Ofsted to inspect all grade one providers as 30 go without visit for decade or more

All FE and skills providers rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted will no longer be exempt from routine inspections, the Department for Education has confirmed.

The government announced the move yesterday, but only that it would apply to schools.

A spokesperson for the DfE has today told FE Week the change will also impact colleges, independent providers, local authorities and other FE providers.

The exemption from inspection for ‘outstanding’ providers was introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2011. Those with the rating would only be reinspected if safeguarding issues or concerns over achievement rates came to light.

As revealed in an FE Week investigation three years ago and subsequent National Audit Office report in 2018, the exemption has led to many colleges and hundreds of schools being ignored by inspectors for over a decade.

In October last year, chief inspector Amanda Spielman warned the public accounts committee that the exemption leaves the inspectorate with “real blind spots as to the quality of education and safeguarding” in these schools and colleges.

FE Week analysis shows there are currently 30 ‘outstanding’ FE providers that have gone a decade or more without being reinspected.

There will be a consultation published “shortly” about the move to remove the ‘outstanding’ exemption and, subject to parliamentary approval, it will be removed by September next year.

The DfE said this will “ensure that parents have up to date information about the quality of education their children are receiving, and that standards remain high”.

What will be of concern, however, is Ofsted’s budget and capacity to inspect all grade 1 providers on a routine basis. It is not clear at this stage whether the DfE will give the watchdog extra cash to do more inspections.

Ofsted has been approached for comment.