Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of education expects the number of ‘outstanding’ schools to ‘fall from 4,133, to roughly 2,000’ following a new inspection regime which is set to overhaul education standards. The Ofsted chief said she wouldn’t be ‘surprised’ if half of schools that were once inspected and graded outstanding fail to achieve this in upcoming inspections following the overhaul in education standards. Amanda Spielman further explains the reasoning for this overhaul stating, “It is an adjustment that is welcome to schools and parents in many cases because it creates an honest conversation about the school as it is now, not the school it once was.”
This is significant for schools, as previously under the old inspection regime, an ‘outstanding’ school was let off re-inspections unless either their results showed a serious dip or parents had complained. The rationale for this was to let high-flying schools concentrate on teaching without having to worry about inspections. However, in 2019 the NAO’s audit of Ofsted found that 1,620 schools had not been inspected for six years or more, including 296 which have gone without for more than a decade and a small number for up to 13 years. One example was The King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, Essex, which was last inspected as far back as 2006.
This inspection overhaul commences following statements made last year by the education secretary Gavin Williamson who stated, ‘All schools’ needed to be inspected regularly to help parents make informed decisions. He further explained,
“Making sure that all schools are regularly inspected means they will benefit from the expert insight Ofsted provides when making these decisions. We know parents trust Ofsted – and with good reason. It serves a valuable purpose as the only organisation that gives a clear, accessible and impartial view on school and college performance. But it is also far more than that – it is a driver of improvement.”
Although trust is placed on the best schools and colleges to get on with the job of educating, without Ofsted standards they would go unchecked and the exemption for ‘Outstanding’ schools meant there is often not an up-to-date picture. Union leaders have responded and ‘written to ministers’ calling for the overhauled inspections to be stopped, but the Ofsted chief has reiterated that parents need to make informed decisions about which school they want their child to attend.
Due to this inspection overhaul, schools previously judged by the watchdog as outstanding are now no longer exempt from this routine inspection, with inspections commencing already this year. As a result, Ofsted will publish its much-anticipated reports later this week, which will give information on the first set of 120 previously rated ‘Outstanding’ schools which will have been reinspected. It will be interesting to see how much these ratings fluctuate with Amanda Spielman stating, “We are expecting inspection to throw up a lot of schools that were graded outstanding and now are not.”