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Structures, inspection and accountability


School leaders understand the need for public accountability. Parents, politicians and the wider public want to be sure that schools are doing their very best for the children they serve.

However, we also recognise that the current low-trust accountability system is based on a narrow range of measures that drive a range of perverse incentives and unintended consequences and that the current high-stakes inspection system all too often instils fear and stifles innovation. 

NAHT is committed to securing fairer methods and measures of accountability, so that pupils’ performance and school effectiveness are judged using a broad range of information, including the school's broader context and performance history, rather than a narrow focus on data.

Ensure published performance data are calculated and used fairly

  • Press the government to take action to ensure understanding across the sector of changes to primary progress data from 2020
  • Engage with the DfE to ensure that the reception baseline assessment is a valid baseline for progress 
  • Work with the DfE to ensure the methodology, publication and use of performance data is accurate, proportionate and appropriate.


Press for a transition from vertical high-stakes approach to accountability to a lateral system with greater ownership by the profession itself

  • Further develop, articulate and argue the case for a new approach to school accountability, building on NAHT's Commission, and working with other partners
  • Campaign against a hard accountability measure on exclusions
  • Make the case and lobby for a wholly independent complaints process for appeals against Ofsted inspection judgements
  • Lobby for the publication of all training materials for inspectors to ensure transparency and equity
  • Lobby Ofsted for greater transparency regarding the experience, skills and training of inspectors for specific phases and settings
  • Monitor members' experiences of the new inspection framework, holding Ofsted to account for the consistency, reliability and behaviour of inspectors, particularly around curriculum and the quality of education judgement.


Ensure any changes to school structures or systems benefit all pupils within a local community

  • Continue to oppose any form of forced academisation
  • Continue to oppose any expansion of grammar schools
  • Promote and advance local accountability, transparency and democracy in school structures and governance so that schools are best able to serve their wider local community
  • Make the case for centrally coordinated place planning to ensure all new school provision meets demand
  • Promote the full variety of school collaboration from Trusts to informal collaborations. 

Ofsted confirms new arrangements for inspection of good schools

On 5 December 2017, Ofsted published a response to its second consultation on short inspections of good schools that confirmed it was pressing ahead with changes to inspection arrangements from January 2018. 

Taken together with the outcomes and changes set out following the first consultation, the inspection arrangements for schools judged to be good at their most recent inspection are now as follows:

  • About 20 per cent of good schools will be selected for a full section 5 inspection rather than a section 8 short inspection. Ofsted’s handbook states that this ‘…will occur when Ofsted’s risk assessment process indicates that the quality of provision may have deteriorated significantly.’
  • Other good schools will ‘normally’ receive a one-day short inspection; the outcome of which could be one of the following:
    • An inspection letter confirming that the school remains good. The maximum permitted inspection interval for the school will be reset, and the school will receive a further short inspection about three years later (subject to risk assessment – see above)
    • Where there is evidence to suggest a school may have improved from good to outstanding, an inspection letter will be provided, and the school will be informed that it will receive a full section 5 inspection within one to two years
    • Where the lead inspector is not satisfied that a school would remain good under a full inspection, an inspection letter will be provided, and the school will be informed that its next inspection will be a full section 5, ‘ which will typically take place within two years’
    • Where there is evidence that suggests a school may be inadequate in one or more of the graded judgements that would be made during a section 5 inspection, the inspection will be ‘converted’ to a full inspection, usually within 48 hours.

Outstanding special schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units will continue to receive short inspections at about three-year intervals to confirm that the quality of education remains good or outstanding.  The possible outcomes of the inspection follow the model above.  Ofsted has maintained its policy to make no differentiation for these outstanding schools, which are not covered by the exemption regulations.

Notwithstanding the above, the chief inspector has powers to inspect a school where she has cause to do so, under section 8. Ofsted usually conducts such inspections under its ‘no formal designation’ policy as set out at paragraph 22 of its School inspection handbook. The arrangements and policy for the conduct of short inspections, and other section 8 inspections, are set out in Ofsted’s Section 8 handbook.  

We are here to support you

Don’t wait to ask for help until after an inspection because it is usually easier to resolve a problem during an inspection than after it. Our team can offer you advice while your inspection is happening, so don’t hesitate to call us.

For help or advice, call our advice team on 0300 30 30 333 (select option one).

Give us your feedback 

Tell us how well these new arrangements for short inspections work because it helps to inform our lobbying and campaigning.

We are keen to hear from our members about your experience of these arrangements, good or bad. 

Email your comments to our policy team at policy@naht.org.uk – but don’t use this email address if you need advice about an inspection. Instead call our advice team on the number above.

First published 08 February 2018

First published 08 February 2018