Last year, more than four-fifths of ‘outstanding’ schools inspected were downgraded, with 17% dropping at least two grades to ‘requires improvement’ and 4% to ‘inadequate’. Nearly all of those downgraded were stand-alone schools which heightens concerns that schools unable to access support from academy trusts are at a disadvantage.

The previous exemption, which was lifted in 2020, meant that schools rated ‘outstanding’ were excluded from reinspection between 2012 and 2020 unless there were concerns about the school’s performance or safeguarding measures. For many schools, this resulted in more than 13 years without inspection.

Ofsted now aims to re-inspect all previously exempt schools by 2025 with its chief inspector, Amanda Spielman warning that the number of top-rating schools will likely half after reinspection under the new framework.

The new framework which was introduced in 2019 included a transitional period which ended in September this year. With a shift away from data-heavy inspections, the four judgment-based criteria are:

  • Quality of education (Intent, Implementation, Impact)
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Personal development
  • Leadership and management

Similarities can be drawn between Ofsted’s new approach and the move to the CQC’s new regulatory approach, which we anticipate will be implemented next year. Many care providers who have achieved an ‘outstanding’ rating have not been re-inspected since 2018 and 2019 due to the current risk-based approach which has meant that services rated ‘inadequate’ are subject to more frequent inspections.

The new approach will instead involve the CQC collecting evidence on an ongoing basis with reinspection no longer tied to previous ratings, resulting in ratings that can be updated at any time in response to any changes to risk and the quality of care.

Based on our experience over the last two years and our concerns regarding the CQC’s new proposed approach, we consider that many previously ‘outstanding’ services will see a fall in their ratings (as has been seen with the shift in Ofsted’s approach). Providers need to ensure they are prepared for the CQC’s new approach and ready at all times to demonstrate the safe and effective care that they deliver.  

Should your school or organisation require assistance with challenging Ofsted or CQC inspection reports, our team is well-versed in supporting a wide range of clients to make submissions. Due to the tight deadlines involved, schools and organisations should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Please get in touch for further advice at