“Outstanding” Central Bedfordshire schools are set to face inspectors for the first time since controversial exemptions were axed.
From September, Ofsted will resume inspecting schools across the country and for the first time in a decade, those deemed outstanding will also face compulsory routine visits.
Figures from the education watchdog, covering 125 of Central Bedfordshire’s primary and secondary schools, show that 29 received an outstanding rating the last time they were inspected.
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In LBO land, the schools rated ‘outstanding’ are:
> Dovery Down Lower School, Leighton Buzzard (last full inspection March 2007)
> Greenleas School, Leighton Buzzard (last full inspection January 2007)
> Hockliffe Lower School (last full inspection May 2010)
> Pulford CofE VA Lower School, Leighton Buzzard (last full inspection November 2010)
> St Leonards, Heath and Reach (last full inspection November 2011)
> Woburn Lower School (last full inspection December 2010)
Under rules introduced in 2012, those schools became exempt from being routinely reinspected and only faced scrutiny if concerns were raised about their performance.
The exemptions were introduced by the then Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition Government to give outstanding schools more freedom.
But the guidelines mean 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 Central Bedfordshire include 27 primary schools and two secondary schools.
The coronavirus pandemic saw the organisation suspend all routine inspections, but in line with the lifting of restrictions across the country, inspectors will begin their visits again in September.
The move to remove exemptions for outstanding schools has been welcomed by the Association of School and College Leaders, while the National Education Union said outstanding schools should never have been treated differently.
All formerly exempt schools must be inspected within the next five years and Ofsted will prioritise schools that have gone the longest without an inspection.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said: “We had long called for the exemption for outstanding schools to be lifted.
“I am very pleased that all schools will now be inspected routinely once our full inspection programme restarts this autumn. This is what parents expect and children deserve.
“This change will reassure parents and ensure that the outstanding judgement itself remains a genuine beacon of excellence.”
But Dr Mary Bousted from the NEU warned that the relaunch of inspections coupled with the on-going pandemic could cause disruption at a time when “the priority of leaders, staff and pupils must surely be education recovery.”