Spielman: Let Ofsted inspect Multi-Academy Trusts

Ofsted should be allowed to inspect multi-academy trusts, the chief inspector of schools has said.

Amanda Spielman told the parliamentary education committee this morning that she would welcome powers for the watchdog to inspect academy trusts in their entirety, rather than just a “subset” of their schools, as it does now.

“I absolutely would welcome it, and this has been something I have raised and have been discussing for several months,” Spielman said, adding that the current system only gives Ofsted a “limited” view.

I think the view we can get just by looking at subsets of schools in a MAT is very significantly more limited than the view we would get by looking at the whole of a MAT

Under current rules, Ofsted can only undertake “focused inspections”, which involve visiting a handful of an academy trusts’ schools and culminate in a letter to the trust.

In recent years, these focused inspections have identified worrying levels of underperformance in some of England’s largest MATs.

The need for fuller inspections of MATs has been the subject of significant debate for several years as the academies system has grown.

Spielman’s predecessor Sir Michael Wilshaw also said he wished Ofsted could inspect trusts’ central services as well as their schools.

New rules, brought in by Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary in 2015, set the parameter of the focused inspections approach but stopped short of allowing Ofsted the ability to inspect trusts as organisations.

But Spielman says it is “important” for Ofsted to be granted new powers allowing more extensive inspection.

“I think the view we can get just by looking at subsets of schools in a MAT is very significantly more limited than the view we would get by looking at the whole of a MAT.”

According to Spielman, MATs are increasingly becoming “quite highly integrated operations” that Ofsted needs to “look properly” at.

“You cannot say that just looking at the school and a local government body gives you the full view on how it’s being run, how it’s being controlled, how important decisions are being made,” she said.

“And I want to be able to look properly at those decisions.”