Surge in school inspection failures as Ofsted cracks the whip

By Chaminda Jayanetti

The percentage of schools rated unsatisfactory has shot up in the first term of this academic year, as new figures show regulator Ofsted taking a much harder line in school inspections.

Of the 562 inspections of schools, nurseries and pupil referral units completed in the autumn term of 2015, 44 were found “Inadequate” and 202 were deemed to “Require Improvement”.

In effect, 44 percent of schools were rated unsatisfactory, compared to just 29 percent of schools that were inspected during the 2014/15 academic year – a rise of 50 percent.

Of the schools inspected in autumn 2015, 274 were rated “Good” and 42 “Outstanding”.

The figures are likely to spark anxiety among teachers, whose trade unions have become increasingly agitated by the Ofsted inspections system and its relationship to turning “failing” schools into academies.

The proportion of schools found to be inadequate or requiring improvement so far this academic year is higher than at any point since 2009/10 – before Ofsted changed its “Satisfactory” rating into Requires Improvement.

Ofsted line graph

That change, implemented in September 2012, had major implications for schools and was greeted with considerable opposition from teachers.

Whereas previously schools deemed Satisfactory had “passed the test”, under the new system a school that Requires Improvement must progress to Good or Outstanding at subsequent Ofsted inspections within four years, or face being deemed Inadequate and placed in special measures.

The change was a key plank in the hardline approach of Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, but for the first three years under the new system, well over sixty percent of schools were rated Good or Outstanding by inspectors. That has fallen sharply in the first term of this academic year.

Ofsted bar chart

One aspect of the more hardline approach by Oftsed has been the new short inspections regime, introduced in September. Schools that were last rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted inspectors are given a one-day initial inspection, which is then extended to a full inspection if deemed necessary.

In the first term of this academic year – which was also the first term of the short inspections system – one in four schools were rated Requires Improvement or Unsatisfactory. Given that these schools had previously been rated Good or Outstanding, this is a noticeably high figure.

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