What's changed in the 2024 Ofsted School Inspection Handbook? April Update

Last updated: 5th April 2024

On 5th April 2024, Ofsted announced changes to the School Inspection Handbook and the School Monitoring Handbook. While Ofsted's summary of changes document does tell you what's changed, we always find it such a time-consuming activity to compare the past and present versions when just presented with a list of paragraph numbers and vague clarifications (that are made on a Friday in the Easter holidays we'll add - not workload- or wellbeing-friendly at all, Ofsted 👀).

That's why we've added this to our easy-to-read blog to support you in understanding the changes that were made to the Ofsted Schools Inspection Handbook in April 2024. (P.S Missed the January 2024 update? It's in our Blog here - Previous Ofsted Updates)

What are the key messages from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook changes in April 2024? 

If you don't have the time or inclination to read all the changes, here are the key takeaways: 

  • Links to Ofsted's complaint policy have been added alongside a diagram and further information outlining the post-inspection complaints procedure.
  • Further clarification has been given around inspectors adapting/amending their approach to support staff wellbeing during inspections, including references to Ofsted's guidance on deferring and pausing inspections.
  • Clarification that Ofsted will use 2022/23 pupil data as part of their evaluation of the quality of education has been given.
  • Subheadings have been added to the grade descriptors for Quality of Education for clarity.
  • References to compliance Ofsted's duty under the Equality Act 2010 has been added.

These changes also apply to the 2024 School Monitoring Handbook. We'll break these key changes down further in the blog but if you're looking for a specific section, this table of contents will help:

Ofsted's Complaint Policy and Procedure

The majority of the changes to the handbook revolve around how schools can submit a complaint about the Ofsted inspection process. The easiest way to understand the amended procedure is to make use of the diagram below, as found beneath paragraph 171 of the schools inspection handbook:

The following paragraphs have been amended with this in mind:

  • Paragraphs 170-174 outline how schools can raise a complaint once the draft report is published but before the final report is made public.
  • Information has been added to paragraph 176 stating that, "In very rare circumstances, if we [Ofsted] find a weakness in the inspection process, we may carry out a further visit to gather additional evidence."
  • Paragraph 12 makes direct reference to the complaints procedure if concerns are raised during the inspection but the school and lead inspector are unable to resolve the concerns. If concerns are raised but are not resolved, the headteacher, another senior leader, the local authority or a trust representative can contact a senior Ofsted leader using the number provided as part of the notification process. A sentence has been added to paragraph 178 to state that when this occurs, in exceptional circumstance, inspections may be paused because of this.
  • Paragraphs 179-180 reiterate that concerns can be raised after the inspection process and details of Ofsted's complaints procedure are given again.


Further measures to support staff wellbeing 

Minor changes have been made including:

  • Clarification is made that where an inspector has serious concerns about staff member's wellbeing during the inspection, they will contact the duty desk and the normally will inform the person who is responsible for the staff member (e.g. their line manager) (paragraph 119).
  • Paragraph 127 has been amended to remove extra information about the pausing policy; this is because Ofsted’s policy for considering whether to defer or pause an inspection or visit, or whether additional evidence needs to be gathered has been combined into one policy, which can be found here.
  • An addition has been made to information giving during the inspection planning phone call (paragraph 96) to state that headteachers will be informed of the charity Education Support as a means to support staff wellbeing. There is also the opportunities for leaders to share information on potential equalities duties, including reasonable adjustments for individuals.


Changes to Quality of Education and other minor amendments 

Quality of Education 

  • Clarification has been given that Ofsted will use pupil data from 2022/23 (and any future data sets) to inform their evaluation of the quality of education provided by the setting (paragraph 238).
  • The grade descriptors for "good" in Quality of Education have been re-organised with subheadings for clarity (paragraph 453 - be aware, the summary of changes mistakenly lists this as paragraph 454). These subheadings are:

    • "The curriculum is broad and ambitious for all pupils."
    • "The planning and implementation of the curriculum supports a strong impact on pupils’ learning."
    • "The impact of the education which pupils receive is strong, including for disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND."


Equality Act 2010 

A minor amendment has been made to paragraph 6 which states inspectors will take appropriate action to comply with Ofsted's duties under the Equality Act 2010

Minor wording changes 

  • Open cases with children's social care and multi-agency plans - the wording has been amended for clarity to state this information is requested so Ofsted can ensure that the school knows who these pupils are, and is able to meet requirements of the plans (paragraph 110)
  • Suspensions and exclusions - in paragraph 310, the final sentence about behavioural changes being an indicators or unmet needs has been removed.

Final Thoughts 

It's good to see clarity about Ofsted's complaints procedure and that the pausing and deferral information has been made clearer in order to support staff wellbeing during inspections. However, it's unlikely to make schools leaders sleep easier at night and doesn't really address the fundamental issues that many people have with the inspection process. 

For now, let's hope it's a step in the right direction to real change (and hey, maybe we can get them to stop making these updates on Friday evenings too?) 

Looking for support pre-inspection? We find that just knowing the process can be half the battle so why not take a look at our helpful resources that can build your confidence and support your thinking about inspections.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.