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Ofsted to ditch outsourcing for school and FE inspections

Ofsted is to stop using outsourced contractors to carry out school and further education inspections, the watchdog revealed this afternoon.

The inspectorate’s six year deals with CfBT, Serco and Tribal expire in September 2015 and it has decided that it will bring management of inspections in-house after that.

The ‘additional inspectors’ currently working for the contractors form a large proportion of Ofsted inspectors. They will retain their role but from September 2016 will be work directly for the watchdog.

Ofsted said this would give it “more direct control over their selection, training and quality assurance”.

The inspectorate has been coming under growing fire for alleged inconsistencies in its school inspections in recent years and the change could be taken as a tacit admission that some of the criticism is justified.

Ofsted’s website states that it uses outside organisations to carry out inspections “to deliver value for money and the best possible results”.

But chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) revealed in March that he was reconsidering the issue. “Ofsted needs to undertake a root and branch review of outsourced inspection,” he told the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

“Inspection, as far as I'm concerned, is just too important for Ofsted to simply have oversight of third party arrangements.

“The tendering for the contracts is up for renewal fairly soon and I'll make my decision about the future of outsourced inspection when that time comes.”

Both heads’ associations have welcomed the decision to end outsourced inspections.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is a big step forward. We believe that by having all of the inspections implemented by Ofsted it will enable them to ensure to address the real problem of variability of practice.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT agreed, but added: “Ofsted needs to be sure that its own internal quality assurance is up to spec. It is inspecting too many things too frequently for us to be entirely confident about quality.” 

Ofsted’s director of corporate services, Nick Jackson, said:  “For the last five years our inspection service providers have delivered a successful and professional inspection programme for Ofsted. With the conclusion of these contracts, the time was right to look again at how Ofsted can best deliver a service that is both efficient and flexible. We are confident that this is the right model.”

Ofsted plans to continue its existing contractual arrangements with Tribal and Prospects Services for early years' inspections.

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