A school inspection is carried out under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. It is a process of evidence gathering in order to provide an assessment of how well a school is performing. Inspections are short and focused, and dialogue with senior managers in the school plays a central part. The school’s self-evaluation provides the starting point for inspectors, and the views of pupils, parents and other stakeholders are taken into account. Inspections are conducted by a lead inspector and, depending on the size of the school, a team of inspectors. It must result in a written report indicating one of four grades: outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate.
The frequency, length and number of inspectors involved is in proportion to the need for guidance to support improvement.
When do inspections take place?
There is a three year cycle for the inspection of schools, and a school normally receives two clear working days' notice. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has the power to authorise the inspection of any school at her discretion. If there are concerns about the safety or well-being of pupils in a school, she may exercise the right to inspect a school without notice.
How are parents involved?
We ask schools to tell parents about the inspection and pass on an explanatory leaflet and letter from us. The letter includes a confidential questionnaire asking for parents' and carers' views about the school, which they can return to the inspection team. It is available in English and different languages.
Parents can ask to speak to inspectors during the inspection, and our inspectors will do their best to meet with them.
How are pupils involved?
Inspectors talk to groups of pupils to find out their views about the school and what it provides for them.
Often schools have conducted a survey themselves of what pupils think. Inspectors can see the results of this and discuss how the school has taken what the pupils say into account.
In boarding schools, residential special schools and children's homes that offer education pupils are asked to complete a confidential questionnaire which gives the inspectors extra information about this aspect of the school's work.
Inspectors write a letter to pupils after the inspection to tell them the main findings and how the school can improve further.