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Fears raised that 'outstanding' Suffolk schools could go up to 17 years with no inspection

PUBLISHED: 07:01 24 January 2020

Ofsted has announced it will no longer make 'outstanding' schools exempt from inspection. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Ofsted has announced it will no longer make 'outstanding' schools exempt from inspection. Picture: THINKSTOCK

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Suffolk education campaigners have welcomed plans for Ofsted to scrap its inspection exemptions for 'outstanding' schools - but raised fears that some may not have been assessed in 17 years.

Labour education spokesman at Suffolk County Council Jack Abbott  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNLabour education spokesman at Suffolk County Council Jack Abbott Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The education watchdog this month confirmed that it would axe the exemption in place for schools which already have the top rating.

Data published in December found that more than half of the 32 'outstanding' schools and nurseries inspected last year had declined in standards, although only six had fallen to a standard that needed improving.

READ MORE: Half of 'outstanding' schools suffer decline in standards

Ofsted's announcement has been hailed as a good step, but the backlog of 'outstanding' schools means it may not be completed until 2025.

Some Suffolk schools have not been inspected since 2008, meaning it could be 17 years since they were last inspected.

Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for education at the county council, said there were a range of options schools could take up to ensure they were on track. Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for education at the county council, said there were a range of options schools could take up to ensure they were on track. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council's Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said: "It is the right decision to end Ofsted inspection exemptions for 'outstanding' schools.

"It is farcical that so many schools have gone a decade or more without an Ofsted inspection, even though many have had a change of headteacher or have been academised.

"I have previously raised this issue with Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman who shared my concerns.

"We need a consistent and transparent process to give parents confidence that their child's school continues to maintain the same high standards.

"However, some schools in Suffolk have not been inspected since 2008. If the wait lasts until 2025, there will have been a 17 year gap between inspections - these schools must be made a priority."

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Data from the beginning of December found there were four schools in the county which had not been inspected since 2009 and two last visited in 2008.

Councillor Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for education, said: "We welcome Ofsted's considerations about how to best work as a force for improvement with all schools.

"In Suffolk, there has been fantastic work that school leaders, including governors have led.

"This has been recognised in their Ofsted inspections which has led to them maintaining their outstanding judgement or improving to outstanding at inspection.

READ MORE: 'Outstanding' schools not inspected for six years or more

"With more than 70% of the children in the county educated in academy schools, the council's role is about support, influence and challenge with school leaders and the Regional Schools Commissioner's team.

"School leaders of all Suffolk schools can be supported in their improvement work by being part of the Suffolk Learning and Improvement Network, which is a headteacher led peer review model.

"All schools can also seek professional development support from the School to School Support Partnership which uses many proven approaches and the work of the Education Endowment Foundation which Suffolk works with in partnership.

"Schools will also be supported in their improvement work by their multi-academy trust if they are an academy.

"Local authority school improvement officers work with all LA maintained schools and also offer improvement support to all academies.

"There will have been changes in how Ofsted inspects schools since many outstanding schools were last inspected so school leaders will need to ensure they have checked Ofsted's current expectations and have an accurate view of their school against the current Ofsted framework.

"We work with the leaders in all LA maintained schools to do this and offer our support to all academies if they wish to take this up."

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