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Last reviewed on 27 January 2021
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Summary evaluations are Ofsted's approach to gathering findings about a trust. Find out what happens at each stage of the process and what will be expected of you and your leadership team.

Summary evaluations: in a nutshell

Summary evaluations are how Ofsted evaluates the quality of education provided by a trust and leaders’ contributions to this. There are 2 stages to the process:

  • Stage 1: batched inspections, where Ofsted carries out normal inspections in a number of a trust's academies, usually over a period of up to 2 terms
  • Stage 2: summary evaluation, where over a week inspectors meet trust leaders and discuss the findings of the individual inspections and overall educational quality across the trust

This isn't an entirely new development

Before summary evaluations, Ofsted still did 'batched' inspections of a group of schools in a trust, and published its findings in a 'focused review' letter to the trust - see examples here and here.

These 'focused reviews' are similar to what are now 'summary evaluations', but the latter now has a clearer and more formalised process.

Most trusts won't receive one

Ofsted intends to do summary evaluations in a range of trusts, and will choose using criteria like the individual academies' performance and size of the trust (more on this below).

It isn't an inspection of trusts

Both Ofsted (in the guidance linked to above) and the education secretary at the time, have been clear that summary evaluations are not inspections of trusts. Ofsted describe them as a way to:

Provide the trust with helpful recommendations on aspects that could be improved, and to recognise when trust leaders are having a positive impact on the quality of education in the individual academies.

Ofsted can't insist that you engage with this process

If you aren't willing to engage in a summary evaluation the inspector will contact your regional director.

The guidance doesn't currently explain what would happen next in this scenario, so we've contacted Ofsted asking that it elaborate on this point. We'll update this article with any further information we receive. If you want us to notify you when we do so, click 'save for later' at the top of the article. 

Stage 1: batched inspections

There are no significant differences in how individual academies are inspected during this stage. Schools will:

  • Only be inspected if they're due to be inspected in that academic year
  • Be notified of inspection in the usual way
  • Receive the type of inspection they're due - i.e. if they're due a standard section 5 inspection, a short inspection because they're a 'good' school, or a monitoring inspection, they'll get this type of inspection

The main change is that these inspections will now usually happen over 2 terms (with the option of doing it over a week if Ofsted decide to). Previously, Ofsted did batch inspections over a week.

Evidence gathered about your trust during school inspections

Ofsted will gather publicly available information about your trust before the inspections. Inspectors use this to inform 'lines of enquiry' about the impact of your trust and look into these during the inspection. They'll also meet with those in charge of governance of the academy and (where available) a representative of your trust. This representative is chosen by you, not Ofsted.

Any evidence gathered during this stage that relates to the wider trust, rather than the individual academy, will inform the summary evaluation and not be taken into account for the school's judgement.

Stage 2: the summary evaluation

Who'll receive summary evaluations?

As we say above, most trusts are unlikely to have one. They aren't just for MATs that cause Ofsted concern - the aim is to get a range. When selecting MATs, Ofsted will take account of information including:

  • The number of pupils and schools in the trust
  • The proportion of academies in the trust due for inspection
  • Schools’ previous inspection outcomes and performance data
  • Any complaints and/or warning notices

Ofsted might choose not to carry out stage 2 even if it does stage 1. Following the batch inspections, Ofsted 'may' decide to carry them out for trusts with:

  • Lots of high-performing academies
  • Lower-performing academies that have shown improvement
  • Weak inspection outcomes

They'll take place either in the same term as the batched inspections, or the following term.

During the summary evaluation

You’ll get a call up to 5 working days before the start of evaluation. This will cover, amongst other things, operational details about the evaluation (who Ofsted will want to speak to, what evidence it'll want to see, parking and facilities information etc.).

Stage 2 takes place over a week, and usually includes:

  • Published inspection outcomes from stage 1
  • A telephone survey of academies not inspected in stage 1
  • A visit to your trust with discussions with you and your leadership team
  • On-site visits to some academies in your trust

What Ofsted will look at in its trust visit

Ofsted won't expect you to prepare specific evidence for this visit - it'll only need evidence that exists already and accept it in the format you provide it in. Ofsted will look at things such as:

  • Any self-evaluation or strategic plans your trust has
  • Documents relating to intervention and support for individual schools
  • Documents relating to things like curriculum design, behaviour, recruitment
  • Data sets or case studies about school performance
  • Strategies to improve the quality of teaching and/or the quality of governance

What it's looking to find

This isn't an exhaustive list, but Ofsted is likely to explore things like:

  • The impact you have on your academies and the areas where you standardise across the trust compared to where schools have more autonomy
  • How you monitor your schools
  • How policies and curriculums are made, implemented and reviewed
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Leadership, including recruitment and staff development across your trust
  • How your trustees work with and challenge your leadership team

Additional school visits and telephone surveys

Stage 2 may also involve visits to academies in your trust. This is separate to the inspections in stage 1 - visits in stage 2 are not inspections. These will only be carried out if you and your leadership team agree.

They should last for 2 hours at most, and usually involve discussion with staff, local governors and/or pupils. They'll not be carried out for schools due a monitoring inspection. 

Telephone surveys will be carried out, where possible, with headteachers at schools not inspected during stage 1. They'll look at:

  • How well the trust understands the quality of education it offers and, in particular, its strengths and weaknesses
  • The measures in place to enhance strengths and address weaknesses 
  • How the trust knows it's having a positive impact on pupils' education

Outcomes of the summary evaluation

Oral feedback and a 'constructive dialogue' will take place during stage 2. Ofsted should make sure that you're clear about the inspector's view of your strengths and weaknesses before the end of stage 2, and these oral points of feedback will then be referred to in the summary evaluation letter.

Summary evaluations do not result in graded judgements. Inspectors make judgements on strengths and weaknesses in 'narrative form'. 

What's included in the letter?

  • A summary of the findings
  • The range of evidence considered
  • Trust context
  • The main findings in more detail
  • Any findings on safeguarding
  • Ofsted's recommendations
  • The previous inspection outcomes of all academies in the trust

You'll be able to feed back on the draft letter

You'll get the letter in draft form and have 5 working days (normally) to make any comments or point to any factual inaccuracies. Ofsted won't consider further evidence at this stage if it could "reasonably have been provided to inspectors" during stage 2. 

Ofsted will consider all comments made before it publishes the final letter - this is usually 28 working days from the last day of the summary evaluation visit.

Get in touch

If you receive a summary evaluation, we'd love to speak to you about your experience so we can provide case studies for other trusts to learn from. If you're happy to share, please let us know in the feedback box at the bottom of the article.

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