Report by the National Audit Office (NAO) finds that, while Ofsted provides valuable independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness, it has faced significant financial and staffing challenges and has struggled to meet its inspection targets
The report notes that Ofsted’s remit has expanded since 2000, however, spending has fallen in real-terms since 2005-06. In 2017-18, Ofsted spent £44 million on inspecting state-funded schools.
Ofsted does not have reliable data on the efficiency of its state-funded school inspections over time, the report notes. And found that in 2017-18, the only year calculations was possible, the NAO estimates that the average total cost
per state-funded school inspection was £7,200.
The NAO also found that Ofsted has not met its statutory target to re-inspect schools within five years
in 43 (0.2%) cases between 2012/13 and 2016/17. In March, HM chief inspector informed the education secretary that Ofsted has met its statutory target because it had incorrectly categorised 32 schools as new where they had expanded or amalgamated with another school; in the 11 other cases, Ofsted had deferred inspections for exceptional circumstances.
The report highlighted Ofsted’s failure to meet its own target for how often schools should be inspected;’between 2012/13 and 2016/17, it did not meet its target to re-inspect schools graded as inadequate, where the quality of education provision is most at risk, in 78 cases (six per cent).’
Ofsted’s performance against its targets has improved since it has deployed more inspectors. In 2017-18, it completed 94% of planned inspections, compared with 65% in 2015-16.
Ofsted does not know whether its school inspections are having the intended impact: to raise the standards of education and improve the quality of children’s and young people’s lives.
However, Ofsted set few targets to measure performance against its 2016 strategic plan and has provided limited information to allow others to assess its progress. In March 2018, it agreed an evaluation framework for assessing performance against its new strategy, including performance indicators and targets.
There is some evidence that inspections are helping schools to improve. In response to the NAO’s survey, 44% of headteachers said that the inspection had led to improvements in the school, while 28% said that it had not. In addition, 71% of respondents agreed that inspectors provided useful feedback during and at the end of the inspection visit.
Ofsted’s inspection reports are an important factor when parents choose a school for their children – the second most important factor (50%), after proximity to home (61%), according to Ofsted’s 2017 survey of parents. Ofsted’s research suggests parents would like inspection reports to reflect parents’ views more. Ofsted seeks parents’ views through an online survey but the response rate is low.
As a result of decisions by the Department and Ofsted, the level of independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness has reduced. Under legislation, schools graded as outstanding are exempt from routine re-inspection.
At August 2017, 1,620 schools had not been inspected for six years ormore, including 296 schools that had not been inspected for 10 years or more.
Ofsted re-inspects good schools through a short, one-day, inspection rather than a full, two-day, inspection. Short
inspections provide less assurance and allow inspectors less time to discuss with schools how they might improve.
Overall the NAO concludes that Ofsted cannot demonstrate that its inspection of schools represents value for money. The NAO’s recommendations for Ofsted include: monitoring and reporting publicly on the extent to which it is meeting targets for both processes and impact; identifying how it can engage more with parents and make inspection reports more useful for parents; and setting out a plan for recruiting and retaining the inspectors it needs to undertake school inspections.
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