‘Outstanding’ providers set for Ofsted inspections next year – but may face 6-year wait

‘Outstanding’ schools, colleges and training providers are set to be inspected again when Ofsted inspections resume next year – but it will now take up to six years to get through them all.

The government has published its response to the consultation on removing the inspection exemption for the top-rated providers.

It was introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2011. But a previous FE Week investigation revealed how some colleges had been ignored by Ofsted for over a decade.

The government will now seek Parliamentary approval to remove the exemption, and pending that will reintroduce inspections for ‘outstanding’ schools and colleges alongside the restart of routine inspections – slated for January. However this date is being kept under review.

The document says 90 per cent of over 3,700 respondents agreed that the exemption should be removed.

But, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said “a longer window is needed to complete the required inspections”.

It means all formerly exempt schools, colleges and other organisations must now receive an initial full inspection or short inspection within six years, rather than the original five.

Providers that have gone the longest since their last inspection will be prioritised, starting with those that have not been inspected for a decade or longer.

FE colleges and providers inspected before September 2015 will receive an initial full inspection, while those last inspected after this date will normally receive an initial short inspection.

But where an initial short inspection indicates that outstanding performance may not have been maintained, Ofsted will extend the inspection to a ‘full’ inspection within 15 working days.

Ofsted will also aim to organise scheduling so that “as far as possible” schools and FE colleges and providers that were last inspected since 2015 receive an initial inspection within six of seven years of their previous inspection.

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  1. Phil Hatton

    Bit of a non-story for the FE sector really as a number of outstanding colleges and providers have been inspected over the last few years, but the concept of short inspections for more recent grade 1s brings them into a different Ofsted methodology. The schools sector is a different matter as there were so many outstanding schools – both of my children’s schools were outstanding when they were at them but went down just after each had left them. Truly outstanding colleges and providers will welcome inspection as long as the teams carrying them out have the right expertise to do so.

  2. A study of the number of colleges holding a restructure following an outstanding judgment would be useful. Anecdotally, I know of several where staffing has been cut and standards in freefall as providers feel they are in a safe position. I think that the time between inspections is far too long. So much can change over time or with a new SLT. I know that Ofsted look for triggers which may initiate a reinspection but a nearby provider proudly displayed their ‘Ofsted Outstanding’ banner for over 6 years with everyone in the region knowing perfectly well that this was inaccurate for 5 of them!