“This research makes clear that, while trusts are involved throughout the inspection process, their exact role varies greatly and is not well defined due to the legal requirement for Ofsted to inspect at school level. This is frustrating for trust leaders who are responsible for the education provided in their schools, including providing the necessary support and changes in the case of an inadequate or requires improvement judgement from Ofsted.
“In the short term, it is essential that trust leaders are involved at an appropriate level in school inspections, to more accurately reflect where decisions are made and where responsibility sits. In the longer term, considering the government’s ambition for all schools to be part of a strong trust, we should be considering a system which formally inspects groups of schools.
“An integral part of getting this system right will be ensuring inspectors have relevant expertise and we suggest the lead inspector of any future trust inspection should themselves have experience of having led a trust. It is also essential that any move towards trust inspection doesn’t increase the workload of leaders and teachers.
“Any new approach to inspection will take time to develop. We would like to see the Department for Education fund Ofsted to pilot trust inspections to help establish whether a single set of standards can work equally well for trusts of different sizes, and how such inspections might sit alongside or replace school inspections. This should form part of a broader review of whether or not Ofsted is fit for purpose, given other concerns about the way in which the inspectorate currently operates.”