More than a dozen ‘exceptional’ Windsor and Maidenhead schools will face inspectors
More than a dozen ‘exceptional’ schools in Windsor and Maidenhead are set to face inspectors for the first time since the removal of the controversial exemptions.
From September, Ofsted will resume inspecting schools across the country and for the first time in nearly a decade, those deemed exceptional will also be subject to mandatory routine visits.
Figures from the education watchdog, covering 60 primary and secondary schools in Windsor and Maidenhead, show 19 were given an outstanding rating the last time they were inspected.
Under rules introduced in 2012, these schools were exempted from routine re-inspection and only came under scrutiny if concerns were expressed about their performance.
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The exemptions were introduced by the then Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government to give exceptional schools more freedom.
But the guidelines mean that many schools across England have gone years without being visited by inspectors as a result.
According to the latest Ofsted figures, the outstanding educational facilities in Windsor and Maidenhead include 15 elementary schools and four secondary schools.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen the organization suspend all routine inspections, but in accordance with the lifting of restrictions across the country, inspectors will resume their visits in September.
The decision to remove exemptions for exceptional schools, announced by the Department of Education in October, was welcomed by the Association of School and College Leaders, while the National Education Union said exceptional schools would not have never had to be treated any differently.
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ASCL’s Geoff Barton said the exemptions were well-intentioned with built-in safeguards, but had led parents to spend too much time without “checking an inspection.”
He added: “It’s time to reverse the policy. ”
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: “We have long called for the exemption for exceptional schools to be lifted.
“I am very happy that all schools are now inspected regularly once our comprehensive inspection program starts up again this fall. This is what parents expect and children deserve.
“This change will reassure parents and ensure that exceptional judgment itself remains a true beacon of excellence.”
All formerly exempt schools are to be inspected over the next five years and Ofsted will prioritize schools that have gone the longest without inspection.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said the inspections would help improve standards, increase parental choice and help build a stronger school system that can better serve students and their families.
But NEU’s Dr Mary Bousted warned that the revival of inspections coupled with the ongoing pandemic could cause disruption at a time when “the priority of leaders, staff and students must surely be the resumption of education.”
She said: “This work is immediately diminished by inspections which are always disruptive, placing enormous stress on besieged personnel and taking time away from what really matters.”
In some cases, such as when a facility recently turned into an academy, the latest inspection result may refer to the current school’s predecessor, Ofsted said.