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Last reviewed on 20 September 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, what Ofsted will expect of you and your leadership team and what it's likely to consider.

20 September 2021: we reviewed this article following an update to Ofsted's guidance on summary evaluations. There hasn't been any significant change to the process but there is additional information about what inspectors are likely to consider during stage 2.

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 from stage 1 and overall educational quality across the trust. Inspectors will also meet trustees

Summary evaluations aren't entirely new, they're similar to what Ofsted used to call 'focused reviews' - see examples here and here

Ofsted has been clear that summary evaluations are not the same as inspections, and they're carried out with the consent and cooperation of the trust. Ofsted describes them as a way to:

  • Give the trust helpful recommendations on aspects of provision that could be improved
  • Recognise where the trust is having a positive impact on the quality of education that its academies provide

If you aren't willing to engage in a summary evaluation the inspector will contact your regional director - although Ofsted doesn't specify what happens at this point. 

Who'll receive one?

Summary evaluations aren't just for trusts that cause concern - Ofsted's aim is to select from a wide range of trusts each year so that its sample is broadly representative of the sector. 

When selecting, 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
  • The make-up of schools' rolls, such as proportion of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), pupils who speak English as an additional language and pupils who are disadvantaged
  • Any complaints and/or warning notices
  • Any other information Ofsted has that indicated good practice with a trust or that raises concern

Stage 1: batched inspections

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

These inspections will usually happen over 1 term and no more than over 2 terms (with the option of doing it over a week if Ofsted decide to). Previously, Ofsted did batch inspections over a week.

Inspectors will gather evidence during meetings with:

  • The academy principal/headteacher
  • Those responsible for governance of the school (e.g. chair of the local governing body if you have one)
  • A representative of your trust - this person is chosen by you, not Ofsted

Any evidence gathered that relates to the wider trust, rather than the quality of education provided by one of your schools, will inform the summary evaluation and not be taken into account for the school's judgement.

Stage 2: the summary evaluation

How you'll find out

You’ll get a call up to 5 working days before the start of the evaluation. Ofsted will discuss operational details about the evaluation and organise other arrangements including:

  • The format of the evaluation process
  • Preparations for discussions with senior leaders - such as trustees and school staff - and the extent to which these senior leaders will be involved
  • What evidence and information Ofsted will need access to

During the summary evaluation

It usually includes:

  • Published inspection outcomes from stage 1
  • A telephone survey of academies not inspected in stage 1 or visited as part of stage 2 (see survey visits below)
  • A visit to your trust with discussions with you and your leadership team
  • On-site survey 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, improving pupil's behaviour, and recruitment and training of staff at all levels
  • Data sets or case studies about school performance
  • Strategies to improve the quality of teaching and/or the quality of governance

In the context of coronavirus, Ofsted will likely want to find out how you've adapted strategies to support schools and pupils across the trust to catch up on lost learning.

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 policies and curriculums are made, implemented and reviewed
  • How you identify your strengths and weaknesses
  • Leadership, including recruitment and staff development across your trust
  • How your trustees work with and challenge your leadership team
  • How your trustees review their own effectiveness 

Read more information on what Ofsted will likely explore at the end of this section.

Additional survey visits and telephone surveys during stage 2

Stage 2 may also involve survey visits to academies in your trust. These:

  • Are separate to the inspections in stage 1 - visits in stage 2 are not inspections - and are not intended to gather information about the school
  • Will focus on discussions with academy leaders, including local governors, staff and pupils about their experiences of being part of a trust
  • Are used to gather further evidence about the impact your trust has on your schools and an opportunity for you to demonstrate this impact
  • Will not last more than 2 hours 

Telephone surveys will be carried out 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

In relation to your scheme of delegation and governance structure, inspectors will likely explore

  • The impact the MAT has on its academies, including what elements of education are uniform across the MAT, where the MAT allows academies more autonomy and how the MAT addresses underperformance; this is not to make a judgement about the MAT’s preferred approach, rather it is about enhancing inspectors’ understanding of the MAT’s operating model and the impact this has on improving outcomes for its pupils
  • Whether curriculum decisions are made centrally or locally at the academy level and the impact on the pupils. Ofsted has no preferred model of curriculum decision-making; again, the focus here is the impact on raising standards and meeting pupils’ needs
  • How policies are made, implemented, reviewed and evaluated, and the impact they have on pupils
  • What the MAT’s intentions and ambitions are, especially in relation to the curriculum taught within its academies, and how these are communicated, understood, implemented and monitored across the MAT
  • How the MAT identifies its strengths and weaknesses, including in terms of the quality of education provided by individual academies, and how it secures improvements
  • The effectiveness of leadership of the MAT, including how staff recruitment, development and management work across the MAT
  • How the MAT trustees work with the MAT leaders, including how they set priorities, monitor their implementation and constructively hold leaders to account
  • How MAT trustees review their own effectiveness and how independent members assess whether the MAT is performing well
  • Governance arrangements within the MAT, and how MAT-level decision-making takes account of the needs of local leaders and individual academies
  • The MAT’s work in relation to safeguarding and management of pupils’ behaviour and attitudes

In relation to the curriculum and the quality of education offered at your schools, inspectors will likely explore

  • How the curriculum is designed and the extent to which the MAT makes curricular decisions and/or maintains oversight of the academy’s decisions
  • How curriculum development is informed and by whom
  • The extent to which the curriculum serves the needs of academies in the MAT and those of their pupils
  • How the curriculum is implemented, and how its impact is monitored and improved
  • How the MAT balances support and intervention
  • The extent to which good practice is disseminated effectively and weak performance identified and tackled

In terms of the leadership and management of, and across, your trust, inspectors will likely explore

  • The MAT’s system of checks and balances
  • The extent to which, and how, the MAT supports the improvement of its academies, including its effectiveness in analysing strengths and weaknesses either across the MAT or in individual academies
  • The MAT’s approach to recruitment, retention and development of staff at all levels
  • The effectiveness of governance arrangements, including in the exercise of delegated responsibilities
  • How the MAT ensures that the pupils in its care are kept safe
  • How all levels of the MAT, from local academy leadership teams all the way up to the independent members, hold each other to account and how they know that the MAT is having a positive impact on its academies and the quality of education it offers
  • How policies are implemented and reviewed, and whether they are adapted to meet local need

Inspectors will also explore how your trust and schools manage pupils’ behaviour and attitudes, including

  • How relevant polices are developed, implemented and monitored for their effectiveness
  • How the MAT ensures that behaviour management leads to well-behaved and well-motivated pupils with positive attitudes
  • The extent to which the MAT’s challenge and support of its academies is helping to improve pupils’ behaviour and attendance
  • How staff at all levels are supported in implementing behaviour policies
  • How the MAT uses and monitors exclusions
  • Where relevant, the MAT’s approach to the use of any alternative provision and and/or managed moves

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 inspectors' 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
  • 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 before it's published

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 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 hear about your experience so we can provide case studies for other trusts to learn from. If you're happy to share, please email us: [email protected]


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