Ofsted plan to look at long inspection gaps seems to have been shelved

Janet Downs's picture

Ofsted plans to ‘analyse inspection intervals’ for outstanding schools seem to have been shelved. 

In July, the Ofsted Board meeting resolved to ‘analyse …reasons for any unusually long gaps’ and report back at the Board’s next meeting. 

The next two Board meetings have come and gone.  And no mention of these unusually long gaps.

Of course, there may have been subsequent Board meetings where the Minutes have yet to be published.  And it may be that these long gaps were discussed then.

But a report in Schools Week suggests otherwise.   Ofsted has increased the maximum gap between inspections of inadequate schools and those which require improvement.  Schools assessed as good will also see a greater time lapse between being judged good and their one-day short inspection.

Schools Week reports that the announced increased gaps between inspections isn’t being ‘done out of the goodness of the inspectorate’s heart.’  It’s to save money.  Ofsted told Schools Week’s sister paper FE Week that similar changes in the further education sector would save Ofsted £400k over the next academic year.

It’s unlikely, then, that Ofsted would be keen to spend money on inspecting outstanding schools when it’s saving money by increasing gaps between inspections of schools which aren’t outstanding.

No doubt Ofsted or the Department for Education (DfE) will say desktop analysis which could reveal a fall in performance at outstanding schools is sufficient. 

But exam results alone are not enough to judge whether schools are providing an acceptable level of education.  And exam results can be kept high by such methods as discouraging applications from previously low achieving children, sidelining subjects which don’t count towards EBacc or Progress 8 and offloading pupils likely to depress a school’s exam results.

Ofsted recognises long gaps between inspections are a danger.  Its July Board meeting minutes said:

The Board agreed that the gaps between inspections of schools is a risk that DfE and Ofsted should share, but that it should sit primarily with DfE.’

The DfE has decreed that schools judged outstanding will be exempt from future inspections unless serious problems are identified.  This is unacceptable.   

In January last year, Schools Week revealed there appeared to be 1,283 schools which hadn’t been inspected for more than seven years.     This number will inevitably increase as time passes if outstanding schools remain exempt.

It’s time for this exemption to be scrapped.  Ofsted reports several years old are not fit for purpose.


Minutes of Ofsted Board meetings can be downloaded here.  

CORRECTION: The original article said Ofsted would save £4k on inspecting FE colleges.  The correct figure is a hundred times larger.  The typo has been corrected.

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Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 16/04/2018 - 13:11

agov - thanks for the link.  Love the term 'supervised machine learning'.  Apparently, it means an algorithm will be used to assess risk.  But one of the risk factors listed was not a very long gap since last inspection.  

Anecdote alert:  a butchers in a town I visited boasted 'prize-winning' pies.  Turned out the prize had been awarded in the fifties.  I wonder if outstanding Ofsted judgements will last for decades.  Under DfE exemption rules, it could become possible.

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