Two 'outstanding' schools see plummeting Ofsted ratings amid huge gap in visits
PUBLISHED: 05:30 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:32 14 March 2019
Fresh questions are being raised over Ofsted inspections of 'outstanding' schools after two establishments with the top rating have seen dramatic falls in the last month - more than six years after last being visited.
Great Whelnetham Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School was last month given an ‘inadequate’ rating by the education watchdog – seven-and-a-half years after its last interim assessment and 12 years since its full inspection where it was rated ‘outstanding’.
Last week, Ofsted published its results for Kersey Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School which dropped from the top rating to ‘requires improvement’ following a seven year gap in visits.
The two latest re-inspections have now prompted fresh questions to be put to the organisation.
Councillor Gordon Jones, education cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, said: “I am disappointed that Ofsted inspections have recently judged that the quality of education at two primary schools in Suffolk is no longer outstanding.
“Whilst outstanding schools are exempt from routine inspections, they may be inspected as a result of Ofsted’s assessment of risk.
“I have officially raised my concerns about Ofsted’s policy for reinspecting ‘outstanding’ schools, via the Regional Schools Commissioner, who I will be meeting with again next week.
A spokesman from Ofsted said that its hands were tied by the legislation issued by Parliament which gave ‘outstanding’ schools a greater degree of exemption, and required Parliament to lift it.
“Our chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, has been very clear that Ofsted would like the exemption to be removed so that we can routinely inspect ‘outstanding’ schools,” the spokesman said.
“We want to be sure that people can have confidence in our grades, but there are now almost 300 schools that have gone a decade or more without inspection.
“Regardless of the quality of education in those schools today, there is no doubt that the long gap since inspection has undermined parental confidence.”
Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said: “It is a worry that schools which have been rated as ‘outstanding’ are not subject to the same processes as schools with lower ratings.
“Yes, the majority of time and effort should be spent supporting schools which ‘require improvement’ or are ‘inadequate’, but we can see from these examples that an ‘outstanding’ rating from a decade ago does not automatically mean schools are ‘outstanding’ today.
“I was so concerned about this that I wrote to the head of Ofsted last year asking for her to review the current situation - I hope the cabinet member for education also did the same as this is clearly not a practical, effective or sustainable way to assess our education system.”
A spokesman from Kersey CofE VC Primary School declined the opportunity to comment.