Union questions move to delay academy and free school Ofsted inspections

Kevin Courtney.
Kevin Courtney.
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A DECISION by Ofsted to inspect academies and free schools during their third year of operation rather than the second is “simply unfair” and could be an “attempt to shield” them, a teacher’s union has said.

The schools’ watchdog has previously inspected new schools during the second year of opening, generally from the fifth term onwards, but following a review alongside the Department for Education the first inspection is now being put put back a year.

Free schools are state schools which have been started from scratch.

The move to delay their inspection has been strongly criticised by the National Union of Teachers.

The union’s deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “It is simply unfair that maintained schools will continue to suffer under the rigours of the Ofsted regime while free schools and converter academies are effectively given a free pass”.

“One can only assume that this is an attempt to shield the academies and free schools programmes from the sort of scrutiny that has resulted in the high profile controversies we have seen over the past five years,” he added: “If passed, the Education and Adoption Bill will mean even more schools being forced into academy status, in some cases because of an Ofsted judgment.

“Yet Ofsted is effectively saying that new free schools and academies will not be subject to the same treatment as maintained schools. In fact, all the evidence shows that schools that remain with local authorities improve at a faster rate than those that become academies.”

A spokesman for Ofsted said: “This policy will apply to all new schools, including academy converters, and will also be applied to school amalgamations, mergers and where new key stages are added.

“The Chief Inspector has the discretion to inspect earlier where he has concerns and will also do this when requested to do so by the Secretary of State.”