Ofsted to reinspect all 'outstanding' schools by 2025

DfE plans to lift inspection exemption on 'outstanding schools' this September, with Ofsted getting extra funding

John Roberts

Twelve years without Ofsted - and still outstanding

All state schools rated as "outstanding" will be inspected by Ofsted in the next five years under government plans announced today.

The Department for Education has said that the exemption on routine inspection for "outstanding" schools will be lifted in September this year.

Those schools that have gone the longest without being visited by Ofsted will be prioritised.

Williamson: 'Outstanding' schools' exemption will be lifted

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Spielman: Schools' 'outstanding' ratings becoming out of date

It was revealed last year that the exemption has led to almost 300 schools going without Ofsted inspection for more than 10 years.

Extra funding for Ofsted

The DfE said Ofsted was set to receive additional funding to carry out these inspections but that this would not be confirmed until the government spending review in March.

The lifting of the exemption on routine reinspection will affect around 3,700 schools and colleges. At present Ofsted can inspect "outstanding" schools if it has concerns about standards or safeguarding.

Headteachers' unions have welcomed the new proposals but the NAHT has also voiced concerns at plans for some "outstanding" schools to face full section 5 inspections –  in which schools can be downgraded. 

It is calling for "outstanding" schools to initially receive a monitoring section 8 inspection in line with schools rated as "good", unless there are particular concerns about the school. Any downgrading would then only be carried out following a conversion to a full section 5 inspection.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "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's also far more than that – it's a driver of improvement. Although we continue to trust our best schools and colleges to get on with the job of educating, without Ofsted standards they would go unchecked and the exemption meant there was often not an up-to-date picture."

Spielman: Giving parents 'more confidence'

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “We welcome the government's proposals. We have long argued that the exemption for 'outstanding' schools has served its purpose and needs to go.

"Only by regularly inspecting all schools can we make sure the 'outstanding' grade remains a genuine beacon of excellence.

"Today's proposals would give parents more confidence that the high standards they rightly expect from their child's school are being met."

The government has published a consultation today on the removal of the exemption for "outstanding" schools.

The proposals will need to be approved in Parliament before Ofsted can begin inspecting these schools again.

The Conservative government announced plans to scrap the exemption for "outstanding" schools before the election.

Duncan Baldwin, deputy director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: " The policy of exempting them from the normal inspection cycle was well-intentioned and safeguards were built into the system in the event of there being concerns at a school or college.

"However, it has resulted in parents going too long without the verification of an inspection at a number of schools and colleges, and it is time to reverse the policy.

"This is particularly important now because a new inspection framework was introduced in September which judges schools in a different way than was previously the case and it is obviously right that this should be applied consistently across schools and colleges."

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT, said: “We are pleased to see that the government agrees with us that exemption from inspection for previously ‘outstanding’ schools should come to an end.  All schools should be inspected on a regular and transparent cycle.

"This was one of the nine recommendations of NAHT’s Improving School Accountability report published in September 2018.”

However, he voiced concern about proposals for some outstanding schools to face full section 5 inspections.

He said: “The initial approach should be an inspection to check whether there are signs of decline, and only where problems are identified should a full inspection follow. This would mean that currently 'outstanding' schools are treated in the same way as 'good' schools.”

The DfE is proposing that schools judged outstanding "and made exempt recently" will normally get a section 8, while those last inspected before Sep 2015 will receive a  section 5 inspection.


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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