Ofsted job cut inspection warning, plus 9 more annual account findings

Plans to slim down the civil service could have 'implications' for new inspection work

Plans to slim down the civil service could have 'implications' for new inspection work

Ofsted said the inspection materials did not work as guidance without the wider context of its training programme

Ofsted has published its corporate annual report and accounts, providing an update on its work after two years of disruption from Covid.

The document focuses on the inspectorate’s performance, and is not the same as the official annual report to Parliament each year, which focuses on inspection activity.

It includes survey results which show a school’s Ofsted grade is a “deciding factor” for around one in four teachers when jobhunting.

It also reveals the inspectorate’s concerns over inspector turnover and the impact cuts to the size of the civil service will have on its efforts to ramp up inspection efforts.

Here’s what we learned.

1. 1 in 5 ‘outstanding’ schools drop two grades…

The government recently lifted the exemption from inspection for ‘outstanding’-rated schools, which led to some institutions not being inspected for as long as 14 years.

Ofsted said today that of 328 previously ‘outstanding’ schools inspected between September last year and the end of March 2022, just over a fifth remained at the top grade.

Most of the others were judged ‘good’, but around a fifth were downgraded two grades to ‘requires to improvement’. One in 25 schools crashed to ‘inadequate’.

2. …and many others are ‘declining’

‘Outstanding’ schools with a more recent inspection (i.e. those inspected since 2015) are only receiving “short” section 8 inspections.

Of the schools in this category, around four in 10 remained outstanding, while only around 4 per cent were considered to have concerns “significant enough to trigger a full graded inspection”.

However, six in 10 schools were identified as “declining”, and as a result will be inspected in about a year’s time for a full graded inspection.

3. New survey to look at post-inspection ‘changes’

Alongside its annual report and accounts, Ofsted has published post-inspection survey data and polling carried out by Teacher Tapp.

One of the poll findings was that 53 per cent of respondents reported their school made changes following their most recent inspection.

In a blog post, Ofsted director of strategy and engagement Chris Jones said the watchdog was “keen to know what these changes are”.

Ofsted will therefore pilot a “a post-inspection, follow-up survey later in the year”.

“This will ask leaders whose schools were inspected in autumn 2021 about any changes they have made in their schools as a result of their inspection.”

4. Two exit packages of £100k+ approved

Accounts reveal Ofsted paid out £473,000 in “exit costs” in 2021-22, covering things like redundancy and “other departure costs” like early retirement for non-health grounds.

This was for 11 exits, and represents an increase from the £179,000 spent on five exits in 2020-21.

Accounts do not show who received these payouts, but they do reveal that two payouts were in the £100,000 to £150,000 bracket.

5. Budget 25% lower than 2010 in real-terms

Ofsted was recently handed more money from the Treasury to accelerate inspection operations.

But the watchdog warned today that by the end of the current spending review period, its funding would be at the same level as 2010-11 in cash terms, but “at least 25 per cent lower in real terms”.

The extra funding allocated at the spending review was “specifically to fund new activities”, though Ofsted said its increase would also increase “because we will be carrying out additional commissioned inspection and research activity on behalf of the DfE”.

6. Staff cuts could have ‘implications’ for new work

The government has said it wants to reduce the civil service to 2016 levels over the next three years, and Ofsted is no exception.

In its report, the watchdog revealed it had been “asked to draw up proposals for headcount reductions”. This is despite Ofsted having been asked recently by government to ramp up inspections so all schools are visited by 2025.

“We are working through this exercise, which could have implications for the new work agreed at the spending review.”

7. Covid means Ofsted inspection targets missed

Ofsted sets its own internal targets for the number of inspections and visits to be carried out.

Although the watchdog met 92 per cent of its target for school inspections last year, it only inspected 71 per cent of the private schools it said it would, and just 75 per cent of initial teacher education providers.

However, Ofsted said its ability to meet these targets “was affected by Covid-19”.

“Inspector capacity has been reduced by sickness and periods of isolation.”

8. Inspector recruitment drive as turnover rises

Ofsted said it had been asked to accelerate inspections and take on new work, but warned that it was “seeing turnover in some areas of our workforce return to, or go beyond, pre-pandemic levels”.

Ofsted said staff turnover rose this year to 14 per cent, up from 9 per cent in 2020-21, adding this “may be the result of staff delaying job moves and retirement during the pandemic”.

The watchdog said it had launched “several inspector recruitment campaigns, aiming to attract higher numbers of applicants while not reducing our high standards for those we appoint”.

Recruitment webinars have been run, prompting “record numbers” to apply for inspector roles.

9. Jobbing inspectors return to work

Ofsted has around 800 Her Majesty’s Inspectors, who are directly-employed by the watchdog, and 1,650 contracted inspectors, around 1,000 of whom are serving practitioners.

Earlier in the pandemic, “many” of these jobbing inspectors did not work for Ofsted, “so that they could focus on their own provision”. The inspectorate stopped using them entirely in January 2022 “so that they could concentrate on their jobs in early years settings, schools and colleges”.

But many of these inspectors have now started working for Ofsted again, and “many more people have applied to become contracted inspectors”.

10. Ofsted a deciding factor for 1 in 4 jobhunting teachers

Ofsted stopped carrying out teacher surveys earlier in the pandemic so as not to burden those “working in challenging circumstances”.

It also looked at its indicators and developed a new survey “so that we could understand whether inspection was making it more difficult for professionals to work in challenging circumstances”.

The survey found 24 per cent of teachers felt the Ofsted grade of a school would be a “deciding factor” in whether to apply for a job.

“We will track whether this changes in the next five-year strategic period.”

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