Ofsted downgrades one in four 'good' schools under new short inspections

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A new Ofsted short inspection system for “good” schools has seen more than one in four downgraded to “requires improvement” or “inadequate”.

Inspectors say that they can tell “within a few hours” whether the culture of the school is orderly and positive and the school is well led, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw writes in his latest monthly commentary.

There were 318 one-day inspections last term and 64 per cent of the schools retained their “good” status.

A further 8 per cent were upgraded to outstanding, and 28 per cent of the schools were given a lower rating.

Unveiling the new data today, Sir Michael states that not all of the decisions were made during the short inspection process.

He says that if inspectors felt they had not seen enough evidence during the day to form a clear view on whether the school was still good, then the short inspection would be converted into a full inspection and more inspectors called in. In some of these cases, schools would remain as “good”, while in others, the school would not.

A full inspection would also be made if an inspector felt that the school had improved enough to be judged as “outstanding”.

He adds: “Make no mistake: the new arrangements mark a major departure from what has happened before. They are designed to encourage challenging, professional and, above all, honest dialogue between HMI and senior leaders, including governors. After all, how many schools can genuinely claim to be perfect institutions with no room for improvement?”

He also gives examples where schools with difficulties had retained their “good” rating because the leadership could demonstrate that it had identified weaknesses and were acting to make sure they did not have a detrimental impact.

But in cases where a school’s rating had declined, it was “invariably” due to the leadership team not accurately evaluating the school’s performance and there was too much variation in performance across the school. In a minority of schools, he describes a “culture of complacency” which meant that problems had been left unaddressed.

The system was put in place, Sir Michael says, because it was recognised that around three quarters of “good” schools, when re-inspected, either retained their previous judgement or improved to “outstanding”. This success rate does not seem to have been affected by the switch to short inspections, according to the statistics out today.

But Sir Michael adds: “I want to assure schools that we will apply the same level of quality assurance to all our inspections in order to maintain confidence in the new process.”

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