New schools and those that convert to academy status will not be inspected until their third year in operation, under plans announced by Ofsted today.
The schools watchdog has said it will delay the inspections – which, until now, have taken place in new schools’ second year of opening.
However, the watchdog will inspect schools earlier than their third year if it has “concerns” or if it is asked to do so by education secretary Nicky Morgan.
The change will apply to schools that have opened since September 2014. It will also apply to school amalgamations, mergers and extensions that add a new key stage.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, told TES it was sensible in many cases to give a school three years to become established before an inspection. “By its second year a new secondary may only have Year 7 and Year 8 pupils, so that’s quite an early stage to be inspecting,” he said.
He added that other “safeguards in the system” would mitigate the risk of poor schools going unchallenged. “If a school is in the ‘requires improvement’ category before it converts to become an academy, I’m sure these rules won’t mean it effectively goes without any visits for three years,” he said. “There will be an improvement process in place.”
Mr Trobe said the plans were likely to be part of a money-saving plan by the watchdog.
“I suspect it’s part of a streamlining of the process,” he said. “Inspection is an expensive business and Ofsted will have to focus its attention on inspecting the schools that most require that visit.”
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “This is not about saving money. Some of the new schools that have opened are still operating on a small scale and this limits the evidence base on which to inspect under section 5 reporting. Extending the timescale for the first inspection allows a more extensive evidence base to be collected by inspectors.
“However, HM Chief Inspector has the discretion to inspect earlier where he has concerns, including where parents have raised issues. Our regional teams will continue to closely monitor the performance of all newly opened schools and new provision to ensure that action is taken where necessary.”