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Office for Standards in Education


Office for Standards in Education

Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills
Non-ministerial government department overview
Employees 1,213
Annual budget £168 million
Minister responsible Rt Hon Nicola Morgan PC MP (15 July 2014), Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Education
Non-ministerial government department executives David Hoare, Chair
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools
Website (As at 2 October 2014 the OfSTED web site will be absorbed into GOV.UK.)

The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (OfSTED) is a non-ministerial department of government. On 31 July 2014 the Chair of OfSTED was announced as David Hoare.[2] The official position of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills (HMCI) is appointed by an Order in Council and thus becomes an office holder under the Crown. The current office holder is Sir Michael Wilshaw. Provision for the inspections of schools by teams of inspectors, and direct reports to schools, parents, and government, was made in the Education (Schools) Act 1992.[3] OfSTED was formed for the administration and structure of the team approach. Schedule 11 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006[4] changed the way in which OfSTED works without significantly changing the provision. Since 2006 the structure of OfSTED has derived elements from business models, with a Chair, an executive board, regional officers, and a formal annual report to Parliament in the light of concerns about schools, and local authority children's services.

The services Ofsted inspects or regulates include: local services, childminding, child day care, children's centres, children's social care, CAFCASS, state schools, independent schools and teacher training providers, colleges, and learning and skills providers in England. It also monitors the work of the Independent Schools Inspectorate.[5] HMI are empowered and required to provide independent advice to the United Kingdom government and parliament on matters of policy and to publish an annual report to parliament on the quality of educational provision in England.

The Education and Training Inspectorate in Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education in Scotland, and Estyn in Wales perform similar functions within their education systems.

OfSTED distributes its functions amongst its offices in London, Manchester, Nottingham, and Bristol.


In 1833, Parliament agreed an annual grant to the National Society for Promoting Religious Education and the British and Foreign School Society, which respectively provided Church of England and non-denominational elementary schools for poor children. To monitor the effectiveness of the grant, two inspectors of schools were appointed in 1837, Seymour Tremenheere and the Rev. John Allen. Dr J.P. Kay-Shuttleworth, then secretary of the Privy Council education committee, ensured that the inspectors were appointed by Order in Council to guard their independence.[6] The grant and inspection system were extended in 1847 to Roman Catholic elementary schools established by the Catholic Poor School Committee.[7]

Inspectors were organised on denominational lines, with the churches having a say in the choice of inspectors, until 1876, when inspectors were re-organised by area. After the Education Act 1902, inspections were expanded to state-funded secondary schools along similar lines. Over time, more inspections were carried out by inspectors based in Local Education Authorities, with HMI focussing on reporting to the Secretary of State on education conditions across the country.[8]

The government of John Major, concerned about variable local inspection regimes, decided to introduce a national scheme of inspections though a reconstituted HMI, which became known as the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Under the Education (Schools) Act 1992, HMI would supervise the inspection of each state-funded school in the country, and would publish its reports instead of reporting to the Secretary of State.[9]

In September 2001, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England became responsible for registration and inspection of day care and childminding in England. Previously this was done by 150 local authorities, based on their implementation by 1992 of the Daycare Standards provisions of the 1989 Children Act.[10]

In April 2007 the former Office for Standards in Education merged with the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) to provide an inspection service which includes all post-16 government funded education (but not Higher Education Institutes and Universities which are inspected by the Quality Assurance Agency). At the same time it took on responsibility for the registration and inspection of social care services for children, and the welfare inspection of independent and maintained boarding schools from the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).[11]


The current Chief Inspector is Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was appointed in January 2012 replacing Christine Gilbert CBE.[12] Gilbert was appointed in October 2006. One of her key briefs was oversee the expansion of Ofsted's remit from April 2007 to include the inspection of children's social services, adult learning and aspects of court administration, as this relates to children.[13]

Prior to Ofsted, Sir Michael's distinguished career included teaching for 43 years, of which 26 were as headteacher in London secondary schools, and most recently as Executive Principal at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney. In addition to leading Mossbourne Community Academy, Sir Michael was Director of Education for ARK, a charitable education trust running a number of academies across England.

