The Ofsted survey programme
Alongside our arrangements for regular inspections of providers, we also visit, inspect or contact providers and other bodies to gather evidence for use in our survey programme.
The programme focuses on social care, childcare, educational and training issues considered of national significance and relevance and provides evidence on which to base advice to the Secretary of State on these issues in England. The content of the programme is discussed with the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Besides contributing to individual survey reports, (see below), the evidence we obtain also:
- feeds into the Chief Inspector’s Annual Report to give a national picture of strengths and areas for development
- provides the basis for Ofsted to disseminate findings, including good practice, through its website, conferences, talks and articles
- gives providers feedback to help them improve
- supports providers’ self-evaluation.
Our regular inspections do not provide all the detailed evidence we need, so we obtain this through additional visits and inspections, and sometimes by sending questionnaires or making telephone calls to providers and other bodies. A large number (over 900 each year) of our survey visits to providers are inspections of subjects in primary and secondary schools.
In the financial year 2010-11, our survey programme covers all National Curriculum subjects in primary and secondary schools, and areas of learning in the Foundation Stage. In addition, there will be a range of national surveys covering key initiatives and important topics in social care, education, childcare, learning and skills. For example, during the year, those surveys include outstanding children’s homes, numeracy in learning and skills provision, the impact of the Assessing Pupils’ Progress initiative and service children’s education.
Most surveys entail visits to, or inspections of, a number of providers. In some cases, surveys may focus on provision in local areas.
How long is a survey visit or inspection, and what does it include?
The answer depends on the nature of the survey. Primary schools (including middle-deemed primary schools) and any Foundation Stage settings should expect an inspection to last up to one day, while secondary schools, colleges and other post-16 providers, should expect the inspector to spend up to two days on site. Some social care surveys will require visits of a similar length. Visits to provision in a local area may take place over four days. There will always be oral feedback before the inspector leaves. Visits to some providers, for example some in social care, may last only an hour or two and we may even telephone some providers instead of visiting. Visits may look at the work of the provision or we may ask about the support they feel they receive or need.
Survey inspections and visits comprise a mixture of direct observation (for example in a classroom or children’s home), discussions with staff, learners, children and young people and a scrutiny of their work and other documentation such as the provider’s self-evaluation.
How we schedule visits and inspections
How are providers chosen for a survey?
For our rolling programme of National Curriculum subject surveys, we select samples of schools across England. For other surveys, providers including schools will be selected according to the needs of the survey. They might be selected because of their location, their children or learners, local authority or type of provision, or because they have been identified as having good practice in certain subjects or areas.
How much notice do providers get?
Providers will generally have short notice of a survey visit or inspection. Longer notice will be given where multiple providers are to be visited, for example in a 14–19 partnership or when a local area is the subject of a survey. However, the period of notice will not normally exceed 10 working days and normally will be approximately five days.
How often do these inspections happen?
Survey visits and inspections are additional to Ofsted’s regular inspections and will not closely follow a regular inspection – for example, schools will have at least 12 clear weeks between the two and in most cases, the interval will be a clear term or more. The likelihood of receiving a survey visit will depend on the type of provider and the focus of the survey.
Who carries out the subject and survey inspections?
The inspections will be carried out by specialist inspectors employed by Ofsted, with the relevant expertise in the particular subject, aspect or field.
What evaluation criteria do you use for survey work?
- Subject surveys Subject inspections are carried out to our standard criteria. For each subject, there is also draft supplementary subject-specific guidance for inspectors. We expect to finalise this supplementary guidance by the beginning of September 2010. All subject guidance can be seen here – Generic grade descriptors and draft supplementary subject-specific guidance for inspectors on making judgements during subject survey visits to schools – and we would welcome comments on the draft supplementary aspects of it.
- Aspect surveys In the case of surveys that examine a specific theme or a particular aspect of provision, the survey team will agree guidance for visiting inspectors including evaluation criteria for the survey’s key questions. Wherever possible, the evaluation criteria will be based on the relevant sections of existing inspection frameworks. This guidance will be treated as a working document for the duration of the survey; example guidances for current surveys.
What about self-evaluation?
Survey inspectors should not seek any new paperwork from a provider but they may ask to see for example: any self-evaluations, departmental reviews, subject leaders’ reviews and action plans or work that a provider may have carried out related to the survey topic. It is important that the inspector gives the provider an opportunity to say what it thinks about the survey topic. This provides a basis for a thorough discussion during, and at the end of, the visit.
Will providers get feedback?
Our Code of Conduct and inspection principles mean that providers should always receive feedback. Where time allows, individuals seen (such as teachers or residential care staff) should also be able to discuss with the inspector what he or she has observed and commented upon. Ongoing dialogue with the provider and oral feedback is a key feature of our survey visits and inspections.
At the end of the visit or inspection, the dialogue will culminate in a detailed feedback discussion with the provider and/or key members of staff.
Often, schools will wish to have a local authority representative present at this feedback session. Both schools and colleges may wish to include a relevant governor. The inspector will discuss findings and judgements to provide a level of detail that will not be included in any feedback letter sent.
Again, depending on the nature of the survey, most providers will receive a short feedback letter soon afterwards, setting out the inspector’s findings and noting any areas for development. But in some cases, the letter may simply thank the provider for information given in the context of a wider survey that is not concerned with the quality of the provider.
What is published?
All visits and inspections feed evidence into the final survey report and nearly all survey reports are published on our website. A survey report may list those providers seen as part of the survey but will not usually name them in the body of the report, and certainly not without their permission.
Most feedback letters to providers are also published on our website. Even where we do not do this, (for example, where we have visited to record an example of good practice) the letter will be available to the inspector(s) for the next regular inspection. They will be interested in the impact of the visit and the provider’s response made to any recommendations.