Confusion over Ofsted's focus on local authority inspections

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Questions have been raised over Ofsted’s plans to carry out focused inspections in six underperforming local authority areas.

Teachers and school leaders have questioned the approach in light of the fact that increasing numbers of schools are now academies and therefore outside local authority control.

This in turn has hit local authorities’ budgets and capacity for school improvement.

The inspectorate began the first in a wave of its area inspections in Derby last week where 42 per cent of children are in secondary schools rated as good or outstanding.

Six areas will be visited in the next six months, with both primary and secondary schools, as well as the local authority’s school improvement service, being inspected over the course of a week.

However, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Ofsted’s emphasis on local authority responsibility for school improvement was “difficult to understand”. 

He said: “Local authorities’ involvement in school improvement has been seriously diminished as budgets have been cut and levels of school autonomy have increased. Current government policy is very unclear about their role.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “Ofsted needs to realise that there is now a huge problem since academies and free schools report directly to the Department for Education and local authorities have little influence over them.”

The inspections will focus on areas where the proportion of children attending schools rated as good or better is below the national average. Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: “In these focused and concentrated inspection programmes we will be seeking to determine whether councils are really fulfilling their statutory duties to promote high standards and fair access to educational opportunity.”

 


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