Ofsted downgrades hundreds more ‘outstanding’ schools

Almost a third of previously ‘outstanding’ schools inspected since last September have dropped to ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, Ofsted has revealed.

Data covering the period from September to the end of March shows that just 16 per cent of ‘outstanding’ schools inspected during that time kept their top grade. Twenty-five per cent dropped to ‘requires improvement’ and 5 per cent were ‘inadequate’. Fifty-four per cent fell to ‘good’.

‘Outstanding’ primary and secondary schools are usually exempt from routine inspection, but Ofsted can go in if it has concerns about their performance or safeguarding processes.

Today’s figures, which come almost six months after Ofsted launched a clampdown on underperforming exempt schools, have prompted renewed calls from Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, for the exemption to be lifted.

Between September 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, Ofsted inspected 305 ‘outstanding’ primary and secondary schools, which represents 8 per cent of all exempt schools and is more than double the number inspected during the full 2017-18 academic year.

Only 49 of the 305 (16 per cent) ‘outstanding’ schools inspected so far this academic year remained outstanding, compared with 49 of 150 (33 per cent) of exempt schools inspected during the previous academic year.

More primary than secondary schools lost their ‘outstanding’ grade. Only 31 of 239 (13 per cent) of exempt primary schools remained outstanding this year, while 18 out of 66 (27 per cent) secondary schools kept the top grade.

Ofsted said that, given that most of the inspections were carried out because of concerns over performance, it was not surprising that a significant proportion lose the top grading.

Spielman said: “Today’s figures are not particularly surprising, but they should still set alarm bells ringing.

“The fact that outstanding schools are largely exempt from inspection leaves us with real gaps in our knowledge about the quality of education and safeguarding in these schools. Some of them have not been inspected for over a decade, and when our inspectors go back in, they sometimes find standards have significantly declined.

“We believe most schools judged outstanding are still doing outstanding work. But for the outstanding grade to be properly meaningful and a genuine beacon of excellence, the exemption should be lifted and Ofsted resourced to routinely inspect these schools.”

The Department for Education has been criticised by the UK’s statistics watchdog for failing to give a “full picture” of the number of children in high performing schools.

But Nick Gibb, schools minister, defended the government’s record.

“These statistics show just how much better our school system is compared to nine years ago, with 85 per cent of pupils attending schools rated good or outstanding compared to 66 per cent in 2010,” he said.

“Parents can be assured that the likelihood of having a good or outstanding school on their doorstep has been hugely increased, with almost nine in 10 schools rated good or outstanding compared to just seven in 10 schools in 2010.”

Last year the government told Ofsted to step up its interventions of exempt schools so that poor standards of safeguarding could be picked up.

Schools Week revealed earlier this year that between January and February this year, Ofsted reinspected 46 exempt schools – none of which retained their outstanding status.

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