Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, has called for schools rated ‘outstanding’ to no longer be exempt from routine inspection. Her call came after new figures showed that, over a seven month period from September 2018, almost a third of schools previously rated outstanding were found to now be rated either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Between 1 September 2018 and 31 March 2019 Ofsted inspected 305 ‘outstanding’ primary and secondary schools. A quarter of these dropped to ‘required improvement, and 5 per cent were found to be ‘inadequate’. 54 per cent saw their grade reduced to good, and just 16 per cent retained their status as ‘outstanding’.

Schools rated outstanding are usually exempt from routine reinspection, but Ofsted can conduct inspections where they have concerns about standards or safeguarding. In late 2018 the Department for Education urged Ofsted to increase the number of exempt schools it inspects. However, the DfE resisted pressure, from Ofsted and others, for the exemption for ‘outstanding’ schools to be dropped.

Reacting to the latest figures, Ms Spielman said: 'Today’s figures are not particularly surprising, but they should still set alarm bells ringing. The fact that outstanding schools are largely exempt from inspection leaves us with real gaps in our knowledge about the quality of education and safeguarding in these schools. Some of them have not been inspected for over a decade, and when our inspectors go back in, they sometimes find standards have significantly declined.’ She went on to call for the exemption for ‘Outstanding’ schools to be lifted and for Ofsted to be resourced to routinely inspect such schools.

However Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, chose a different emphasis when reacting to the data. ‘These statistics show just how much better our school system is compared to nine years ago, with 85 per cent of pupils attending schools rated good or outstanding compared to 66 per cent in 2010’ he said.

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