Ofsted plans MAT inspection changes from 2018

Ofsted wants to change the way it inspects multi-academy trusts (MATs) from September 2018, according to a senior inspector.

Stephen McMullan told the annual conference of the National Co-ordinators of Governor Services in Grantham today that the watchdog was “considering” new ways of inspecting and evaluating MATs. These changes could be implemented as soon as next year.

At the moment, Ofsted can only undertake “focused inspections”, which involve visiting a handful of a MAT’s schools and culminate in a letter to the trust.

But Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman has this week demanded increased powers to inspect MATs in their their entirety, claiming the current system only gives inspectors a “limited” view.

Spielman’s predecessor Sir Michael Wilshaw also campaigned for the power to inspect the central services of trusts, as well as their schools.

Writing to former education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2016, he reported that Ofsted’s focused inspections of MATs revealed “serious weaknesses that were contributing to poor progress and outcomes for too many pupils, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

He criticised MATs for a “lack of leadership capacity” and “ineffective monitoring”, adding: “If we are to improve national standards in an increasingly autonomous system, much more needs to be done to reduce the variation in standards between the best and the worst academy trusts.”

The prospect of more comprehensive inspections of MATs was welcomed by academy accountability campaigner Janet Downs, from the Local Schools Network, who believes MATs should be subject to the same rules as councils.

“Ofsted does inspect local authorities’ school improvement programmes, and their special needs provision overall, so MATs should be the same,” she said.

But others have warned that Ofsted may face issues with resources and a clash with the regional schools commissioners if it is granted more powers over MATs.

In a recent blog, Robert Hill, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, warned that Ofsted’s diminished funding meant resources for inspection were “now very definitely finite”.

“Any formal inspection role for Ofsted would be bound to put the relationship between the respective RSC and Ofsted functions under intense scrutiny,” he added.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Mark Watson

    Janet Downs and the Local Schools Network are not “academy accountability campaigners”, they are a special interest group who “aim to promote the cause of local state schools” and are fundamentally opposed to all academies.
    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and to shout them from the rooftops, but it does seem slightly disingenuous not to be clear on this when quoting Janet in what presumably purports to be an objective news report.

    • Mark – I am not ‘fundamentally opposed to all academies’ and nowhere on LSN’s site does it say it is ‘fundamentally opposed to all academies’. This statement would imply I and LSN were against all schools which happened to be academies. This is not true. The ‘good local schools’ we campaign for may well be academies.
      However, we do have concerns about academization as a whole and we express these concerns. We also aim to debunk misleading claims made by the DfE and others about the supposed superiority of academies/free schools over LA maintained schools.
      Let’s be clear: there are good or better academies, free schools and LA maintained schools. There are also less than good academies, free schools and LA maintained schools. It would be preferable if the DfE supported all schools instead of promoting schools of just one type.

      • Mark Watson

        In which case I apologise for misrepresenting you and LSN.
        I genuinely must have missed your posts on Schools Week where you campaigned for those good local academies, and referred to good/better academies and free schools – can you point me in the right direction?
        Also, just to double check, in your campaigning for good local schools whatever their structure, do you hold local authorities to the same level of scrutiny and investigation as academy trusts? Again, I haven’t seen these (but I acknowledge this doesn’t at all mean there haven’t been any).

        • Mark – you won’t find anything in Schools Week where I campaigned for good local academies, free schools or any type of state school because I’ve written only a tiny number of opinion pieces in Schools Week and these related to graduation at 18, careers advice and a proposal to open a low-cost fee-paying school.
          It’s true I’m critical of academization and many of my LSN articles show this criticism. I, and LSN, have tried to counteract the positive spin given to academies and free schools as a group by the DfE to the detriment of LA schools (still the majority) and to highlight misleading info in DfE press releases on the media.
          The above form most of my LSN articles. Some mention individual schools (eg the ongoing critique of Cuckoo Hall although LSN was one of the few reports which vindicated Cuckoo Hall after an investigation into alleged test irregularities – the allegations had been reported nationally but Cuckoo Hall’s vindication was not). I have praised academies in articles including the BBC News Report; schools which equalled or did better in Ofsted in the week Great Yarmouth Primary Academy was praised by the SoS for its good rating ; special free schools which at the time were mostly judged good or better; the likelihood of studio schools being slated for low results despite being good or better; the glowing report for University of Chester academy trust in September; an article criticising Ofsted for slating Spalding Academy just a few weeks after its predecessor academy, Sir John Gleed, had been handed to South Lincolnshire Academy Trust from CfBT (it’s commons sense, surely, that MATs can’t turn round failing schools in weeks); the Rye Academy Trust blaming funding cuts for being forced to give up its academies.
          I can only provide one link because more would result in this comment being stuck in moderation.