Outstanding schools set for Ofsted inspections next year - but may face 6-year wait

Outstanding schools are set to be inspected again when Ofsted inspections resume next year – but it will now take up to six years to get through them all.

The government has published its response to the consultation on removing the inspection exemption for the top-rated schools.

It was introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2011. But a previous Schools Week investigation revealed that more than 100 schools had been ignored by Ofsted for over a decade.

The government will now seek Parliamentary approval to remove the exemption, and pending that will reintroduce inspections for outstanding schools and colleges alongside the restart of routine inspections – slated for January. However this date is being kept under review.

The document says 90 per cent of over 3,700 respondents agreed that the exemption should be removed.

But, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said “a longer window is needed to complete the required inspections”.

It means all formerly exempt schools, colleges and other organisations must now receive an initial full inspection or short inspection within six years, rather than the original five.

Schools that have gone the longest since their last inspection will be prioritised, starting with those that have not been inspected for a decade or longer.

Schools inspected before September 2015 will receive an initial full inspection, while those last inspected after this date will “normally” receive a section 8 short inspection.

But where an initial short inspection indicates that outstanding performance may not have been maintained, Ofsted must conduct a full inspection to “take place within the next year or so and in any event before 1 August 2027”.

Ofsted will also aim to organise scheduling so that “as far as possible” schools that were last inspected since 2015 receive an initial inspection within six of seven years of their previous inspection.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson said: “I know parents rely greatly on schools’ Ofsted ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child, and these reforms will give parents even greater confidence, knowing that every Ofsted rating is up to date and relevant to their child.

“We will continue to increase parent choice and drive up standards, as we emerge from the immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic, continuing to building a stronger school system that better serves pupils and families across the country.”