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Ofsted downgrades more than 80% of outstanding schools inspected last year

Hundreds of schools in England have been downgraded after being re-inspected for the first time in years.

Ofsted’s watchdog said it inspected more than 500 schools in the last academic year, which were previously exempt from regular inspections because they were rated as outstanding.

The exemption, introduced in 2012 and lifted in 2020, meant that schools that were deemed outstanding were legally exempt from further regular inspections, unless there were specific concerns.

Ofsted said only 17% of the 370 schools inspected with grades retained an outstanding grade when re-inspected in the 2021-22 academic year.

These results show that taking a school out of control does not make it better

Amanda Spielman from Ofsted

On average, the last inspection of schools that were re-inspected was more than 13 years ago, he added.

Fire chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the results show that “taking a school out of control doesn’t make it better”.

Of the previously exempted schools that were re-inspected, 62% were downgraded to good, while 21% were considered to need improvement or were deemed unsuitable.

Ofsted said that while the schools re-inspected may not be typical of all schools exempted, the results were “worrying, with a higher proportion now requiring improvement or inadequate than is the case for all schools in the country, especially for primary schools”.

Ms Spielman said: “Regular checks give parents confidence in the quality of their child’s school. The dismissal of outstanding schools deprived parents of up-to-date information. It has also left many schools without the constructive challenge that regular inspection provides.

“Exemption was a policy based on the hope that high standards, once achieved, would never fall, and freedom from control could raise them further. These results show that taking a school out of control doesn’t make it better.”

Ofsted said it would carry out an inspection of all previously released schools by the end of July 2025.


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