Nearly half of ‘outstanding’ schools downgraded by Ofsted this term

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Nearly half of “outstanding” schools – which were previously exempt from inspections – have been downgraded by Ofsted this term, figures show.

The watchdog is inspecting schools previously judged as outstanding which are no longer exempt from visits following concerns that hundreds of schools given the top rating have not been inspected for years.

The Ofsted data shows that, during the three months up to the end of November, 47% of schools previously judged as outstanding have been stripped of their top rating following inspections this term.

In October last year, the Department for Education (DfE) backed removing the exemption from inspection for outstanding schools and colleges, which was first introduced in 2012.

The watchdog has been prioritising inspections of previously exempt schools that have gone the longest without an assessment.

The data suggests that 36% of schools previously judged as outstanding dropped one rating to “good”, 9% dropped two grades to “requires improvement” and 2% received the bottom rating of “inadequate”.

But Ofsted said the overall grade profile for schools in England has improved in comparison with the period prior to the pandemic.

The data shows that 83% of schools were judged as “good” or “outstanding” between September and November this year.

This compares with 77% of schools rated good or outstanding between September 2019 – when the new education inspection framework was introduced – and March 2020, when inspections were suspended.

Last week, the DfE announced that Ofsted inspections will not go ahead this week to ensure schools can plan for Omicron contingency measures.

But both the National Education Union and NASUWT teaching union have called for Ofsted inspections to be paused until after the February half-term.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “I am fully aware that schools are still facing very significant challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“So I’m very pleased to report that schools are improving and being recognised for doing so.

“In fact, inspection results this term are very much in line with what we saw before the pandemic began, if not slightly improved. That will be a reassurance to parents and to schools as well.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We’re delighted for schools that have done well in Ofsted inspections this term, particularly as this has been achieved in extremely challenging circumstances.

“Those schools which have been downgraded may well feel very hard done by. Ofsted says that it takes into account the impact of Covid but, as that impact varies to such a great extent, this seems to us to be extremely difficult to do in a way that is fair.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “In reality, Ofsted have been more of a hindrance than a help to schools during the pandemic.

“Inspections are the very last thing schools need given the current Covid-19 situation. School leaders are under enormous pressure just to stay open and minimise disruption for learners. Pupils will be best served by their schools not being distracted by preparation for inspection.

“While Ofsted have paused inspection for the rest of the year, clearly one week goes nowhere near far enough. This suspension should be extended as long as schools are in the grip of the pandemic, well into the new year.”

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