Ofsted directly employs Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI), who are appointed by the Queen in Council. As of July 2009 there were 443 HMIs, of which 82 were engaged in management, 245 in the inspection of schools and the rest in inspection of other areas for which Ofsted in responsible. All HMIs inspecting schools have teaching experience.[14][15]

Most school inspections are carried out by Additional Inspectors (AI) employed by external companies known as Regional Inspection Service Providers (RISPs). As of July 2009 there were 1,948 AIs, of whom 1,567 inspect schools. Although Ofsted claims that most of these have teaching experience,[15][16] in 2012 it was forced to admit that it had done no quality control checks on these inspectors, and that many of them – including lead inspectors – were not qualified teachers and many had no experience of working with children.[17] A further scandal surrounded headteachers dismissed following poor OFSTED reports being hired as inspectors.[18]

An HMI accompanies an AI on 6–7% of inspections,[15] including 75% of those of secondary schools.[9] Reports produced by RISPs must be checked and signed off by HMI, sometimes with amendments, before publication. New Additional Inspectors must be monitored and signed off by HMI before working independently.[19]

The number of RISPs contracted to conduct school inspections was reduced in 2009 from five to three:[16][20]

School inspections

The Office carries out regular inspections of each school in England, resulting in a published evaluation of the effectiveness of the school. An adverse report may include a recommendation for further intervention in the running of the school.

System of inspection before 2005

Critics of the system of inspection claim that the short amount of time in which HMI get to see the school does not accurately represent the day-to-day activities and can give a biased view.

Prior to 2005, each school was inspected for a week every six years, with two months notice to prepare for an inspection. This regime was criticised by teachers and school heads as greatly disruptive of the operation of the school, and by others as enabling schools to present an unrealistic picture of themselves that did not truly reflect the quality of teaching and learning in the school.[21][22]

System of inspection 2005–2012

In September 2005 a new system of short notice inspections came into being. Under this system the senior leadership of each school were strongly encouraged to complete a Self Evaluation Form (SEF) on a continual basis, which required them to be aware of strengths and areas for development. Inspections were generally two- or three-day visits every three years, with two days' notice. They focussed on the "central nervous system" of the school – examining how well the school was managed, and what processes were in place to ensure standards of teaching and learning improve; the school leadership and management were expected to be aware of everything in the SEF. The SEF served as the main document when planning the inspection, and was crucial in evaluating the quality of leadership and management and the school's capacity to improve.[21][23]

Poster outside village school in Gilsland, referring to an Ofsted inspection report.

After an inspection of a school, Ofsted published a report on the school on its website. In addition to written comments on a number of areas, schools were assessed on each area and overall on a 4-point scale: 1 (Outstanding), 2 (Good), 3 (Satisfactory) and 4 (Inadequate). Schools rated Outstanding or Good might not be inspected again for five years, while schools judged less favourably were inspected more frequently, and might receive little or no notice of inspection visits.[23]

Figures published in March 2010, showed that revised inspection criteria, which were introduced in September 2009, resulted in a reduction from 19% to 9% in the number of schools judged to be outstanding, and an increase from 4% to 10% in the number of schools judged to be inadequate.[24]

Current system of inspection

A framework for section 5 inspections of academies and maintained schools was introduced from January 2012, and replaced with another new framework in September 2012. Public consultation was undertaken,[25] and Ofsted prepared for the new framework after piloting a series of inspections across the country. Among other changes, the new system relabelled the "Satisfactory" category as "Requires Improvement", with an expectation that schools should not remain at that level.[26]

