Government plans to reintroduce inspections for outstanding schools


Schools rated outstanding by Ofsted will be inspected again in 2021, as the government is planning to shelve inspection exemptions for top-rated institutions.

The exemptions, introduced by then education secretary Michael Gove in 2011, mean some schools have now gone more than a decade without an Ofsted visit.

But following a consultation on removing the ruling, the government is now set to seek Parliamentary approval to make it happen.

Inspections are currently on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, although they are set to return in January 2021, that date is under constant review.

Unanimous backing for ending inspection exemptions

When inspections do return, and pending approval, outstanding schools and colleges will also see inspectors walking through their doors.

According to the consultation document, 90% of more than 3,700 respondents backed the removal of the inspection exemption.

However, the government has also noted that inspecting all of the necessary schools will take longer, given the inspection backlog that has built up as a result of the pandemic.

Any schools and colleges that were previously exempt will now face either a full or short inspection within six years, rather than five years as per the usual inspection set up.

Prioritising schools for Ofsted visits

Initially, the priority will be to inspect those schools that have not had an Ofsted visit for the longest period of time, mainly those that have gone ten years or more without an inspection.

Schools inspected before the start of the academic year in 2015 are guaranteed to experience a full inspection, with a section 8 short inspection due for those inspected since that date.

Ofsted notes that if short inspections suggest that high standards in schools have not been maintained, a full inspection will then be necessary, to be carried out by the start of the academic year in 2027.

Driving up school standards

The move is designed to provide greater clarity for parents and to drive up school standards, according to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

“I know parents rely greatly on schools’ Ofsted ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child, and these reforms will give parents even greater confidence, knowing that every Ofsted rating is up to date and relevant to their child,” he said.

Mr Williamson explained that the reforms should also aid the development of a “stronger school system that better serves pupils and families”.