What Happens in an Ofsted Inspection?

Author: Ben Greenwood

Posted: 04 Dec 2019

Estimated time to read: 4 mins

When it comes to Ofsted, it’s easy for parents to feel a little in the dark. As the inspection happens, you often don’t have any input or insight into what’s happening at school. At best, you might glean a snippet of information from your child when they return home.

But school ratings affect parents too. The quality of your child’s school means a lot to you. Knowing how an Ofsted inspection works can give you better peace of mind and more of an idea as to how the school operates with your child in mind. 

So how does it all work? Let’s start with the basics:


What is Ofsted?

Ofsted stands for Office for Standards in Education. It is the independent regulatory body of all UK schools. Ofsted reports directly to the British government, it sends HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) to predetermined schools to conduct inspections. These inspections are informed by desk based research and assessment using publically available data.

Ofsted ratings are hugely important to schools, as we know,  we are less likely to send our child to a lower rated school than one that is rated Outstanding. After an inspection has taken place, Ofsted analyse findings and give the school one of four ratings: 

  • Outstanding 
  • Good 
  • Requires improvement 
  • Inadequate

Out of almost 33,000 schools, only around 1000 gain an Outstanding rating from Ofsted. During previous versions of Ofsted’s inspection framework, Outstanding schools were not inspected. This led to some schools forgoing inspection for more than 10 years. However, since the framework change in September 2019, all schools are now eligible for inspection. 

A guide to ofsted for parents

What happens in an Ofsted inspection? 

Preliminary 90 minute phone call 

The afternoon before the inspection, the lead inspector will speak to the school’s headteacher and announce the inspection over the phone. They will then discuss some of the school’s details during this phone call.

Inspection days

Inspections usually last two days, rarely more. Inspectors may arrive at the school after 8:00am. They will meet school leaders and teachers, observe lessons and speak to students and staff.

Speaking to parents

Inspectors may also wish to speak informally to parents either at the beginning or the end of the day to help inform a more rounded decision. They can also take information from Parent View (See below).

Feedback to staff

Time will be taken to give teachers, staff and SLT feedback before inspectors report back and make their final judgement.


How does this affect my child?

The inspection process doesn’t add any further stress or pressure on you child’s part. Inspectors may be present in their classroom and may ask to see their work or ask a couple of questions, but there is no need for them to prepare for Ofsted inspections. 

Encourage your child to be open about their experience at the school if an inspector interacts with them and assure them that there is no need to worry about the visit, it isn’t a test of their behaviour or knowledge, it’s a test of the school’s ability to provide proper support and learning.   


What happens if a school is rated inadequate? 

Schools that are rated inadequate by Ofsted are put into one of two categories: 

  • Special Measures (SM) - This means that the school is rated inadequate and is (1) failing to provide adequate education for its students whilst (2) showing grounds for improvement.
  • Serious Weakness (SW) - This means that the school is rated inadequate but only fails on one of the above judgements that would make it eligible for SM. 

What is Ofsted Parent View?

Parent View is Ofsted’s way of communicating with parents to find out what they really think of their child’s school. It’s an online survey for parents and guardians and asks questions about behaviour, SEND, communication and more. There are 14 questions and statements that parents answer or mark on a scale how much they agree with each one, here are some of the questions you might see: 

  • My child feels safe at this school (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t know)
  • The school makes sure pupils are well behaved (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t know)
  • My child has been bullied and the school dealt with it quickly and effectively (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t know)
  • Does your child's special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) (Yes or No)
  • My child takes part in clubs and activities at this school (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t know)
  • The school supports my child’s wider personal development (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don’t know)

Some questions may be slightly different depending on whether your child goes to a boarding school and some questions contain an extra answer if needed (e.g my child is not bullied in the question about how schools deal with bullying).

The goal of these questions is to find out what parents really think of the school. This helps Ofsted to gauge the success of the school’s wellbeing and child protection efforts, as well as gaining extra insight from different stakeholders. 


The most important thing that you can do as a parent during an Ofsted inspection is to keep calm and make sure you don’t put any unnecessary pressure on students or teachers. The school will have been working on improvements all year, with specially crafted school improvement plans (SIP), so there’s probably no need to worry about the school. Instead, focus on supporting your child and making sure they are on track with the work they are being set.

Ofsted terminology cheat sheet download