Ofsted's first public inspections of schools in the Bailiwick - which were expected this month - have been postponed due to the recent surge in covid-19 cases.
Ofsted was meant to take over as the inspectorate of local schools in September 2020. This was delayed by the pandemic.
Unpublished pilot inspections of some schools were able to take place earlier this term. And last week the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture announced that the first 'real' inspections would take place before Christmas.
But the demands which covid-19 is now placing on schools and their staff have prompted the Committee swiftly to reconsider last week's announcement.
The President of the Committee, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, said that she and her members "remain committed to the new inspection framework beginning when things have settled". The Committee said it was "temporarily delaying so that no inspection takes place before January" and described its move as "regrettable, sensible and proportionate".
"It is important to make clear that the Committee’s decision to postpone the external inspections is purely about recognising that the current priority must be to manage the continuing challenges presented by the pandemic, and that it would be unfair of us to expect staff to also focus on inspections should their setting be selected," said Deputy Dudley-Owen.
"It would also present difficulties for Ofsted in carrying out their inspections should issues arise in gaining access to the staff they need to engage with, as part of that process, as a result of covid."
She reiterated that external inspections of schools were important to her Committee "as an essential part of the continual improvement process that I know all education leaders and we as a Committee also consider vital".
Pictured: Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture. She said that following the recent surge in covid-19 cases, including among schoolchildren, it was necessary to postpone external inspections of schools until "things have settled".
Nick Hynes, Director of Education, said that he and his colleagues looked forward to welcoming Ofsted to carry out its first published inspections in the New Year.
Deputy Dudley-Owen and Mr Hynes thanked staff in schools for their efforts as demands have risen along with covid case numbers since half term.
"We’re grateful to headteachers and principals for their daily engagement with the Director of Education and his team who have helped the Committee understand the current challenges on the front-line of education provision," said Deputy Dudley-Owen.
"We know that our schools and settings are under real pressure at the moment due to the surge in covid-19 cases through the community which, while always expected, has raised significant challenges in managing the situation and working to ensure disruption to the education of our young people is minimised."
Mr Hynes said: "I would like to thank all staff for tackling these challenges through their hard work, commitment and creative problem solving as we all focus on the priority of keeping schools and settings running so that students’ education is not disrupted any more than absolutely necessary.
"But we know that staff are stretched at the moment – for example currently many headteachers are also acting as classroom teachers – and therefore it is not viable to also welcome external inspectors into school whilst there are significant ongoing staffing pressures."
Pictured: Nick Hynes, Director of Education, acknowledged the considerable demands on staff in schools, but said he was looking forward to welcoming Ofsted inspectors to the island in the New Year.
In England, Ofsted inspections resumed in September. Earlier this month, Ofsted's National Director for Education, Chris Russell, said that inspectors were taking the challenges of covid-19 into account when visiting schools.
"At Ofsted, we’re glad to be working a bit more normally...going back into schools and having conversations with leaders and teachers on inspection about how they’re helping children to catch up," said Mr Russell.
"We do understand that things aren’t ‘normal’, and it’s only fair that inspection recognises this. So that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’ve worked hard to adapt the education inspection framework (EIF) and train our inspectors so that we can inspect fairly and reliably this term, taking the full impact of covid into account."
Locally, Elizabeth College was inspected two weeks ago by the Independent Schools Inspectorate, just before the surge in covid-19 cases took hold.
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