23 Kent schools without an Ofsted inspection in 10 years

by My Kent Family reporter

Nearly 25 schools in Kent have not had an Ofsted inspection for more than a decade, leading to calls for a change in the law.

Experts claim there is "a real danger that the education of some children will suffer" due to government rules which have allowed the situation to occur.

Schools judged outstanding in their last Ofsted report are exempt from routine inspection, allowing headteachers to wait for many years before opening up to regulators again.

As a result, 23 schools in the county have left it more than a 10 years since their last examination.

In the worst case, St Peter and St Paul Church of England Primary Academy in Leybourne was last inspected in October 2006.

Independent education advisor Peter Read, a former headteacher at Gravesend Grammar School, said: "This is a most unwise ruling.

"My guess is it's there primarily to save money.

"The reality is that of those 23 - and the 121 Kent schools currently assessed as outstanding - things can change.

"I've looked at those secondary schools - almost all of which are grammar schools - and I reckon some of those have long lost their outstanding status."

Peter Read
Peter Read

Ofsted itself has called for a change in the law which would allow its inspectors to examine all schools on a regular basis.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "Parents often tell us that they are concerned about out of date inspection reports.

"But by law, schools judged outstanding are exempt from routine inspection.

"In other words, this means that once they are rated outstanding, we are unable to inspect them regularly.

"This has been the case since 2012, so some schools have now gone for 10 years or more without being inspected.

"We have been clear that we would like this to change, and have asked the Department for Education to look at the policy again.”

Two of the county's best-performing grammar schools have also claimed they would like to see more routine monitoring.

Edward Wesson, headteacher at The Skinner's School in Tunbridge Wells, said: "I don't think outstanding schools should fear more inspections.

"Clearly there should be time limits on the exemption. Outstanding schools can't say they're outstanding forever.

"Much of the follow up on outstanding schools is data-driven quality control, where results and outcomes are monitored. They need inspecting too.

"The best thing parents can do is come and see the school itself, they should only use an Ofsted report as part of a triangulation of assessment."

Edward Wesson
Edward Wesson

He added: "I take the point a school could drop from good to even requires improvement after 15 years of not being inspected, but you would also think Ofsted's monitoring would have suggested that might the case beforehand.

"The other thing important for the future is a bigger focus on the curriculum of a school rather than it just being designed to meet Ofsted requirements. A school's curriculum should be broader."

Elizabeth Bone, headteacher at Weald of Kent Grammar School added: "This is an outstanding school according to Ofsted, but more importantly to us we know that we are delivering excellent learning opportunities to students every day.

"It is a shame Ofsted have not been able to see the great work that we are doing here since they last visited.

"Clearly there should be time limits on the exemption. Outstanding schools can't say they're outstanding forever..." - Edward Wesson, The Skinner's School

"We understand, however, it must prioritise schools where there appear to be issues in relation to the safety or outcomes for young people.

"I think that any Ofsted inspector you asked would love to have the capacity to come and visit more outstanding schools like ours.

"From our point of view, we are confident the experience of our students speaks for itself in relation to the standards you would expect from an excellent school.

"We don’t do things the way we do because of Ofsted - we do what is best for our students, but we are confident when inspectors do visit they will be able to recognise the outstanding provision.

"Ofsted holds no fear for us and we would welcome the opportunity to share our school with the inspectorate."

HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman (5445063)
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman (5445063)

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman spoke of the situation across England in a recent speech: "My starting point is always we should trust our best leaders and teachers to get on with the job. But there are now almost 300 schools that have gone a decade or more without inspection.

"And regardless of what the quality of education in these schools is today, there is no doubt the long gap since inspection has undermined parental confidence.

"From our perspective, it also means our inspectors are getting to see fewer examples of outstanding practice. That makes it more difficult to award the grade to others.

"I have also heard from many teachers it is the exemption itself that drives workload because of the understandable pressure to achieve and maintain it."

Mr Read added: "What I can't understand is why they don't have a short inspection as was recently introduced for good schools.

"I think there is a real danger that the education of some children will suffer because of this complete exemption.

"If Ofsted, the professionals, don't believe in the policy that the Government has laid down then there's something badly wrong."

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Schools judged by Ofsted to be providing outstanding education are not exempt from accountability.

"Where concerns are raised about the provision or outcomes at an outstanding school, Ofsted has the power to immediately re-inspect.

“Alongside this, Ofsted is responsible for risk assessing all outstanding schools – taking account of the data but also other things, including parental concerns - and where the inspectorate believes a school is no longer meeting its previous high standards we expect it to use its powers to carry out an inspection, and if appropriate re-grade the school."

Ofsted has not visited a large number of Kent schools in 10 years
Ofsted has not visited a large number of Kent schools in 10 years

The schools which have waited more than 10 years since their last Ofsted inspection, in date order:

(All schools have been contacted by KentOnline but not all decided to comment)

Leybourne, St Peter and St Paul Church of England Primary Academy

Date of inspection 10/10/2006

Ramsgate, Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School

Date of inspection 10/10/2006

Weald of Kent Grammar School

Date of inspection 25/04/2007

Elizabeth Bone, headteacher at Weald of Kent Grammar School added: "This is an outstanding school according to Ofsted, but more importantly to us we know that we are delivering excellent learning opportunities to students every day.

