Are you an outstanding school?
If the last time Ofsted called they judged you to be an outstanding school you were also told that you would not get another inspection unless concerns arose from data or parental complaints. That may all be about to change!
The government is under pressure from Ofsted to authorise more regular inspections of ‘outstanding’ schools, following complaints to the inspectorate from parents.
Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, believes the quality of education at some schools currently exempt from inspection may have deteriorated and has warned the Department for Education that the rule that protects them from more regular scrutiny is no longer sustainable.
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that more than 1,600 schools teaching tens of thousands of pupils had not been inspected for six years or more, and of those, almost 300 had not seen an Ofsted inspector for at least 10 years.
The schools’ watchdog is legally required to re-inspect schools every five years, but those judged outstanding – many of which are grammar schools – are exempt from reinspection. Concerns have thus been raised about the continuing accuracy of the judgments on which many parents base their choice of school.
It is the first time the NAO has investigated the schools’ inspectorate, and its report is highly critical in places, concluding that Ofsted cannot demonstrate that its inspection of schools represents value for money, and does not know whether its inspections are having the intended impact of raising education standards.
According to the report, over the last four years, Ofsted failed to meet its statutory target to reinspect schools within five years in 43 cases. In each case, Ofsted has offered an explanation. It also failed to meet its own target of reinspecting inadequate schools in 78 cases over the same period.
The report, published on Thursday, shows time spent on inspections diminishing and periods between inspections extending. According to Ofsted’s own targets, good schools should be reinspected every three years, but in 2016/17 this period increased to four years. The maximum time for reinspection of schools graded as “requires improvement” – and therefore in need of closer attention – was extended from two years to 30 months, but 55 schools still waited longer.
Ofsted also missed its target of inspecting new schools within two years of opening in 95 cases between 2012/14 and 2014/5, and extended the target to three years.
The NAO acknowledged that as across much of the public sector, Ofsted has been subject to significant funding cuts in recent years, which have seen spending on school inspections down 52% in real terms over the last two decades despite increased responsibilities.
As a result, the watchdog has switched from conducting in-depth, comprehensive inspections to a “snapshot” of standards, using a light-touch, risk-focused model of inspection. A good primary school, for example, will be inspected by a single inspector over a day. Resources are concentrated on underperforming schools, leaving high-achieving schools unchecked by routine inspection, as long as data shows that they are maintaining performance.
“The length of time without inspection means that some pupils go through primary and/or secondary without an independent assessment of their school’s effectiveness,” the report states. “The older an inspection judgment, the greater the risk that it is no longer accurate. This reduces the level of assurance available about the school concerned.”
Responding to the report, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said the organisation was operating in a difficult financial environment. “This means that we have had to make tough decisions about how we prioritise resources. I am confident that Ofsted gets the balance right. For example, by focusing more resource on inspection of schools that are less than good. An increase in either the number of inspections or time spent on inspection will quite simply require greater funding.
Is yours an outstanding school?
How long has it been since you were inspected & have things changed in that time? Have you had a change of headteacher, staff turn over? Are your results still high?
Tell us in the comments below