Like much of the public sector, we are operating in a difficult financial climate. As the report acknowledges, the envelope provided by the Department for Education for school inspection is 52% less, in real terms, than it was in 2000. This means that we have had to make tough decisions about how we prioritise resources. I am confident that Ofsted gets the balance right. For example, by focusing more resource on inspection of schools that are less than good. An increase in either the number of inspections or time spent on inspection will quite simply require greater funding.
Ofsted is only one lever in the school system, which is why it has proven difficult for the NAO to judge our impact and value for money. As we have made clear to the NAO, judging ourselves against school outcomes would inevitably create perverse incentives. We exist to provide an objective account of the quality of the nation’s schools.
The NAO’s conclusion that we cannot prove the value for money we represent is explicitly not the same as demonstrating that we do not provide value, particularly considering that the costs of our school inspection work represents just 0.1% of the overall school budget. We are confident we compare well against other school inspectorates internationally, something the NAO did not look at.
We recognise that in 2015, a year in which we were also required to hand back £6m of our agreed budget, our decision to raise workforce standards resulted in reduced numbers of inspectors and therefore created short term challenges around deployment and the volumes of inspections achieved. These issues have now been resolved and our workforce quality is better than ever.
All of the NAO’s further recommendations are ones we were already in the process of addressing.