Ofsted Handbook Update September 2022

Ofsted has updated its school inspection handbook, with the changes taking effect from 1st September 2022. You can read more about the changes in this Ofsted news story and a summary of changes document, but the key changes are as follows:
  • Section 5 inspections are being renamed ‘graded’ inspections.
  • Section 8 inspections are being renamed ‘ungraded’ inspections.
  • The handbooks for graded and ungraded inspections are being merged into a single handbook.
  • The new handbook has been re-ordered so that it better follows and reflects the flow of an inspection from start to finish.
  • The paragraphs regarding temporary COVID-19 measures have now been incorporated into the main sections of each of the handbooks, to make it clear that inspectors will continue to take account of issues that providers may be facing.
  • The transitional arrangements have now been removed from the updated handbooks. In their place, a new grade descriptor has been added to the quality of education judgement, acknowledging that settings are no longer facing emergency measures and are taking longer-term approaches to return pupils and learners to the curriculum they always intended.
  • FE & Skills inspections will include a new narrative sub-judgement on how well colleges are contributing to skills needs. You can see the relevant change to the EIF in this updated version.
Other documents that have been updated include:
Understandably, changes to the inspection handbook tend to prompt a flurry of anxiety and activity in the system. However, Ofsted has reassured us that most of the changes to the handbook are administrative and will not affect the process of inspection on the ground. That said, the removal of the transition statements is a change worth noting, although on this Ofsted has reassured us that the new criterion for ‘good’ (see above) will better support schools and inspectors to recognise that the curriculum is never truly a finished article and is always subject to review and renewal. Ofsted’s National Director for Education, Chris Russell, says in his accompanying blog, “We recognise that you are likely to always be revising elements of your curriculum.”
Ofsted’s concern was that the transition statements inadvertently risked creating the opposite expectation: that a curriculum must be finalised in some way to be effective. We agree with Ofsted’s recognition that a curriculum can – indeed, should – be subject to review and renewal, including in light of the pandemic, and we will be watching closely to see that the impact of this change on inspection practice is as Ofsted intends.