Are OfSTED Value For Money?

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Value For Money


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Are OfSTED effective and value for money?

Over the next few weeks, I will be blogging and sharing my school’s inspection notes after requesting them via a Freedom of Information request earlier this month.

In the meantime, The National Audit Office (NAO) conducted an independent review of the quality of OfSTED provision which examines whether OfSTED’s approach is providing value for money to the taxpayer.

Fit for purpose?

We are led to believe that OfSTED are independent of Government policy, who influence the framework within which OfSTED works and how it uses its resources. OfSTED then publishes reports of its findings and reports to ministers on the effectiveness of its services. This is similar to my school paying me a salary and asking that I write my appraisal report, then report to my head teacher how effective I am, right?

In this report we discover that in 2017/18, there were 6,079 inspections of state-funded schools, costing an estimated £44m. As of March 2018, OfSTED directly employed 166 people. We wait to hear how OfSTED plan to address the gender pay gap – which favours higher pay for male employees.

Headline statistics

  1. 29% of OfSTED’s total spending that went on inspecting state-funded schools. Ofsted’s funding has reduced over the last decade from £280m to £167m.
  2. £7,200 is the estimated average total cost per OfSTED school inspection (2017-18) – find yourself with a team of 5 inspectors for two days? That’s £1,440 each …
  3. 94% proportion of planned school inspections that OfSTED completed in 2017-18, compared with 84% in 2016-17 and 65% in 2015-16. I guess this definition of ‘planned’ needs to be examined.
  4. OfSTED does not decide what action should be taken after it has inspected a school and does not intervene to improve schools. So, teachers, I’ll visit your lesson to evaluate how good or bad your teaching is, then I’ll disappear – forever!
  5. 296 schools that had not been inspected for 10 years or more because they were previously graded as outstanding and are therefore exempt from routine re-inspection. Surfing on the words on an inspection report for a decade or more!
  6. There is some overlap between the role of OfSTED and that of the Department’s regional schools commissioners, who oversee academies’ educational performance – duplication and confusion anyone? Who should we believe?
  7. As a result of decisions by the Department and OfSTED, the level of independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness has reduced.
  8. 44% of headteachers said that their school’s most recent inspection had led to improvements, compared with 28% who said that it had not.
  9. Of the 17,503 schools that were not exempt from inspection between 2012/13 and 2016/17, OfSTED inspected 17,460 (99.8%) within the statutory timescale. It did not meet the statutory timescale for 43 schools (0.2%).
  10. In 2016/17, the average time between inspections was 4.4 years for good primary schools and 4.0 years for good secondary schools.
  11. In March 2018, OfSTED had 30 (15%) fewer employed HM inspectors than it had budgeted for. Turnover of HM inspectors improved in 2017-18 (19%, compared with 26% in 2016-17). One of the main reasons that HM inspectors give for leaving is the workload. Oh, the irony …
  12. Since September 2015, OfSTED has contracted directly with serving practitioners and other external inspectors. Bringing school inspection in-house gave OfSTED more control over the selection, training and monitoring of inspectors.
  13. During 2016/17, it deployed each serving practitioner for nine days, and each non-serving practitioner for 23 days, on average, compared with its targets of 16 days and 32 days respectively.
  14. OfSTED has assessed that over 90% of inspections meet its quality requirements. By sampling and observing inspectors’ work, it tests the quality of inspections and the evidence underpinning the conclusions reached. In 2016/17, quality assurance led to the overall effectiveness grade being changed following 17 inspections (equivalent to one in 420 inspections)

Report images

The Department for Education census reported a total of ~21,500 state-schools in England. Of those state-funded schools open in August 2017, OfSTED had graded 18,330 (85%) as good or outstanding. I wonder how many of the 3,200 remaining schools work in a challenging context – where those school leaders who choose to work in these situations put their careers at risk – because of the current inspection framework stack against those working with the most vulnerable.


To read the full analysis, you can access the executive summary and the full report.

In conclusion. I do want an inspection system to help raise school standards, but I don’t believe OfSTED can do this alone or in its current form. I have proposed many alternatives here.

Tune in soon to read ‘how school inspector’s notes compare to what’s actually happening’ in a school.

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