Ofsted is to research how inspectors could examine schools' financial decision making as part of their judgements about leadership and management and the quality of education.
The research will trial approaches to looking at schools’ financial management that could be used in future school inspections.
However, Ofsted has said that this new research was not linked to plans announced by the Department for Education last year for Ofsted to give schools a financial rating.
That plan had already been condemned as "hugely misguided" by headteachers' leaders.
Leaders' union: Asking Ofsted to inspect finances is 'misguided'
The plans to launch new research into schools’ financial decision making were revealed this week in a blog by Daniel Muijs, Ofsted’s deputy director for research and evaluation.
The inspectorate aims to complete this research by autumn of this year.
Professor Muijs said: “We will be looking at financial decision making on inspection, to see whether this gives us more insight into the quality of leadership and management.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “It’s a research project which will trial approaches that may or may not be used on inspection in future. Any decision on this will depend on what the trial shows.
“We won’t be giving schools a financial rating. This is very much a trial to see if there is anything we can do that would help us look at leadership and management or quality of education
“We’re scoping the project now, and it’ll be completed by early autumn 2020. The details of how the project will work in practice are to be decided as part of that process."
When asked if that meant the idea of giving schools a financial rating had now been dropped, Ofsted said the latest research plan was a separate issue.
The spokesperson added: “The DfE and Ofsted are exploring together how best to provide transparency on schools’ use of resources, and to encourage best practice.
"This joint work is ongoing and we will test any emerging new approach before we implement it.”
Last year, two influential grassroots groups of school leaders warned Ofsted that it could not inspect the curriculum without taking school funding pressures into account.
Professor Muijs also said yesterday that Ofsted would be carrying out thematic subject reviews that will be based on the data from deep dives into subjects during its new curriculum-focused school inspections. The first two reviews will be on maths and languages.