulations and conditions that apply to state funded schools. So, when a regulatory body that inspects state- funded education is required to inspect some independent schools it makes sense that independent schools are not always top of mind when they are talking about schools.

Having said that, sometimes when Ofsted says “schools” they do also mean independent schools - and they make that very clear. Particularly in guidance documents. But in blog posts, webinars, press releases when they say “schools” and they don’t mean independent schools - they don’t always make that very clear. And that is where I come in: to ensure that my clients pay attention and are aware of the distinction. I also signpost them to what does apply to them, because the information is available. Ofsted do publish guidance documents specifically for non-association schools. But in their blogs, webinars and in the press - when they talk about schools they very rarely mean non-association independent schools too. So no, Ofsted is not talking to you.

Therefore, when you see something like the blog post on the photo above or the one below:

Don’t get all excited. They don’t mean your school. How do I know? Because this is the first line of the blog about changes to the way they inspect schools:

“With pupils and teachers now returning to school for a new academic year, this blog gives an overview of some of the recent changes to the school inspection handbook and the way we inspect schools.”

The inspection handbook they are referring to there is not yours. Yours is called the non-association independent school inspection handbook. A mouthful, isn’t it? That’s where you will find the changes that apply to your school. Now granted most of the changes outlined by Ofsted in this particular blog also apply to non-association independent schools but not all of them. For example, none of what’s described under “Early Monitoring Inspections” applies to non-association independent schools. If you want to know about the changes to inspections of non- association independent schools, read your handbook

In the blog “When will my school be inspected” where there are tables that give you a clear indication of when a school will next be inspected based on the date they were last inspected and the outcome of that inspection - Ofsted is still not talking to you. Just maintained schools and academies. To find the less precise information about when your school will be inspected - check your handbook. And let’s not forget the handbook for additional inspections of independent schools which covers the other 4 types of inspections that take place in independent schools.

So next time before you read an Ofsted blog or attend a webinar, make sure they are talking to you. Do they specifically state “including independent schools”? Then great. If they refer to an inspection handbook - make sure it’s yours. The best thing to do is to read all the guidance written specifically for non-association independent schools. What? You don’t have time to read all of it? You are in luck, Ofsted has published a summary of changes. But wait a minute, this only tells you about the areas in which changes have been made - not the actual changes. So, you do still need to read the handbooks. But, if you truly don’t have time to do that, that’s where I come in. I take the time to read the handbooks, summarise the changes then tell you about it through a training workshop. So get in touch if that interests you. I recently delivered one for Headteachers and Directors from one of the big groups of independent schools and they found it useful.

I know what you are thinking, “aaah, there it is, this was all about drumming up business”. Not really, the training workshop is only offered here if you don’t have time to read it all for yourself. And we know that is true sometimes, you are very busy people. That’s why Ofsted publishes blog posts, delivers webinars, publishes summaries in the press. It’s just a shame they don’t do it for non-association independent schools as well.

If you are reading this and you are an Ofsted inspector or anyone who can influence what happens at Ofsted here is what I have to say to you. Yes, I acknowledge Ofsted does publish detailed guidance about the inspection of non-association independent schools but when they talk about these changes on blogs, webinars and similar platforms - they only seem to address maintained schools and academies. To help those in non-association independent schools could Ofsted:

Please make it clear when the word “school” includes non-association independent schools and when it doesn’t.

Include a section which covers what’s different for non-association independent schools when they publish blogs or deliver webinars.

Publish blogs and deliver webinars specifically for non-association independent schools each time they do it for maintained schools and academies.

And back to you, owners and leaders of non-association independent schools if you want to hear more let me know in the comments. If you are a school leader from the maintained and academies sector who has recently moved to an independent school inspected by Ofsted – definitely get in touch.

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