'Outstanding' schools no longer exempt from inspection

The education secretary wants to tackle underperformance in schools, and prevent long gaps between inspections

Adi Bloom

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Schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted will no longer be exempt from regular inspections, the education secretary has announced. 

Gavin Williamson said that he wanted to tackle underperformance in schools, after it emerged that almost 300 schools had not been inspected for more than a decade. 

More funding will also be made available to help top-performing academies to expand and support other schools.

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Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, has already called for ministers to lift the exemption for ‘outstanding’ schools, so as to ensure that the rating is not devalued. 

She said: “We believe most schools judged 'outstanding' are still doing outstanding work. But for the 'outstanding' grade to be properly meaningful and a genuine beacon of excellence, the exemption should be lifted and Ofsted resourced to routinely inspect these schools.”

At the moment, ‘outstanding’ schools are not regularly inspected. Ofsted visits only if concerns have been raised about a school’s performance. 

A report by the National Audit Office found that 296 schools had not been inspected for more than 10 years. In addition, 1,620 schools, most of them outstanding, had not been inspected for six or more years. 

In the 2018-19 academic year, only 16 per cent of the ‘outstanding’ schools that were inspected retained their status, compared with 33 per cent the previous year. 

Mr Williamson said: “Every parent wants to know their child is getting a great education, and I will leave no stone unturned in my drive to deliver that.”

A new specialist academy trust will be set up specifically for the purpose of taking on and turning around the most challenging schools, struggling with long-term underperformance. 

The trust will be piloted in the North of England, and will offer support from school leaders who have a proven record in improving education. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, welcomed the decision to remove the exemption from inspection for outstanding schools. He said that, in some cases, incoming headteachers faced resistance to change, because of an existing 'outstanding' judgement.   

"Many of these schools are completely different places now to when they were inspected, with changed cohorts of pupils and different staff teaching a dramatically different curriculum," he said.

"This is clearly not in the interests of parents, pupils or schools."

This announcement follows the government’s pledge to provide a multi-billion pound cash boost for schools in England over the next three years.


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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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