FAQs: Pilot inspections for the new inspection arrangements

Autumn term 2016 and spring term 2017

How did Estyn choose the schools for the pilot inspections?

Every year, we choose a broadly representative sample of schools to inspect.  This ensures that we have a mix of schools each year, for example small, medium and large schools, Welsh-medium and English-medium schools, and schools covering a range of geographical areas.  We have chosen pilot schools in the same way and from the existing list of schools due to be inspected as part of the broadly representative sample.  We have not applied any other criteria in choosing the pilot schools, for example there is no criteria based on risk or prior analysis of performance data.

Will schools involved in the pilot inspections receive more than 3 weeks’ notice? 

Pilot inspection schools will receive formal notification 15 working days before the inspection.  This will help Estyn to test its systems and processes in order to see the impact on its work and to check that a 15-day notice period is manageable from Estyn’s and the pilot school’s point of view.  However, we will informally contact the pilot schools before the 15-day notice period to give them extra time to consider the new inspection guidance relevant to their sector.

Are the pilot inspection schools more likely to be a school that has not been inspected over the last six years? 

A new 7-year inspection period starts formally from September 2016.  The new inspection arrangements will therefore start one year into this new inspection period.

All schools are ‘going back into the pot’ from September 2016 when the new 7-year inspection period begins.   The new 7-year period increases the flexibility of when an inspection can occur within that period of time.  The pilot inspection schools may therefore be any school, whether it was inspected relatively recently or not. 

Will schools involved in the pilot inspections have to change their self-evaluation report to fit the new inspection framework?

No.  There is a clear read across from the old to the new common inspection framework (CIF).  Inspectors will be able to use the school’s current self-evaluation as a starting point for their work even though it may be based on the current CIF.  The key consideration is the quality of self-evaluation systems and processes and their impact on school improvement, not on the content or format of the report itself.  If a school wishes to experiment with the new framework by changing their self-evaluation report accordingly, that is a decision for them and not for Estyn.  We will consider the self-evaluation report in whatever format the school chooses to provide it. 

Is there any change in Estyn’s position regarding inspecting school sixth forms and will sixth forms be part of the pilot inspections?

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

If a school is placed in a follow-up category during the pilot inspections, will the follow-up processes be the same as they are now or will they be different?

Much of the current follow-up system will remain, but we have removed Local Authority Monitoring.  We are piloting a few new elements to make the follow-up process more supportive and constructive, for example where a school is in need of significant improvement we will visit the school soon after the inspection to support the production of the school’s post-inspection action plan.  There is new guidance available on how we will manage the transition from the current follow-up arrangements to new follow-up arrangements this year.  You can access the guidance on Estyn’s website here:


What is the place of attendance in the new Common Inspection Framework and on pilot inspections?

In the new draft framework, attendance falls mainly under Inspection Area 2 – wellbeing and attitudes to learning.  It is one aspect of that inspection area.  We expect inspection teams to report on attendance by exception in the new framework guidance, ie where there is a consistent trend of relatively high performance or relatively low performance when compared with other similar schools.  The findings on attendance do not drive the overall judgement for the inspection area, but they may influence the judgement where attendance rates are a significant strength or weakness.

If a summary paragraph is used rather than two overall judgements how can leaders, staff, parents easily identify good schools?

The summary paragraph will provide a short summary of the inspection findings.  It will provide a clear, balanced indication of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.  Leaders, staff and parents will be able to judge and identify whether the school is good or not.  

In the new Common Inspection Framework, there is no longer a separate section and judgement on overall performance and on prospects for improvement as there is now.  However, the inspection team will report on overall standards and wellbeing, and aspects of leadership that relate to prospects for improvement, in the inspection report.  For example, issues that currently relate to prospects for improvement relate to the new Inspection Area 5 – leadership and management.  The team’s view on the capacity of the leadership to improve the school will be based primarily on how effective the processes are in the school for identifying areas to develop and for driving forward improvement in those areas.  The team will be interested in the extent to which leaders have a strong track record of making improvements and where they can see that it is having a real impact on pupil progress and wellbeing.

Will pilot schools be disadvantaged in terms of the judgements and the findings of the inspection?

No.  There is a strong degree of read-across from the current to the new framework.  There is also a strong degree of continuity in the judgement scale used for the new framework and the current 4-point judgement scale.  The aim of introducing the new framework is not to make the inspection outcomes harder or easier.  The main aim is to make the framework fit for purpose and relevant in a rapidly changing educational landscape.  We have also taken the opportunity to iron out areas of duplication and to focus more on teaching and learning.

Why have you decided to introduce pre-inspection questionnaires for staff and governors? And why are you not publishing the questionnaire outcomes at the end of the report?

We currently have pre-inspection questionnaires for pupils and parents.  These guide lines of inquiry for the inspection team during the inspection.  As key stakeholders, we feel that staff and governors should also have the opportunity to provide their views on various aspects of the school prior to the inspection.  We have already piloted staff and governor pre-inspection questionnaires in a sample of schools.  They have proved popular with staff and governors and the response rate has been high.  They have helped inspection teams to devise appropriate lines of inquiry as a result. 

As the findings form part of the pre-inspection evidence, we have decided not to publish them in the post-inspection report as they may not reflect the final, agreed view of the inspection team, which is based on a wider range of evidence than just the pre-inspection questionnaires.

On pilot inspections, who should complete the staff questionnaire? Should the school forward it to all employees or just teaching staff? Should agency staff in the school complete it? What if a teacher is ill and absent from school?

On the pilot inspections, the staff questionnaire is for teachers and learning assistants who are directly employed by the school and who engage directly in teaching and learning. It is not for agency staff.  It is not for other staff, such as caretakers, canteen staff and so on.  Where a teacher or learning support assistant is off work due to illness, then it is up to the headteacher to decide, in the best interest of the member of staff and taking their health and wellbeing fully into account, whether to inform them of the opportunity to complete a pre-inspection questionnaire or not.

When will pilot inspection reports be published?

Pilot inspections are ongoing, however below is a list of the provider who have pilot inspection reports published to date: