Ofsted is planning to increase its evaluations of multi-academy trusts (MATs) and will now visit smaller and specialist MATs, “not just those that may be a cause for concern”.
The MAT evaluations were introduced in 2019 and look into whether trusts are delivering a high-quality education.
The inspectorate visits several schools within a trust and offers oral feedback on its findings to the MAT’s senior leaders before publishing a letter on the Ofsted website.
Under the updated guidance, the inspectorate’s trust summary evaluations will mirror the Education Inspection Framework, to focus on the quality of education as seen through the curriculum.
Accountability: School 'mocksteds' adding pressure to teacher workloads
The inspectorate said that this will “allow us to increase the volume of summary evaluations and the breadth of MATs inspected, so that we gain better insight into the role of multi-academy trusts”.
A "broad range" of MATs, including “smaller and specialist trusts, not just those that may be a cause for concern”, would be chosen for evaluation.
This, the watchdog said, “is to ensure that we can gain an accurate and balanced understanding of the contribution that MATs make to the school system, highlighting areas of strength that can be shared more widely and providing insight into any weaknesses”.
Ofsted told Tes it will carry out 12 MAT summary evaluations in the spring term.
It had previously said, in 2019, that it had funding to carry out 12 summary evaluations a year.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's chief inspector, said: “Multi-academy trusts form a large part of our educational landscape and many decisions about the day-to-day running of an academy take place at trust level. It’s important, therefore, that we have conversations with the trust about the quality of education provided across their academies.
“By visiting more MATs, we will be able to gain a better understanding of their contribution to the school system. And we will be able to share valuable insights and information that can help the sector improve.”
The evaluations are not the same as inspections, and are carried out with the consent and cooperation of the MAT being reviewed.
They are carried out in two stages. During stage 1, batched inspections of a MAT’s academies are carried out, and, once all the inspection reports have been published, the stage 2 summary evaluation takes place.
Last week, MP Jonathan Gullis put forward a bill to give Ofsted the power to inspect multi-academy trust boards.
Ms Spielman has previously questioned why Ofsted does not have the power to inspect at MAT level.
And appearing before the Commons education committee today, Ofsted’s chair, Dame Christine Ryan, said she agreed with Mr Gullis’ bill, which calls for Ofsted to be able to inspect MATs.
A government spokesperson said: “We are enormously grateful for teachers’ and leaders’ hard work during the pandemic, and last year we announced the biggest pay rise for the profession since 2005, with above-inflation rises for every teacher in the country.
“The pause to most public sector workforce pay rises ensures we can get the public finances back on to a sustainable path after unprecedented government spending on the response to Covid-19.
“We remain committed to introducing a £30,000 starting salary for all teachers and, this year, to protect the lowest earners, there will be a pay award of £250 for all teachers earning less than £24,000, as recommended by the STRB (School Teachers’ Review Body).”