Ofsted has published its corporate annual report and accounts, providing an update on its work after two years of disruption from Covid.
The document focuses on the inspectorate’s performance, and is not the same as the official annual report to Parliament each year, which focuses on inspection activity.
Among findings were the inspectorate’s concerns over inspector turnover and the impact cuts to the size of the civil service will have on its efforts to ramp up inspection efforts.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Covid-19 results in budget underspend
Accounts data indicated that Ofsted underspent on its core funding by just over £10 million.
It said that was “mainly because we did not return to a full programme of routine school and further education and skills inspections until September 2021,” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. Providers feel the inspection will help improve provision
Further education providers were a little more upbeat than schools about Ofsted inspections helping to improve provision.
Survey data for inspections between April 2021 and the end of March 2022 reported that 77 per cent of further education and skills providers strongly agreed their inspection would help improve provision, compared to 59 per cent in state funded schools.
Just 2 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed in skills and FE settings, compared to 8% for state-funded schools.
3. Two exit packages of £100k+ approved
Accounts reveal Ofsted paid out £473,000 in “exit costs” in 2021-22, covering things like redundancy and “other departure costs” like early retirement for non-health grounds.
This was for 11 exits, and represents an increase from the £179,000 spent on five exits in 2020-21.
Accounts do not show who received these payouts, but they do reveal that two payouts were in the £100,000 to £150,000 bracket.
4. Budget 25% lower than 2010 in real-terms
Ofsted was recently handed more money from the Treasury to accelerate inspection operations.
But the watchdog warned today that by the end of the current spending review period, its funding would be at the same level as 2010-11 in cash terms, but “at least 25 per cent lower in real terms”.
The extra funding allocated at the spending review was “specifically to fund new activities”, though Ofsted said its income would also increase “because we will be carrying out additional commissioned inspection and research activity on behalf of the DfE”.
5. Staff cuts could have ‘implications’ for new work
The government has said it wants to reduce the civil service to 2016 levels over the next three years, and Ofsted is no exception.
In its report, the watchdog revealed it had been “asked to draw up proposals for headcount reductions”. This is despite Ofsted having been asked recently by government to ramp up inspections so all schools are visited by 2025 and ambitions to visit all colleges in the next four years.
“We are working through this exercise, which could have implications for the new work agreed at the spending review.”
6. Narrow miss for FE and skills inspection targets
Ofsted sets its own internal targets for the number of inspections and visits to be carried out.
For further education and skills settings, the watchdog hit 95% of its target, inspecting 719 of the 758 in the plan.
However, Ofsted said its ability to meet these targets “was affected by Covid-19”.
“Inspector capacity has been reduced by sickness and periods of isolation,” the report said.
7. Inspector recruitment drive as turnover rises
Ofsted said it had been asked to accelerate inspections and take on new work, but warned that it was “seeing turnover in some areas of our workforce return to, or go beyond, pre-pandemic levels”.
Ofsted said staff turnover rose this year to 14 per cent, up from 9 per cent in 2020-21, adding this “may be the result of staff delaying job moves and retirement during the pandemic”.
The watchdog said it had launched “several inspector recruitment campaigns, aiming to attract higher numbers of applicants while not reducing our high standards for those we appoint”.
Recruitment webinars have been run, prompting “record numbers” to apply for inspector roles.
8. Jobbing inspectors return to work
Ofsted has around 800 Her Majesty’s Inspectors, who are directly-employed by the watchdog, and 1,650 contracted inspectors, around 1,000 of whom are serving practitioners.
Earlier in the pandemic, “many” of these jobbing inspectors did not work for Ofsted, “so that they could focus on their own provision”. The inspectorate stopped using them entirely in January 2022 “so that they could concentrate on their jobs in early years settings, schools and colleges”.
But many of these inspectors have now started working for Ofsted again, and “many more people have applied to become contracted inspectors”.