"It is a shame Ofsted have not been able to see the great work that we are doing here since they last visited.

"We understand, however, it must prioritise schools where there appear to be issues in relation to the safety or outcomes for young people.

"I think that any Ofsted inspector you asked would love to have the capacity to come and visit more outstanding schools like ours.

"From our point of view, we are confident the experience of our students speaks for itself in relation to the standards you would expect from an excellent school.

"We don’t do things the way we do because of Ofsted - we do what is best for our students, but we are confident when inspectors do visit they will be able to recognise the outstanding provision.

"Ofsted holds no fear for us and we would welcome the opportunity to share our school with the inspectorate."

Sandgate Primary School

Date of inspection 09/05/2007

Dane Court Grammar School

Date of inspection 06/06/2007

The Skinners' School

Date of inspection 07/06/2007

Edward Wesson, headteacher at The Skinner's School in Tunbridge Wells, said: "I don't think outstanding schools should fear more inspections.

"Clearly there should be time limits on the exemption. Outstanding schools can't say they're outstanding forever.

"Much of the follow up on outstanding schools is data-driven quality control, where results and outcomes are monitored. They need inspecting too.

"The best thing parents can do is come and see the school itself, they should only use an Ofsted report as part of a triangulation of assessment."

Tonbridge Grammar School

Date of inspection 07/06/2007

St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary School

Date of inspection 21/06/2007

Stowting Church of England Primary School

Date of inspection 11/07/2007

The headteacher has declined to comment at this time.

Saltwood CofE Primary School

Date of inspection 12/07/2007

Executive Headteacher Paul Newton, who also looks after Bodsham primary, said: "I don't think that it is healthy for schools to go so long without an inspection.

"The majority of schools that are outstanding work hard to keep it that way.

"If there are any issues with safeguarding or a drop in results, Ofsted will inspect the school straight away.

"Headteachers of outstanding schools have a responsibility to ensure that the standards are maintained and I'd be very comfortable if Ofsted were to inspect our schools."

Callis Grange Nursery and Infant School

Date of inspection 12/09/2007

Westmeads Community Infant School

Date of inspection 10/10/2007

Headteacher Helen Lambirth said: "Ofsted would be most welcome to come to Westmeads at any time. Schools are always working hard to do their very best for the children in their care and not just for when Ofsted visit.

"Ofsted regularly conducts its own 'health check' on schools based on their attainment data, children's attendance and other areas.

"Parents can be reassured that the school is closely monitored by the Local Authority. In addition to this, we regularly moderate our work with other local schools in the Coastal Alliance, as well as commissioning School-to-School reviews in areas such as Safeguarding, English, Maths, the use of Pupil Premium, Leadership and Special Educational Needs.

"Westmeads conducts a comprehensive annual parent questionnaire and we are very proactive in reflecting on our practice, identifying any areas for development and responding to the needs of our children.

"Westmeads' results are above national in all areas by the time the children leave us in Year 2 and they make very good progress from their starting points.

"Our hard-working and dedicated staff team work closely together to ensure that our provision still meets the 'Outstanding' criteria for Ofsted."

Borden Church of England Primary School

Date of inspection 12/03/2008

St George's Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School

Date of inspection 27/03/2008

St James' Church of England Voluntary Aided Infant School

Date of inspection 27/03/2008

Dartford Grammar School

Date of inspection 21/05/2008

Lady Boswell's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, Sevenoaks

Date of inspection 04/06/2008

Bodsham Church of England Primary School

Date of inspection 01/07/2008

Executive Headteacher Paul Newton, who is also headteacher of Saltwood primary, said: "I don't think that it is healthy for schools to go so long without an inspection.

"The majority of schools that are outstanding work hard to keep it that way.

"If there are any issues with safeguarding or a drop in results, Ofsted will inspect the school straight away.

"Headteachers of outstanding schools have a responsibility to ensure that the standards are maintained and I'd be very comfortable if Ofsted were to inspect our schools."

Ditton Infant School

Date of inspection 25/09/2008

The Discovery School
The Discovery School

The Discovery School in King's Hill

Date of inspection 12/11/2008

Discovery head Tina Gobell said: “We would welcome Ofsted at any time although we know as an outstanding school we will not currently meet Ofsted’s criteria for re-inspection.

"In the meantime, parents can be reassured Ofsted conducts an annual risk assessment which includes looking at our pupils’ performance in national assessments in Early Years, Years one, two and year six.

"At The Discovery School, these continue to be above or significantly above other school’s results nationally.

"In addition Kent County Council monitors all schools throughout the year, including outstanding schools.”

Allington Primary School

Date of inspection 19/11/2008

Allington Primary School
Allington Primary School

Yalding, St Peter and St Paul Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School

Date of inspection 25/11/2008

The Rochester Grammar School

Date of inspection 26/11/2008

Rochester Grammar School head teacher Clare Brinklow said: “Rochester Grammar School is an outstanding school in all areas and fully deserves its rating.

"It delivers outstanding pastoral care, teaching and learning, and every year it is ranked one of the best schools in the country for GCSE and sixth form results, including in the International Baccalaureate.

"The rounded education the school provides sets our students on their way for success at the world’s best universities and in the world of work.

"It is not for us to comment on Ofsted’s timetable but we look forward to their next visit.”

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