'Outstanding' colleges to lose Ofsted exemption

Subjecting 'outstanding' providers to routine Ofsted inspection from September is 'the right thing to do', says AoC

'Outstanding' colleges are set to lose their exemption from routine Ofsted inspection

The exemption from routine Ofsted inspection enjoyed by "outstanding" colleges and providers is due to come to an end in September.

All colleges and providers graded "outstanding" by Ofsted will be reinspected in the next five years, under proposals unveiled by the government today.

Since 2012, FE providers and schools rated "outstanding" have been exempt from routine inspection. Under the plans outlined in a consultation launched today, they will be brought back into a regular inspection cycle, with Ofsted visiting every four to five years. This will affect around 3,700 schools and colleges rated "outstanding".


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Background: FE providers left for a decade without Ofsted inspection

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Routine Ofsted inspection returns

A 2018 Tes investigation uncovered 19 FE providers that had not had a full inspection by Ofsted in at least a decade.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Parents want to know that they are making the best, most informed choices about their children’s education. 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 would go unchecked and the exemption meant there was often not an up-to-date picture.”

Colleges welcome change

The plans, which require a change in the law so will be subject to parliamentary approval, were first announced last year. Ofsted is expected to prioritise providers that have gone the longest without inspection.

The move was welcomed by the Association of Colleges. Deputy chief executive Julian Gravatt said: “Removing the 'outstanding' exemption is the right thing to do.

“Bringing colleges that have not been inspected for over eight years into the regular inspection cycle will instil fairness and confidence in the system. It seems timely as more colleges begin to go through the new education inspection framework, and we look forward to responding to the consultation.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen is TES' Further Education Editor. He has worked at TES since 2010, and was previously the education correspondent at the Cambridge News. He was the winner of the award for Outstanding National Education Journalism at the CIPR Education Journalism Awards in 2015 and 2013.

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