Ofsted

Ofsted: ‘Constrained’ funding could ‘compromise’ inspection reliability

Watchdog's chair warns actions to absorb rising costs are a 'short-term fix' and will likely 'store up cost pressures'

Watchdog's chair warns actions to absorb rising costs are a 'short-term fix' and will likely 'store up cost pressures'

The reliability of school inspections will be “compromised” if funding is “further constrained”, the board of Ofsted has told government.

Actions taken by the watchdog to absorb rising costs are a “short-term fix” and will likely “store up cost pressures” for this year and beyond, Ofsted’s chair Dame Christine Ryan said during a September board meeting.

Christine Ryan
Christine Ryan

Minutes, published this morning, added: “Many parts of the DfE regulatory system, including actions following a ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ rating, rely on Ofsted inspection judgments.

“A high level of assurance on the reliability of inspection judgements is therefore needed, but will be compromised if inspection itself and the activities that support inspection quality are further constrained.”

While the comments were made under the previous Ofsted leadership, the watchdog also sounded the alarm over finances last week.

Funding has ‘fallen significantly’

Responding to calls from MPs for longer inspections, Ofsted said its role and responsibilities have “expanded significantly” since 2005.

However its funding has “fallen significantly “over the same period, and is now 29 per cent lower in real terms compared with 2009-10”.

The board update added “unfunded pay guidance” on top of budget reductions meant the inspectorate was also “losing its capacity for independent discretionary work, which provides insight on themes of national importance emerging from its inspection and regulatory work”.

The minutes added: “The chair described these as systemic issues that need to be considered fully by the DfE, including in its own risk assessments.

The watchdog confirmed this week that MAT summary evaluations are on pause indefinitely, with a decision on their future to be made after the Big Listen consultation. Previously, they had been paused until the end of this month.

Speaking at an event this week, senior HMI Kirsty Godfrey said this was to “free up as much inspector time as possible to support our school inspection work”.

However she added the inspectorate remains “committed to being as ambitious as possible to increase accountability and transparency of trusts through our school inspection work”.

Ofsted declined to comment.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with Ofsted to make significant changes to reform inspections and have seen standards rising…

“School funding is rising to more than £60 billion next year and we have provided Ofsted with additional funding to speed up inspections since the pandemic to give parents an up-to-date picture about school performance.

“It is for Ofsted to prioritise its resources whilst ensuring value for money for the taxpayer alongside a fair and proportionate inspection regime.”

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