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Ofsted not providing level of assurance schools and parents need

7 September 2018

Unacceptable so many schools are exempt from re-inspection and Government should review its approach.

Clear shortcomings in Ofsted's performance

The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) plays a vital role in making sure that children in schools across England receive the quality of education that they deserve.

We recognise that Ofsted's budget has been cut significantly in recent years, and the amount it spent on inspecting the schools sector fell by 52% in real terms between 1999–2000 and 2017–18. However, this has led Ofsted and the Department for Education to focus narrowly on the cost of inspection, rather the value of getting independent assurance about schools' effectiveness.

There have been clear shortcomings in Ofsted's performance—it has completed fewer inspections than planned, it has failed to meet its targets for how often schools should be inspected, and schools are being left for longer between inspections.

Not providing the level of independent assurance about the quality of education needed

Ofsted now inspects good schools through just a short one-day inspection and, under legislation, outstanding schools are exempt from routine re-inspection altogether. Ofsted is therefore not providing the level of independent assurance about the quality of education that schools and parents need.

As well as reporting on individual schools, HM Chief Inspector's role includes advising ministers about the quality of schools. Championing standards is an important part of any independent inspector's remit, and we were disappointed that HM Chief Inspector seemed reluctant to offer her views about wider issues affecting the school system.

For its part, the Department needs to be clearer about what the purpose of inspection is and where responsibility for improving underperforming schools lies.

Chair's comments

Comment from Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP:

"Cuts to Ofsted's budget have undermined families' ability to make informed decisions about schools.

It is not encouraging that Ofsted also misinformed Parliament about the inspections it had carried out—a mistake that further calls into question its effectiveness. We expect to see evidence that action Ofsted says it has taken to address this failing is working.

If the level of inspection continues to be eroded there is a risk that Ofsted will come to be perceived by parents, Parliament and taxpayers as not relevant or worse, simply a fig leaf for Government failures on school standards. 

Should this happen, its credibility will evaporate."

Further information

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