IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Inspections should recognise schools’ varied pandemic experiences

7 February 2022

Future Ofsted inspections need to understand the range of urgent priorities that will have shaped decision-making locally in schools during the covid-19 pandemic, a new policy briefing by IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, recommends.

School children wearing masks in class

The briefing provides recommendations and research evidence on how Ofsted inspections might best resume at an appropriate time, following the disruption the pandemic has caused primary schools in England.

The authors highlight that understanding what constitutes a quality adjustment to the pandemic’s challenges is ongoing. Knowing how and why factors vary is crucial in being able to identify good practice in dealing with exceptional circumstances beyond schools’ control. All parties need to recognise this when inspections resume.

The authors also note that identifying the challenges schools faced during the pandemic could usefully inform more generous recovery funding for schools working in areas of high deprivation. The researchers advise that recovery funding should look beyond attainment gaps to focus on the material needs in families and communities that prevent children from learning well in school, including mental health and basic nutrition.

The recommendations come following research projects that the authors undertook between May 2020 and September 2021. The research projects have highlighted just how much schools’ experiences have varied. They also show just how resourceful and resilient schools and their communities have been in navigating a way through the many difficult dilemmas the pandemic has raised, even when there have been no obvious roadmaps to follow.

Evidence highlighted in the briefing also includes the crucial role primary schools played as community hubs within their local networks of support. In some communities this involved providing food or delivering laptops, and the variety of these experiences by community needs to be taken into account in post-Covid inspections.

Professor Gemma Moss, lead researcher on the projects, said “Every schools’ COVID story is different. Local knowledge is essential to good recovery planning and children and staff benefit when wellbeing and care are emphasised.

“Being flexible with curriculum delivery timeframes allows schools to attend to a broad spectrum of children’s needs and will help minimise long-term effects. We hope lessons can be learnt for system-resilience if inspection resumes with these points in mind.”



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