Cuts hit Ofsted school inspections

7 Sep 18

Budget cuts have “eroded” the quality of inspections by the government’s schools watchdog, say MPs.

Ofsted’s failure to meet re-inspection targets means families cannot make confident decisions about schools, the Public Accounts Committee has warned.

A PAC report published today noted that Ofsted’s budget had been cut “significantly” in recent years, reducing the amount spent on inspections by 52% between 1999–2000 and 2017–18.

Ofsted had said in its annual report for 2016–17 that it was on track to meet its statutory inspection targets that year.

But the committee found that in 43 cases between 2013 and 2017 it had not met its requirement to re-inspect schools every five years.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “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 is effectiveness.

“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 lead for government failures on school standards.

“Should this happen, its credibility will evaporate.”

The report said that it was “unacceptable” that current legislation means that schools that are rated outstanding are exempt from re-inspection for six years or longer.

PAC said that by August 2017, 1,620 schools had not been inspected for six years or more, including 296 that had not been inspected for 10 years or more.

The committee recommended that the Department for Education re-examine the rationale for exempting schools previously graded outstanding from routine re-inspections.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The education secretary has made clear that Ofsted is the only body able to provide an independent, rounded judgement of a school’s performance.

“We trust Ofsted with these inspections and this is backed by parents, with Ofsted inspections the second most important consideration when choosing a school behind location.”

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