MPs criticise level of assurance provided by Ofsted

The House of Commons public accounts committee has published its report on Ofsted’s inspection of schools, following a report by the National Audit Office earlier this year. 

The report acknowledges a significant reduction in Ofsted’s budget but argues “this has led Ofsted and the Department for Education [DfE] to focus narrowly on the cost of inspection, rather than the value of getting independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness”. The committee found that fewer inspections have been completed than planned and targets for frequency of inspection have been missed, which it argues fails to provide the level of assurance schools and parents need.

Among the recommendations is that the DfE should re-consider ‘outstanding’ schools’ exemption from inspection and, together with Ofsted, the effectiveness of the system of short inspections for ‘good’ schools. The committee also recommends that Ofsted improve the way it collects evidence from parents.

The DfE will be consulting on some aspects of the accountability system this autumn and the committee asks that this includes clarification on where responsibility for school improvement lies. The committee also requests that Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, writes to them setting out her views on the main issues facing the school system, including the impact of financial constraints.

Responding to the report, Amanda Spielman said that the inspectorate had “reached the limit” of what it could achieve with its current budget but that she remained confident that inspections provide the necessary assurance about school standards and that many of the recommendations were already being addressed.