Ofsted chief calls for outstanding exemption to be lifted

This academic year has seen some outstanding schools labelled exempt from routine inspections decline hugely in quality; Amanda Spielman wants the exemption lifted

An increasing number of outstanding schools have lost their grade recently; as a result, Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has called for the rule that exempts outstanding schools from routine inspections to be scrapped.

Ofsted has increased the number of exempt schools it inspects during this academic year, thanks to concerns over the outstanding rating no longer being applicable or trustworthy.

Between 1 September 2018 and 31 March 2019, Ofsted inspected 305 outstanding primary and secondary schools.

This represents eight per cent of all exempt schools.

Most of these inspections are carried out because the school’s performance appears to be declining.

Only 49 of 305 (16%) exempt schools inspected so far this academic year have remained outstanding, compared to 49 of 150 (33%) such schools inspected between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018.

Among those schools that lost the top rating, 166 were judged to be good (54%), while 76 were found to require improvement (25%) and 14 were rated inadequate (5%).

Commenting on these figures, Spielman said:

“Today’s figures are not particularly surprising, but they should still set alarm bells ringing.

“The fact that outstanding schools are largely exempt from inspection leaves us with real gaps in our knowledge about the quality of education and safeguarding in these schools.

“Some of them have not been inspected for over a decade, and when our inspectors go back in, they sometimes find standards have significantly declined.

“We believe most schools judged outstanding are still doing outstanding work.

“But for the outstanding grade to be properly meaningful and a genuine beacon of excellence, the exemption should be lifted and Ofsted resourced to routinely inspect these schools.”

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