Special measures

Sometimes a school is placed into special measures if it is judged as 'inadequate' (Grade 4) in one or more areas and if the inspectors have decided it does not have the capacity to improve without additional help. Schools placed into special measures receive intensive support from local authorities, additional funding and resourcing, and frequent reappraisal from Ofsted until the school is no longer deemed to be failing. Furthermore, the senior managers and teaching staff can be dismissed and the governing body may be replaced by an appointed Interim Executive Board (IEB). Schools which are failing but where inspectors consider there is capacity to improve are given a Notice to Improve (NtI).[27][28]

Home educator inspections

Although home education is outside Ofsted's remit, they are actively involved in shaping policy for the inspection and regulation of home educators through support of the recommendations of the Badman Review. Ofsted's submission to the review indicated a wish to take inspections further and recommended that parents be subject to Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks before being allowed to home educate their own children.[29][30] However, the public response to their efforts was not universally supportive, with one MP slamming the report as "deeply concerning".[31]

Child care inspections

Child protection

Ofsted also oversees Child Protection by English Local Authorities. In December 2008, Christine Gilbert revealed that Ofsted had been gullible: good ratings could be given, based purely on data submitted directly by local authority providers of care services, that could easily be concealing dangerously flawed practices. This was considered a factor, by The Daily Telegraph, in overlooking alleged inadequacies in Haringey Council's child care provision in the case of Baby P,[32] a child murdered by his parents and their lodger.[33] MPs criticised Ofsted for issuing a favourable report on Haringey Children's Services three months after the death, and for their policy of destroying all source materials on inspections of children's services after three months, which made it impossible to identify the mistakes made. According to Ofsted, three children died in England and Wales from abuse every week between April 2007 and August 2008. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children gives a figure of 1 to 2 per week.[34]


Ofsted has been criticised as 'not fit for purpose' by the House of Commons Education Select Committee.[35] The committee also highlighted their concern about "the complex set of objectives and sectors that Ofsted now spans and its capacity to fulfil its core mission". Other criticism has come from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) which said "Ofsted is over-reliant on number crunching, using test data which are fundamentally unsound" and added that the organisation was "ripe for overhaul".[35]

In August 2013, 18 of the 24 newly launched Free Schools were graded Good or Outstanding by Ofsted;[36] however, with over 100 state schools being downgraded from an Outstanding classification[37] this year, the consistency of Ofsted grading is once again brought into question, leading to numerous 'How to get a Good Ofsted' guides[38] being created.[39]

In popular culture

Hope and Glory, a BBC television drama featuring actor/comedian Lenny Henry, gave an insight into a fictional portrayal of teachers dealing with a school in Special Measures.[40] OFSTED! The Musical was launched in 2004 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[41] The piece enjoyed a total sell-out run at Venue 45 and won the Writers' Guild Award for Drama 2004 and the List Magazine Award.[42] The musical was later broadcast on Teachers TV as part of their launch night schedule.[43] Summerhill, a BBC TV drama, depicting a school court case in 2000 against Ofsted.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills (sometimes abbreviated to HMCI) is the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw was appointed Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills on 1 January 2012.

List of HMCIs

Note that the title of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools [HMCI] was created at the same time as The Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted] itself. Before Ofsted was set up in 1992, the person heading its forerunner, HM Inspectorate of Schools, was known as the Senior Chief Inspector [SCI] and was also a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Education and Science.


