Following the announcement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, this week, in which he implemented additional measures of social distancing in the battle against Coronavirus, it is understood that Ofsted have now suspended inspections.
It is has been reported that an Ofsted spokesperson told Schools Week that Ofsted is “putting a hold on all this week’s routine inspections of schools, social care, early years and further education providers. We are in discussions with the DfE about the longer term picture”. This means that any inspections which had already commenced have been abandoned with immediate effect and also that any planned inspections due to commence will not now take place. It would appear that Ofsted needs to further digest the latest guidance issued by government before confirming its next steps, which may also change as the situation continues to evolve on a daily basis. However, Ofsted has confirmed it will update providers as soon as it has clarity.
The move to suspend inspection activities follow similar decisions by the Care Quality Commission, as regulator for adult social care and healthcare in England, and Estyn, the inspectorate for schools in Wales.
FE News reported on Monday that Estyn had suspended all inspections of schools and other education providers to reduce pressure on those services. Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union in Wales had stated “Scotland and Wales have shown England the way. It is unacceptable for Ofsted inspections to be taking place at a time of national emergency. School leaders and staff are straining every sinew to support and protect their students. They should be allowed to focus on this, not have their stress made worse by the threat of an imminent Ofsted inspection.”
Of course, schools and education providers are not alone in feeling such pressure. The impact is already being felt across the adult and child social care sectors and healthcare sector with providers working on urgent contingency plans and protocols to avoid the spread of infection so far as possible. It is, however, understood that Ofsted may still undertake an inspection where it has identified concerns about safeguarding arrangements.