The education secretary has set limits on Ofsted’s new plans to examine multi-academy trusts (MATs), in a letter to chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
The inspectorate is planning to carry out "summary evaluations" of MATs after visiting schools in a trust due an inspection over one or two terms. The evaluations will also include survey visits to schools within a MAT that are not being inspected.
Damian Hinds has written to Ms Spielman today urging the inspectorate not to place “undue burden” on MATs when visiting these schools, and not to refer to its findings as MAT inspections.
“On the school survey visits in particular, I ask that you make clear that it is school and MAT leaders’ choice whether inspectors can visit schools that are not being inspected and ensure that these visits do not create undue burdens on the schools or MAT," his letter says.
"You will also need to be clear that these are in no sense a school inspection, or something which can affect the normal schedule for school inspections, and ensure there is no suggestion that these schools have been assessed or inspected.”
Ofsted does not have the power to inspect MATs, but has been assessing their work by inspecting batches of schools in the same trust.
The regulator has now unveiled new plans to carry out more detailed summary evaluations of MATs that would involve inspecting schools over one or two terms and then discussing the findings with MAT leaders before their publication.
Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of education has said that the new MAT evaluations will allow the inspectorate to "better understand the way MATs are organised and operate, the role they play in their own right and ensure that our inspections reflect this.
In a new blogpost today he also said that evaluations would involve inspectors who are MAT leaders.
Mr Harford added: "MATs are integral to the running of their schools and are legally responsible for the quality of education that is being delivered through them. Therefore, in developing our new approach, we wanted to address misconceptions about the MAT’s role as merely an instrument for school improvement.
"To ensure we are evaluating the impact of MATs effectively, the evaluations will be led by inspectors who have a deep knowledge and understanding of MATs and the way they work. This also builds on our internal strategic aim: to develop a more skilled workforce.
"We have already taken steps to enhance inspectors’ knowledge of MAT structures and operations, and to improve the quality of reporting. We have brought on board Ofsted Inspectors, who are MAT leaders, to act as team inspectors for these evaluations, whenever possible."