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Memorandum submitted by Mrs Stella R Davis, The Work of Ofsted, Children, Schools and Families Committee – Written Evidence, House of Commons, 9 February 2009.
  6. ^ Cannon, John (2002). "HMI". The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  7. ^ McLaughlin, Terence H.; O'Keefe, Joseph; O'Keeffe, Bernadette (1996). "Setting the scene: current realities and historical perspectives". In McLaughlin, Terence; O'Keeffe, Bernadette. The contemporary Catholic school: context, identity, and diversity. Routledge. pp. 1–21. ISBN . 
  8. ^ "Education: Inspectorate and HMI Reports". Domestic Records Information 127. National Digital Archive of Datasets. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Children, Schools and Families Committee – First Report: School Accountability (Report). House of Commons. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  10. ^ Plomin, Joe (3 September 2001). "Ofsted to inspect pre-schools". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  11. ^ Carvel, John; Ward, Lucy (28 March 2007). "Same name, new recipe". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "Michael Gove formally accepts the resignation of Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector". Department of Education. 6 April 2011. 
  13. ^ Wilby, Peter (27 November 2007). "Raising the bar". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "How to become an Additional Inspector for school inspection". Ofsted. 
  15. ^ a b c Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 6 July 2009, . Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 9 July 2009. col. 997W. .
  16. ^ a b "Our partners". Ofsted. 
  17. ^ Exley, Stephen (27 July 2012). "Inspectors unqualified to teach sit in judgement". TES. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Harris, Sarah (26 June 2012). "Failed headteachers are being recruited as OFSTED school inspectors". Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  19. ^ Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 19 December 2006, . Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 19 December 2006. col. 1882W. .
  20. ^ "New inspection contracts signed" (Press release). Ofsted. 25 March 2009. 
  21. ^ a b McNulty, Bernadette (10 February 2004). "Teachers torn over inspection reform". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  22. ^ Clare, John (10 February 2004). "Schools to get just 48 hours' warning of Ofsted visits". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 
  23. ^ a b Schools, Office for Standards in Education.
  24. ^ "More schools are failing Ofsted checks". BBC News. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Inspection 2012: proposals for inspection arrangements for maintained schools and academies from January 2012". Ofsted. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  26. ^ "The framework for school inspection". Ofsted. 2013. 
  27. ^ "Work with Schools Causing Concern". Ofsted. 
  28. ^ "Schools Causing Concern". Department for Children, Schools and Families. 
  29. ^ Memorandum submitted by Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), UK Parliament, September 2009.
  30. ^ Sugden, Joanna (14 September 2009). "Parents protest at Ofsted inspections for children taught at home". The Times (London). Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  31. ^ Watson, Ross. "Education Select Committee chair hits out at Ofsted home education report". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  32. ^ Gammell, Caroline; Simpson, Aislinn (5 December 2008). "Head of Ofsted Christine Gilbert admits failings over death of Baby P". The Telegraph. 
  33. ^ Lakhani, Nina; Johnson, Andrew (16 November 2008). "Nasty, brutish and short: The horrific life of Baby P". The Independent. 
  34. ^ Gammell, Caroline (10 December 2008). "Three children die from abuse every week, Ofsted chief Christine Gilbert reveals". The Telegraph. 
  35. ^ a b Sheerman, Barry (11 July 2007). "Ofsted under fire in MPs' report". BBC News. 
  36. ^ Three Quarters of Free Schools Rated Good or Outstanding
  37. ^ Dozens of 'Outstanding' Schools Downgraded BBC News, July 2013.
  38. ^ How to go from Good to Outstanding The Guardian Teacher Network.
  39. ^ Ofsted Good to Outstanding White Paper Classroom Monitor.
  40. ^ Phibbs, Harry (20 November 2008). "Hope And Glory"Details of Lenny Henry and OFSTED related Drama . London: Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  41. ^ ""OFSTED! The Musical. PIT Theatre. Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  42. ^ ""BBC Article about the multi-award winning OFSTED! The Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2004. 26 August 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  43. ^ ""OFSTED! The Musical online at Teachers TV. Retrieved 10 December 2008. 
  44. ^ Griffiths, Sian (3 May 2009). "Blairs Mr Education Chris Woodhead Considers Suicide". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  45. ^ Staff writer (16 November 2000). "New Head of Ofsted Confirmed". BBC News. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  46. ^ a b Press release (16 December 2005). "David Bell Named as New Permanent Secretary at Department for Education and Skills". Department for Education and Skills. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  47. ^ Staff writer (8 June 2006). "Minister's Wife Takes Over Ofsted". BBC News. Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  48. ^ a b

External links

  • Official website
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