Ofsted: what is on the horizon for multi-academy trusts?

7th July 2023

With more and more schools forming multi-academy trusts, there have been discussions at the highest levels of plans to introduce inspections of multi-academy trusts by Ofsted. This would allow oversight but potentially place an additional burden on multi-academy trusts, which are already subject to inspections of each of the schools within the trust.

In the current Ofsted inspection system, Ofsted inspects the individual schools within a multi-academy trust and each will receive its own grade. Alongside this, a voluntary process exists whereby a multi-academy trust can carry out what is termed a ‘summary evaluation’, during which schools within the multi-academy trust will be inspected, before the multi-academy trust’s head office is visited. The focus is on the quality of education provided and how well pupils as a whole are achieving across the trust, rather than how individual academies, or pupils within them, are performing.

As part of the summary evaluation process, the inspectors will explore the extent to which high-quality education is delivered and pupils’ achievement across the academies in the trust is improved. A range of information about the trust is considered, including academy inspection outcomes and information gathered through discussions with trust leaders. Following the summary evaluation process, findings and recommendations are published. These recommendations will be made with the aim of steering the multi-academy trust to improve aspects of its work.

Given that this process is voluntary, and there is no graded judgement at the end of the process, multi-academy trusts which may be struggling, and therefore may be most in need of inspection, are likely to go under the radar.  However, Baroness Barran has stated that, for now at least, there are no plans to introduce Ofsted inspections of multi-academy trusts on top of school-level inspections.

Whilst many, including Ofsted, consider that Ofsted should have the function to inspect and give graded judgements about the central functions of a multi-academy trust, Baroness Barran’s statement explains that many multi-academy trusts are simply not mature enough to be inspected and the burden would not be manageable.

Whilst for the time-being it seems that Ofsted will continue to inspect multi-academy trusts predominantly at school level only, it should be kept in mind that this is an issue which is open for debate and review, and it may be a matter of time before multi-academy trusts are subject to Ofsted inspection in respect of their central function.

We are able to offer support and advice in respect of Ofsted inspections, including preparing your schools for inspection, such as by conducting a review of your policies and procedures, and guiding you through steps which can be taken following inspection if you disagree and seek to challenge the outcome.

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