When it comes to choosing where to send your children to school, Ofsted ratings can be a deciding factor in making a choice.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, as its full title is known, publishes its verdicts on education establishments such as primary, secondary and special school as well as colleges after they have been inspected.
However the majority of Blackpool’s highest rated educational establishments, with a ‘Outstanding’ rating, have not had an Ofsted inspection in more than five years.
One of the resort’s biggest, Blackpool Sixth Form College, had its last inspection and rating in 2009.
Ofsted has said it would prefer to do more regular visits however it is not permitted by law.
A spokesman for Ofsted said: “By law, outstanding schools are exempt from routine inspection. We have publicly stated that this exemption should be removed and Ofsted fully resourced to inspect those schools.
“Lengthy periods without inspection are unpopular with parents and even with teachers, 85 percent of whom agree that exemption should not be indefinite.
“We can inspect outstanding schools if we have concerns about pupil safety or the standard of education provided, and some issues with outstanding schools are captured in test and exam data. However, other issues, such as curriculum narrowing and gaming, are not.”
Blackpool Sixth principal Jill Gray said the inspection cycle is a matter for Ofsted to determine but an annual assessment of the college is carried out.
She said: “We are incredibly proud of our status as an Outstanding college. We work extremely hard to ensure our standards and outcomes for students remain consistently high and among the best in the country for colleges and sixth forms.
“Ofsted undertakes an annual risk-based assessment of every college and so would take action if they had any concerns about the quality of education we are providing.”
She added: “We have extremely rigorous processes for self-assessment and internal inspection, and continually share best practice with other Outstanding colleges.
“As the joint lead organisation in the Fylde Coast Teaching School Alliance we are also deeply involved in helping to develop and promote excellence in teaching, learning and leadership across the area as a whole.”
At the start of the current school year, Blackpool had six ‘outstanding’ state-funded schools and sixth forms. There were 30 rated as ‘good’ and seven as ‘requires improvement’.
One had been given the lowest ‘inadequate’ rating but has since reopened as an academy and is yet to be inspected in its current form.
Academies have not fared well in the area for inspections – all seven of those told to improve were academies.
Only one academy, Park Community, has gained an ‘outstanding’ report.
One school in the resort believes inspections don’t always tell the full story. Stephen Careless, principal at Montgomery High School, said despite its ‘requires improvement’ rating, Ofsted reported the school has made progress and can celebrate a successful year despite the inspection.
He said: “In March, Ofsted agreed with the school’s own self-evaluation that we were requiring improvement.
“We knew we were not yet where we needed or wanted to be. Since then we have continued to raise expectations at the school with increased standards in terms of uniform, behaviour and classroom conduct.
“Our main improvement strategy is the implementation of our new vision for teaching and learning, called EXCEL, ensuring all students receive quality first teaching.
“The reputation of the school within the local community and our feeder primaries continues to rise with significantly more interest this year in places at the school.
“We have just won two Gazette awards, the Secondary Student of the Year and our year eight and 11 Boys football teams scooped the Sports Achievement Award.
“Since August, we have also introduced a new house system, which has gone a long way to embed our support and rewards culture.”
Montgomery High School principal Stephen Careless said progress has been made since the last Ofsted inspection.