Hundreds of schools in England lose outstanding status after re-inspection |  Schools

Hundreds of schools in England lose outstanding status after re-inspection | Schools

Hundreds of schools in England have been downgraded by Ofsted after being re-inspected for the first time in years.

According to the watchdog, only 17% of the 370 “outstanding” schools retained their rating during a full re-inspection in 2021-22.

Ofsted said it reviewed more than 500 establishments in the last school year which had previously been exempt from regular inspections because they had been rated as “exceptional”, the highest rating available.

This meant that primary and secondary schools would not be subject to a full inspection unless specific concerns were raised.

The average time spent by re-inspected schools since their last full review by Ofsted officials was more than 13 years, he said.

The watchdog’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said the results indicated that “taking a school out of review doesn’t make it better”.

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove introduced no inspections for ‘exceptional’ schools, which was later abolished in 2020. Ofsted is now prioritizing inspections in schools that have passed the most time without being revised.

The drop in grades comes with a new inspection criterion, introduced in September 2019. It focuses on the curriculum and the overall “quality of education”.

The inspections were then stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that they only really resumed at the start of the last school year.

School leaders have raised concerns about the impact of the changes, including the failure to take exam results into account.

Headteachers also said they were downgraded if pupils could not answer questions on the spot about dates of battles in history or names of rivers in geography.

Last year, Spielman said the number of schools rated “outstanding” would decline and one in 10 would be “more realistic”, down from one in five in November 2021.

Of the schools that previously held Ofsted’s top ranking, 62 per cent were rated ‘good’ last year, one rating below, and 21 per cent were rated ‘needs improvement’ or ‘inadequate’, both ratings the lowest assigned by Ofsted.

Ofsted education director Chris Russell said some recently downgraded schools may not have gotten worse, but the new inspection framework has made the ‘exceptional’ grade more ‘challenging and demanding’ .

The regulator said while the schools that have been reinspected may not be representative of all exempt schools, their performance is cause for concern.

He added that a higher proportion were rated as “needs improvement” or “insufficient” than the average across all schools. He added that this was particularly the case for primary schools.

Spielman said, “Regular inspection gives parents confidence in the quality of their child’s school. Exempting exceptional schools deprived parents of up-to-date information. It has also left many schools without the constructive challenge of regular inspection.

“The exemption was a policy based on the hope that high standards, once achieved, would never drop and that the absence of inspection might drive them even higher. These results show that removing a school from scrutiny does not make it better.

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