How to become an Ofsted inspector (with daily duties)

Updated 18 July 2023

Working as an inspector for the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) may be suitable for you if you desire to improve the standards of children's care and education. In this role, you may inspect educational facilities and interact with children, parents and teachers to assess children's levels of development. Learning more about the job allows you to ensure you have the necessary experience, qualifications and knowledge. In this article, we explain what an Ofsted inspector is, list their typical duties, outline the steps to pursue this position and share practical skills for the job.

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What is an Ofsted inspector?

An Ofsted inspector, also known as His Majesty's Inspector or regulatory inspector, is an employee of Ofsted, the government organisation whose goal is to support people by improving standards in children's social care and education. The organisation reports directly to parliament. Officers working at Ofsted regularly visit and inspect places of education and learning, including schools, further education centres or workplaces that offer apprenticeships. Here are examples of day-to-day duties in the role:

  • review school documentation to prepare for inspections

  • interview school staff about the facility's plans for improvement and development

  • use observation to assess the standards of teaching and care during lessons

  • check the development and welfare of children who attend specific schools

  • record information to prepare detailed inspection reports

Related: How to become a childcare worker (including skills)

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How to become an Ofsted inspector

Learning how to become an Ofsted inspector allows you to plan your education and development to make sure you qualify for working in this regulated profession. Here are the steps to pursuing this role:

1. Ensure your eligibility

An Ofsted inspector is a role within the civil service. These types of professions have strict entry requirements. For example, with regard to nationality, it's necessary that you're either a UK national, have dual nationality with one part being British or are a national of any member country of the European Economic Area.

2. Obtain a degree

Before you apply to become an Ofsted inspector, make sure you meet the organisation's educational requirements. Ofsted expects its officers to have at least an undergraduate degree in disciplines like education, childcare or social work. If you study full time, it takes three years to obtain such a qualification. You may also explore four-year courses, which allow you to spend one year developing your practical skills through a work placement.

To qualify for a course in social work or a related field, it may be necessary for you to have at least five GCSEs at grades C or above, including maths and English, or equivalent, such as a Level 2 Functional Skills Qualification in mathematics. In addition, universities request a minimum of three A-levels or equivalent Level 3 qualifications. It's also possible to qualify for an undergraduate degree with a T-level in health and science pathways or a BTEC in social science.

Related: Your guide to social work degrees (with career options)

3. Become a qualified teacher

Becoming a qualified teacher allows you to better understand the reality of teachers and students. It also helps you realise how educational facilities adhere to teaching standards and what challenges they face. If you want to qualify, engage in a teacher training course, for which GCSEs in maths and English are usually necessary. In addition, training providers expect you to have a degree, which qualifies you for postgraduate teacher training. Aspiring teachers without a degree may enter an undergraduate programme that entails qualified teacher status (QTS).

A standard teacher training programme combines theoretical learning and at least two classroom placements, which you complete at different schools. If you study full time, a postgraduate qualification, which begins in September, takes nine months to complete. Part-time students usually spend between 18 and 24 months working towards QTS. If you enter teaching without a degree, completing an undergraduate course with QTS takes four years to complete.

Read more: How to attain qualified teacher status (QTS) certification

4. Gain work experience

Before you become an Ofsted inspector, gain at least a few years of experience in education or social care. This ensures that when you apply for an inspector role, you can demonstrate a record of improving the quality of services and standards at educational facilities. For example, you might work as a school administrator or educational centre manager. Then, you may advance to a leadership role, which Ofsted requires you to hold for at least five years. This could involve working as a headteacher. You can also explore management roles in areas such as children's services.

Related: How to get teaching experience (plus benefits of doing so)

5. Learn about the statutory requirements of the job

The statutory requirements of the job include acts and documents that outline the standards of teaching and childcare with which schools and other facilities comply. You may also study the education inspection framework, which sets out how these specialists inspect schools. As of June 2023, here are example acts and regulations which you may review as part of this step:

  • Section 5 of the Education Act 2005 (as amended)

  • The Education and Inspections Act 2006

  • Section 109 of the Education and Skills Act 2008

  • The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014

  • The Childcare Act 2006

Related: How to become an education officer: a step-by-step guide

6. Apply directly

Once you gain the necessary experience and qualifications, you can apply directly via Ofsted's website. It's possible to work in this role both full time and as a temporary contractor. After you apply, Ofsted stores your personal information for two years. During this time, the organisation may contact you if any suitable vacancies arise.

Related: How to become a health educator (with job specifics)

7. Pass enhanced background checks

An enhanced background check, known as a DBS check, is a process during which employers gain access to information about your criminal background. It also allows organisations to access data that local police hold about you that might be relevant to the role for which you're applying. Passing a DBS check is a standard requirement for all candidates who aspire to work with or in the presence of children. It takes around two weeks to complete this process.

Related: A complete guide to understanding background checks

Useful skills in Ofsted inspecting

Communication, empathy and attention to detail are useful soft skills that Ofsted inspectors use to complete their tasks. In addition, the role requires that they develop a range of practical abilities, for example:

Intervention techniques

Whenever an inspector identifies a serious issue that affects children or a school, they may use intervention techniques to improve the standard of care or wellbeing. An Ofsted inspector who uses these methods may make sure that the people facing a challenge are safe and then inform other government or local organisations about their findings. Examples of intervention techniques they may use include motivational interviewing or crisis intervention.

Related: How to become an intervention specialist (with requirements)

Interviewing methods

Ofsted inspectors gather information thanks to methods such as observation and data analysis. To make sure they have all the necessary data, they may interview teachers and school personnel. By using appropriate techniques, they can make other parties feel comfortable to share information about a school's performance. Developing interviewing skills helps inspectors understand how to ask questions to ensure their reports remain objective.

Related: A guide to interview methods in research (with examples)

Knowledge of educational performance measures

During inspections, Ofsted inspectors consider several measures to help them identify the quality of a school's performance. They may also assess data specific to individual students, including attendance rates. Other indicators of a school's performance include teacher satisfaction, exam success and student achievements.

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