Ofsted investigates inspection gaps at outstanding schools

Ofsted is to examine “unusually long gaps” between inspections of ‘outstanding’-rated schools, according to minutes of a board meeting.

In July, Ofsted’s board requested analysis of inspection intervals for ‘outstanding’ schools with “reasons for any unusually long gaps”.

A policy introduced by the government in 2011 exempts schools with the top grade from further routine inspection as long as data shows they are “maintaining performance”.

In January, Schools Week revealed that more than 1,200 schools in England have not had a full inspection in seven years, and more than 100 have been left alone for over a decade.

Janet Downs, a campaigner with the Local Schools Network who wrote about the revelation in a blog earlier today, said the delays mattered because ‘outstanding’ judgments nearing 10 years of age are “not likely to reflect what is happening in such schools today”.

“Much has changed in the intervening years with curriculum, exams, tests and Ofsted criteria,” she said. Exemption from further inspections is given to outstanding schools but there must come a time when such judgements are past their use-by date.”

Downs also pointed out that ‘outstanding’ schools retain their rating when they convert to academies.

“This is despite academies supposedly being new schools opening the day after predecessor schools closed,” she said.

This serves to “inflate” the number of outstanding academies, she claimed, while deflating the number of ‘outstanding’-rated local authority maintained schools.

Downs claimed this state of affairs was a “gift” for politicians and media pundits “wanting to promote the supposed superiority of academies over LA schools”.