Ofsted need more inspectors to dive into school finances, experts say

Ofsted will need to hire more inspectors and increase training to properly investigate schools’ financial decision-making, experts have warned.

Daniel Muijs, Ofsted’s deputy director for research and evaluation, announced on Monday the watchdog will be looking at schools’ financial decision-making to investigate if it provides “more insight into the quality of leadership and management”.

Schools Week understands this will be done on a trial basis, with a number of different models tested.

To avoid placing any extra burden on schools the trial will use existing sources of evidence to conduct the investigations – which are scheduled to be completed by August 2020.

However Micon Metcalfe, chief operating officer at Inspiration Trust, said the move risked duplicating the work of government school resource management advisers scheme – school business experts visit schools to find savings.

Metcalfe, who works as a SRMA, said she had undergone “a lot of training” to “assess the financial decision-making in a school”.

“It’s difficult to see without that sort of training how you can really understand whether the decision-making is appropriate or not.”

While commending the “holistic approach”, Metcalfe said there would be a need for more inspectors and specialist training.

It also comes as inspectors still are getting to grips with the curriculum focus of the new framework, and as the inspectorate prepares to routinely inspect ‘outstanding’ schools again from September.

Stephen Mitchell, director of education management firm Keystone Knowledge, said Ofsted inspectors “may not have the appropriate skills to understand and judge financial decisions”.

Stephen Morales

However, overall Mitchell felt the policy could be a “welcome step” as parents already expect Ofsted “to be the regulator that passes a view on the efficiency of their children’s school”.

He added: “I think it would certainly increase the focus on financial decision-making, and the pervasiveness of the impact of decisions into schools leadership teams and this isn’t a bad thing.”

The trial is separate to government’s plans for Ofsted to ensure all inspection reports include a “rating for financial management and oversight” within the school, academy or academy trust.

Further details of this have not yet been released.

Stephen Morales, chief executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership, added school leadership should not be assessed “in silos”. If the new system is conducted “in the spirit of joint leadership” – bringing resources, governance and pedagogical leadership together – it could end up “empowering” schools, he added.

Ofsted also confirmed they will re-introduce thematic subject reviews, starting with maths and languages.