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Ofsted Report 2017 – Summary of findings


The first annual report of Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector.

Key Statistics

  • 94% of early years providers are now rated good or outstanding (up from 91% in 2016 and 74% in 2012);
  • 90% of primary schools (the same proportion as in 2016) and 79% of secondary schools (up from 78% in 2016) are good or outstanding;
  • 80% of further education and skills providers of are good or outstanding (down from 81% in 2016);
  • 83% of children’s homes are now good and outstanding (up from 79% in 2016).

Early Years

There has been an overall improvement in this sector over time, although the figures are influenced by the fact that overall numbers of providers have decreased and those providers leaving the sector are more likely to have been judged as requiring improvement or inadequate than those that remain.

Ms Spielman notes that there are weaknesses in the use of the “Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage” as a guide for children’s learning in Reception Year. Schools that are best at preparing children for Year 1 are going beyond the framework and setting more challenging expectations, with an emphasis on reading and maths.


Schools: Overview

Ofsted inspect almost 22,000 state-funded schools, educating around 8 million pupils. Nearly a third of these are now academies (7000). The other two thirds are overseen by local authorities.

The focus for the next 12 months is increased effort on the part of policy makers, professionals and Ofsted in order to improve further, especially in relation to the small but persistent group of underperforming schools (9%) that, as the Ms Spielman puts it, “have not improved enough over many years” in spite of interventions. Specifically, of the 500 primary and 200 secondary schools requiring improvement, 80 primary and 50 secondary schools have not been judged as good or outstanding at any point since 2005.

A review of 38 of these secondary schools revealed some similar characteristics –

  • Staffing problems – unstable leadership, high staff turnover and difficulty recruiting;
  • Higher than average proportions of pupils with educational special needs and/or disabilities, and from low income backgrounds and deprived areas. This was tied in with poor attendance and behaviour.
  • Curriculum – too narrow, weaknesses in developing literacy, unclear rationale, key stage 3 not preparing pupils well for key stage 4.

Findings show that some schools have focused too much on performance measured in test results, with the result that the depth and breadth of the curriculum is being eroded.

Ms Spielman observes that “Neither a focus on English and mathematics, nor a focus on the wider curriculum, is about choosing sides. This is a false dichotomy. What pupils need is balance, and one in which a broad curriculum leads to exam success, rather than a curriculum purely serving tests.”

Outstanding schools

Outstanding schools are no longer routinely inspected – almost one in 10 has not been inspected in the past 10 years. Of the 141 investigated, just 3 kept their grade, 43 slipped to ‘requires improvement’, and 19 declined to ‘inadequate’. These schools were flagged for problems, so they are not representative of the whole. Nevertheless, Ms Spielman emphasised that, against a positive backdrop, it would still be wrong to “turn a blind eye” to weaknesses.

Special Schools

45% of pupils with a statement or plan attend one of around 1000 state-funded special schools (up from 40% in 2010). Around 450 non-association independent (funded or fee-paying) schools are also inspected. Of the State funded special schools, 94% are now judged as good or outstanding (up from 93% in 2016), compared to 78% of the funded special schools (up from 77% in 2016).

Independent Schools

There are over 2,300 independent primary, secondary, all-through and special schools. Ofsted inspect 1,100 of these and has seen a decline in the proportion of these judged good or outstanding, particularly in those which are not special schools (which have fallen from 79% in 2014 to 60% in 2017).  This decline is caused by a number of factors including: schools failing to meet the new standards introduced by the DfE in 2014/5; safeguarding issues; a sharp decline in inspection outcomes for faith schools (with the number of faith schools requiring inspection increasing); and failing schools taking too long to improve.

Unregistered Schools

Research for the report has identified 291 possible unregistered school settings since January 2016. 125 have been inspected. Warning notices were served and 34 have closed or ceased operating illegally. The Chief Inspector states that “ongoing tensions between belief systems and British values create a motivation for some communities to try avoiding the educational and safeguarding standards what are expected from schools”.


Further Education and Skills

This sector provides for around 3.3. million learners aged 16 and above, and is made up of independent providers, colleges and community learning and skills providers. In the last year, the sector has received £7.8 billion in funding.  In the year to August 2017, 392 further education and skills providers were inspected (102 colleges, 159 independent learning providers and 78 community providers). Of providers in this sector, 8 out of every 10 were judged as good or outstanding.


The apprenticeship levy is raising a substantial amount of money to fund training. However, during year to 2017, the number of apprenticeships started fell by 4% from the previous year to around 490,000. In 2017, 189 providers were judged on delivery: 6% were found to be outstanding; 43% good; 40% require improvement; and 11% were inadequate. At the point of inspection, 52% of apprentices were in the good or outstanding provision.

Apprenticeship standards were introduced in 2014/5. Clearly, without adequate scrutiny, there is a risk of repeating the mistakes of the past – attracting operators that are not committed to high quality learning.


Social Care

Local Authorities

There are 12 million children and young people in England. Of these, at any one time, 3% are in the social care system. Ofsted inspect each local authority’s children’s services giving an overall effectiveness judgment. 146 of the 152 local authorities have now received at least one inspection.

Nationally, the overall effectiveness of local authorities continues to improve with 34% judged as either good or outstanding (up from 26% in 2016). Of the 29 local authorities judged inadequate overall, only 2 were inadequate across all areas.

Social Care Providers

Ofsted inspect over 3000 social care providers and providers of residential accommodation. There are around 6000 children in homes at any one time in the year. For most types of social care provider, 80% or more are judged good or outstanding. The exceptions to these are boarding schools and secure training centres – these have not improved over time. Currently, no secure training centres are judged good or outstanding. Findings from inspections of secure training centres reflect the serious concerns held nationally about the experience of children and young people in them. In particular, poor behaviour management and the safety of children and staff, characterised by rising levels of violence between children and young people and assaults on staff.

Secure Children’s Homes

Secure children’s homes are doing well for children and young people with 86% judged good or outstanding. But all young offender institutions and secure training centres are judged less than good, sometimes extremely poor, closing down opportunities for rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

Domestic Abuse

Ms Spielman notes that domestic abuse is the most common factor in the lives of children who need social care services. She states that “while there is a need to prevent, protect and repair the effects of domestic abuse, it is really only protection that is being given consistent attention. In particular, everyone needs to place more emphasis on tackling perpetrators and understanding what works to stop abusive behaviour.”

SEND – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Ms Spielman identified children and young people needing SEND support but without an education, health and care (“EHC”) plan as having “a much poorer experience of the education system than their peers.” She also highlighted concerns about the “unacceptable” practice of “off-rolling” where parents are pressured to home educate their children to avoid exclusion or because schools say that they cannot meet the children’s needs.

In the coming year, this sector will be the focus of particular risk assessment, development, discussion and research by the regulator.

Summary prepared by Anna Roffey, Pupil Barrister


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