11/03/20

Ofsted has denied rumours of last-minute surprise inspections, after schools show concerns during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Taking to social media, teachers and headteachers have expressed suspicions that the education watchdog has increased the frequency of inspections due to the possibility that some schools may close.

However, Ofsted has denied the claims, saying that its inspections programme has not altered in response to covid-19.

Teacher tweet screenshot
Teacher twitter screenshot

Rachel Rossiter, an assistant head in Suffolk, commented that her timeline “appears to be full of folk who have had ‘The Call’ (the term given to when Ofsted informs a school of an imminent inspection). She commented: “It’s bizarre.”

Another teacher and English department head agreed, suggesting that the rise in inspections could be down to Ofsted wanting to carry them out “before school closures”. Meanwhile, another referred to it as “panic inspecting”.

Teacher Mark Enser took to his Twitter account to announce that his school Heathfield Community College had also just had The Call. One of his followers, a fellow teacher, responded: “Good luck!! It seems they’re out in force atm.”

However, an Ofsted spokesperson dismissed the fears, saying: “There hasn’t been an unusual number of inspections this week.

“As expected it is business as usual – there has been no change to our normal programme of inspections.”

They also added that the programme of inspections had not been changed due to coronavirus and that all inspections were pre-set in advance. However, Ofsted would not give details about the number of inspections carried out this week and how it compared to previous periods.

Mass School Closures Undecided

At the moment it is unclear whether or not schools in the UK will be subject to a mass closure due to the recent outbreak, or who will be responsible for administering the closures. So far, both Public Health England and Department for Education have passed responsibility to the other party on who will make the decision.

Meanwhile, many teachers are preparing for the worst case scenario – when they may be expected to abandon the classroom and attempt to work from home.

Last week it was reported that 17 UK schools have already closed to prevent the spread of the virus, including a special school near Mitcham, south-west London and a secondary school in Middlesborough. However, many have reopened after undergoing a deep clean.

At the moment, the official advice from Public Health England (PHE) is that schools should remain open unless there is a positive case of coronavirus. In this scenario, the school should take a risk assessment with advice from local health teams and the decision to close “should be taken locally”, based on various factors such as establishment size and pupil mixing.

For example, schools may close if there is significant risk of infection, or if there are not enough teachers to cover lessons.

A secondary school staff member from Trinity School in Carlisle was diagnosed with coronavirus this week, but the school has no plans to close. The school also stated that Public Health England had advised that there was no need for any action to be taken by children attending the school, or their parents.