The government is actively discussing whether the “overlap” between Ofsted and the regional schools commissioners (RSC) represents “value for money”, a leading figure has revealed.
The director general of education standards at the Department for Education, Paul Kett, confirmed that the “value-for-money issue” is “part of active business planning discussions at the DfE” at an Ofsted board meeting in November.
The minutes of the meeting show Kett responding to a statement from Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy, Luke Tryl, that the roles of Ofsted’s regional directors and RSCs “needed clarification”.
“The board noted that the relationship between regional directors and RSCs was strong on the ground in some regions and the system would benefit from consistently in all areas,” the minutes state.
The education select committee published a report about the role of RSCs back in January 2016, suggesting that the responsibilities of RSCs, local authorities and Ofsted be clarified after the commissioners were accused of being a “shadow Ofsted” by a former government adviser.
In March 2016, the then-Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told the committee that the relationship between the regulator and RSCs was a “bit tense” and said he was “not clear what the RSCs do other than rebroker failing academies”.
And in a report on multi-academy trusts published in February last year, the committee warned that the relationship between Ofsted and RSCs “remains unsatisfactory” and called for “more work to be done to clarify the distinction between Ofsted inspections and RSC visits”.
Although inspections of multi-academy trusts have traditionally fallen under the remit of RSCs, the current Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman wants the regulator to be given the power to inspect trusts in their entirety rather than just being able to performed “focused inspections” on a small number of schools as it does now.
In October, Schools Week revealed that the cost of RSCs had risen from £4 million a year when they were created in 2014 to £26 million in 2016.