Best-performing schools face more regular watchdog visits

Top schools are facing more regular inspections.
Top schools are facing more regular inspections.

South Tyneside schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted could be inspected more regularly from 2019 under proposals to bring about more consistent standards.

The move, being deliberated by the standards inspectorate, comes as analysis by the Gazette has revealed the length of time between inspections for borough schools.

Jayn Gray, principal of Cleadon C of E Academy.

Jayn Gray, principal of Cleadon C of E Academy.

It shows West Boldon Primary School – currently with the highest grading of ‘outstanding’ – has not undergone a full two-day government inspection for 18 years.

Neighbouring East Boldon Infants, which has the same rating, was last subject to a full check in 2008.

Two other outstanding schools – Cleadon CoE Academy and Hadrian Primary - have not been visited since 2011.

East Boldon Juniors has not been inspected within the recommended five-year gap for those which carry a ‘good’ Ofsted grading.

And ‘good’ Laygate Community School had also not been checked for over five years until Ofsted visited earlier this month.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents 19,000 education heads, said there was a need for change.

He said: “An intelligent proportion of inspections is useful and important. There are whole generations of pupils who have gone through school without their school being assessed.

“The external validation of how a school is performing, not done heavy-handedly but with a light touch, is important.

“A lot of our members in schools would say this is what parents deserve.”

There is no suggestion that standards at either West Boldon Primary School or East Boldon Infants have fallen.

West Boldon Primary has undergone three shorter inspections since its last full check in June 2000, at least one of which judged it outstanding.

East Boldon Primary had its last full inspection in January 2008 and a one-day interim assessment in January 2011.

Since their last full inspections, both schools have appointed new headteachers, as has Cleadon CoE Academy.

In plans announced last October and which may come into practice next year, Ofsted said it wanted to inspect a greater proportion of outstanding schools and colleges.

Its aim is to remain an effective regulator, able to catch institutions before any decline in standards has set in.

Ofsted currently inspects schools judged to be satisfactory at least once every three years, and those ‘good’ within five years, with a full inspection usually lasting two days.

Schools judged ‘outstanding’ at their last inspection have been exempt from routine checks and are usually only approached if there are concerns about performance.

Under the proposed new rules, Ofsted says it may also visit good schools less often to allow it to inspect outstanding schools more often.

Jayn Gray, principal of Cleadon CofE Academy, in Boldon Lane, Cleadon, said: “We are very accountable and as a public body we expect to be inspected.

“Things do change, such as staffing. The Ofsted framework has also changed since our last inspection.

“I can see why this change from Ofsted may be necessary and as long as inspections are not intrusive then I don’t see it as a problem.”

Lisa Holt, headteacher at East Boldon Infants, said: “An interim assessment of our school was carried out in 2011 which looked at such issues as pupil attendance and achievement.

“Inspectors were satisfied that the school’s overall performance was being sustained and saw no reason to carry out a formal inspection of the school.

“If the rules regarding inspections of schools does change, that is a matter for Ofsted. We are always happy to welcome Ofsted.”

Laygate Community School, West Boldon Primary, Hadrian Primary and Boldon Junior School did not comment.

South Tyneside Council, which holds broad responsibility for borough schools, said: “Ofsted are the regulators. A

“s a local authority we make sure that our schools receive regular and comprehensive updates when any changes to the inspection process are made.

“Under current regulations, inspectors do regular checks on schools which are currently graded as outstanding and will only re-inspect them if schools extend their provision, or if something is highlighted through this checking process.”

“This is the case with both East Boldon Infants and West Boldon Primary.”