Some schools given an outstanding rating by Ofsted may no longer be as good as that rating would suggest. It was found that some 1,620 schools, mostly with outstanding ratings, had not been inspected for more than six years.

A National Audit Office report saw that a further 290 schools had not been inspected for a decade or more. Ofsted bosses said there was no way of knowing if these schools had since fallen from their ‘outstanding’ status. Inspections can be triggered if an issue is raised, or if there a sudden drop in results from the school.

Ofsted’s Director of Corporate Strategy told reporters:

‘What we can’t tell is if the levels of education in those schools judged outstanding 10 years ago are the same or whether it has changed to become middling, or mediocre or coasting.’

When asked if he was saying that ‘outstanding schools aren’t really outstanding’, he replied by saying yes.

Many schools have their rating on banners on the premises of the school or on their websites. It’s used for parents to get an initial impression of the school. These may no longer be accurate, however, given that some schools have gone years without inspection.

This is just one example as to how schools use the outstanding rating to entice parents.

The NAO discovered that that ‘effectiveness was reduced’ as a result of the decision by the Department of Education and Ofsted to stop routine inspections for outstanding and good schools.

The very fact that so-called outstanding schools have gone years without an inspection isn’t exactly encouraging. Ofsted had stated it was lobbying the DfE to reinstate the policy of routine checks every five to seven years for a secondary school and every six years for primary schools.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, put it down to cuts, saying:

‘The fact that Ofsted has been subject to constant cuts over more than a decade, and regular shifts in focus, speaks volumes. It indicates a lack of clarity about how best to obtain assurance about the quality of schools.

The department needs to be mindful that cheaper inspection is not necessarily better inspection.’