FAQs: the inspection framework from September 2017

Does a new seven-year cycle start September 2017?

The new seven-year inspection period starts formally from September 2016.  The new seven-year period increased the flexibility of when an inspection can occur within the seven-year period.   The new Common Inspection Framework and new inspection arrangements will start in September 2017, i.e. one year into this new inspection period.

Does Estyn use any analysis of risk when determining which schools to inspect?

We do not currently use any analysis of risk when deciding on the schools we will inspect, though the Chief Inspector still has the power to call an inspection at any time, for example due to concerns about the school that we have picked up ‘on the ground’.   However, when a wholly new school is formed, we plan to undertake an inspection of the new school within 12-18 months after it has opened. 

Is there any change in Estyn’s position regarding inspecting school sixth forms from September 2017?

We are considering carefully our approach to inspecting sixth forms.  It may be the case that our new arrangements will include inspecting sixth forms as part of our secondary inspections. 

What is the place of attendance in the new Common Inspection Framework?

Inspectors will consider attendance mainly in the new Inspection Area 2 (Wellbeing and attitudes to learning).  They will consider a wide range of evidence relating to attendance, including benchmarked data, and will evaluate whether there are significant weaknesses in relation to the school’s attendance relative to other similar schools.  Inspectors will also consider any analysis undertaken by schools to identify mitigating factors that may have affected overall attendance rates.  Where attendance is significantly weak, inspectors may consider judging the Inspection Area as Adequate, needs improvement or Unsatisfactory, requires urgent improvement. 

Why has Estyn added ‘needs to improve’ to the Adequate judgement and ‘needs urgent improvement’ to the Unsatisfactory judgement?

We hope that this makes Estyn’s expectations clearer. We have used ‘Adequate’ and 'Unsatifactory' in the current inspection framework and, by continuing to use them, there is a good degree of continuity between the current and the new evaluative scales.  We ran an extensive consultation last year and a large majority of stakeholders thought the terms were acceptable.

We added ‘and needs improvement’ not so much to define ‘Adequate’ but to show what happens next when that judgement is awarded and to clarify that ‘Good’ is the minimum standard that we seek. ‘Adequate’ is not a term that denotes entirely satisfactory or sufficient performance within a quality framework. Where there are multiple gradations of judgements, most people understand that ‘Adequate’ denotes the level below ‘Good’ and that ‘Good’ (or better) is where people, schools and organisations should be.

We expect every school/provider to provide a good quality of education or training every day. Where schools/providers fall below this expectation, the new words added to the judgements for Adequate and Unsatisfactory make it clearer that these schools/providers need to improve in order to meet this expectation. 

Do the new judgement definitions mean that Estyn believes that Excellent and Good schools do not need to improve?

No, all schools will receive recommendations at the end of their inspection to help them to improve.  This is also true for schools that receive Good and Excellent judgements.

What information will Estyn require from a local authority before the inspection of one of its schools?

We expect the local authority to provide us with a briefing about the school before the inspection begins, including their view of the school’s performance.  If the school’s latest categorisation report provides this, then there is no need for the local authority to create an additional report.  Inspectors will take account of how long before the inspection this report was written.  However, the local authority is free to provide additional or updated information if it feels that this would help the inspection team.  We also expect the local authority to share with us any important information about the school’s context that would be helpful for the reporting inspector to be aware of.  For example, this could include information relating to staffing in the school or significant incidents in the community.

The information from the local authority, along with all other evidence, helps the reporting inspector to plan inspection activities and to develop appropriate questions to ask during the inspection.  It also helps inspectors to take account of relevant issues, for example when analysing data or when considering issues relating to provision or leadership.  Once the inspection is complete, the reporting inspector will reflect on the information provided by the local authority and share their views and comments on its usefulness with Estyn’s team of local authority link inspectors (again, taking account of when the report was written, if necessary).  Link inspectors consider feedback from reporting inspectors over time to build a picture of how well local authorities know their schools.