30 June 2020


Inspections in the autumn term 2020

The Department for Education (DfE) suspended the cycle for routine inspections of ISI inspected schools on 16th March this year and that suspension remains in place. Following extensive discussions with the DfE, ISI does not anticipate routine inspections resuming until January 2021. This assumes that all schools return to full time provision from September, and there will be a notice period for the resumption of inspection of half a term.

It has always been the case that the DfE retained the right to commission material change visits, additional inspections and progress monitoring visits. The approach to these has been to require them only where there is a compelling case and we have worked with the DfE to ensure an appropriate risk assessment is in place. From the autumn term, and sooner in some cases, these ‘short visit’ inspections will resume and you will find details of the process to be followed for each attached.

Anticipated inspections during the autumn term 2020

Publication of reports

  • ISI are going to now restart the publication of inspection reports which were paused at the beginning of lockdown. Affected schools will be contacted individually, but the usual process will apply once ISI has been in touch.

Action Plans

  • Schools that were found non-compliant at their last inspection and who would like to make progress with the action planning process should write directly to the DfE. Once this has been agreed with the DfE it will be evaluated as usual and, where appropriate the DfE will commission a progress monitoring visit (see below).

Routine inspections

  • At present, it seems likely that the government intends almost all pupils to be back in schools from September 2020. As a result, we anticipate that routine inspection are likely to resume in January 2021.

Short visits (Additional, Progress Monitoring and Material Change Visits)

  • Since the suspension of routine inspections in March 2020, the DfE has retained the right to commission Additional Inspections, Material Change Visits and Progress Monitoring Visits at any point.
  • It is anticipated that these three inspection types may take place during the autumn term and possibly earlier. The process for these inspections will be slightly different to usual as we aim to respond to feedback, whilst ensuring that we protect both schools and inspectors as far as possible.
    • Where the DfE commissions one of these inspection types, ISI will conduct a risk assessment which will identify whether a Remote Review of the evidence is likely to provide sufficient, robust evidence to inform the DfE’s decision about the next steps.
    • The DfE will review ISI’s risk assessment and approve or reject the Remote Review.
    • A Remote Review includes a review of all applicable paperwork, discussions with the Head and others and, if appropriate, a virtual site tour.
    • A Remote Review results in a brief report, the Remote Review Outcome Statement. This identifies whether sufficient evidence has been gathered and analysed to suggest that standards are likely to be met.
    • The DfE will then take the decision as appropriate whether to return the school to the routine cycle or to grant the material change, which may still be subject to an onsite visit when routine inspections return.
    • The Remote Review Outcome Statement will be shared with the school but will not be published.
    • If the Remote Review does not consider that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that standards are likely to be met, then the DfE will commission an onsite inspection to take place in an agreed timeframe.
    • The aim of this process is to ensure that all schools are treated fairly and to lessen the burden of an onsite inspection so that schools can return to normal as quickly as possible.

Other information


  • All of ISI’s inspector training will take place remotely for the rest of 2020. If you are involved in training, the Training team will contact you directly.

Inspector Recruitment

  • We are committed to ensuring that once our inspectors are trained, we deploy them on inspection as quickly as possible. Because of suspension of inspections and the uncertainty around their resumption, we have put a freeze on recruiting RIs and TIs for the time being.  We will of course let you know as soon as we open recruitment again.

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