Inspectors back at Northumberland's top schools

More than 20 "outstanding" schools in Northumberland are set to face inspectors for the first time since controversial exemptions were axed.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 6:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 9:05 pm
Top schools are back on inspection programme

Education watchdog Ofsted will resume visiting schools across the country from September and – for the first time in almost a decade – those deemed outstanding will also face compulsory routine visits.

Ofsted figures, covering Northumberland's 153 primary and secondary schools, show 21 received an outstanding rating the last time they were inspected and – under rules introduced in 2012 – became exempt from being routinely reinspected, only facing scrutiny if concerns were raised about their performance.

The exemptions mean many schools have gone years without being visited by inspectors.

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According to the latest Ofsted figures, the outstanding schools in Northumberland are Abbeyfields First School, Beaufront First School, Belsay Primary School, Broomhaugh Church of England First School, Broomley First School, Cambo First School, Darras Hall Primary School, Harbottle Church of England First School, Hipsburn Primary School, Holy Island Church of England First School, Kielder Primary School and Nursery, Morpeth First School, Norham St Ceolwulfs CofE Controlled First School, Ovingham Church of England First School, Ponteland Community Primary School, Stamfordham Primary School, Swansfield Park Primary School, The King Edward VI Academy, The Sele First School, Whalton Church of England Aided Primary School and Wylam First School.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the organisation suspend all routine inspections, but inspectors will begin visits again in September.

The move to remove the exemptions was announced by the Department for Education (DfE) in October.

Geoff Barton ASCL general secretary, said the exemptions had been well-intentioned with built-in safeguards but had resulted in parents going too long without the “verification of an inspection”.

Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said: “We had long called for the exemptions to be lifted and I am pleased that all schools will now be inspected routinely once our full programme restarts this autumn. This is what parents expect and children deserve.”

All formerly exempt schools must be inspected within the next five years - prioritising schools that have gone the longest without an inspection.

A spokeswoman for the DfE said the inspections would help to drive up standards, increase parent choice and contribute to the building of a stronger school system that can better serve pupils and their families.