Ofsted has announced it will inspect all of England’s schools to give parents an “up-to-date” picture of their children’s education in the wake of the pandemic.
The watchdog has received almost £24 million in extra funding from the Government as part of a drive to visit all schools and colleges at least once by the summer of 2025.
Schools will receive either graded or ungraded inspections depending on their circumstances, while all college inspections from September 2022 until 2025 will be fully graded.
Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, said: “Children only get one chance at school. Everyone working in education must do everything they can to give this generation the best possible chance to fulfil its potential.
“Ofsted will play its part – by giving parents and learners up-to-date information, and by helping schools and colleges shape their plans.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, acknowledged the challenges faced by schools and colleges following the pandemic – but said it had also provided the opportunity to make the education system more equal.
Mr Zahawi said: “Nobody underestimates the scale of the challenge schools, colleges and other education providers have experienced through the pandemic.
“But it has also provided an opportunity to build back better and fairer, doubling down on our mission to make sure every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential.
“Accelerating the rate of Ofsted inspections over the coming years will provide parents with an up-to-date picture and swifter recognition of the hard work of leaders and teachers.”
Ofsted said the additional £23.85 million in funding over the next three financial years will reduce the time needed to assess every school and college by a year.
Schools still in ‘crisis mode’
The move comes after headteachers and education unions called for Ofsted inspections to be halted while schools overcame the negative effects of the pandemic.
The Association of School and College Leaders warned Ofsted that schools remain in “crisis mode” after the pandemic. Many schools closed their doors and switched to virtual learning, while millions of students are said to have fallen behind.
Julie McCulloch, the association’s director of policy, said: “It isn’t Ofsted inspections that will help children to catch up with lost learning caused by the pandemic, but ensuring that schools and colleges have sufficient funding from the Government to deliver recovery programmes at the scale required.
“At the moment, many schools and colleges are still dealing with the disruption caused by the pandemic, and the prospect of also having to deal with a visit from an inspection team isn’t particularly helpful.”
Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the move shows government ministers “have no understanding of the exhaustion and stress felt by teachers and leaders”.
She added: “Inspection adds hugely to the stress they face coping with high rates of Covid infection in schools and college and with an inspectorate which has failed to understand, or appreciate, that Covid is still causing huge problems in our education system.”
The National Association of Head Teachers labelled the move “completely tone-deaf” and said Ofsted “appears to be stuck in the past” of its pre-pandemic method of inspection.
Resistance over visits to ‘outstanding’ schools
Headteachers at top schools have been resisting the return of inspections due to fears new criteria could cause them to lose their coveted “outstanding” status.
Hundreds of schools across England which were previously judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted have not been examined for more than a decade, as their status meant they were exempt from regular check-ups.
However, the watchdog launched a fresh wave of inspections in highly-rated schools in September that could see some being demoted from the top category.