Five top Hartlepool schools facing the likely return of Ofsted inspectors
Five "outstanding" schools in Hartlepool are set to face inspectors for the first time since controversial exemptions were axed.
Education watchdog Ofsted will resume visiting schools across the country from September and – for the first time in almost a decade – those deemed outstanding will also face compulsory routine visits.
Ofsted figures, covering Hartlepool’s 35 primary and secondary schools, show five received an outstanding rating the last time they were inspected and – under rules introduced in 2012 – became exempt from being routinely reinspected, only facing scrutiny if concerns were raised about their performance.
The exemptions mean many schools have gone years without being visited by inspectors.
According to the latest Ofsted figures, the outstanding schools in Hartlepool are Hart Primary School, Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School, St Bega's Catholic Primary School, St John Vianney RC Primary School and Stranton Primary School.
The coronavirus pandemic saw the organisation suspend all routine inspections, but inspectors will begin visits again in September.
The move to remove the exemptions was announced by the Department for Education (DfE).
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the exemptions had been well-intentioned with built-in safeguards but had resulted in parents going too long without the “verification of an inspection”.
He added: “It is time to reverse the policy."
Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said: “We had long called for the exemption for outstanding schools to be lifted.
"I am very pleased that all schools will now be inspected routinely once our full inspection programme restarts this autumn. This is what parents expect and children deserve.
“This change will reassure parents and ensure that the outstanding judgement itself remains a genuine beacon of excellence.”
All formerly exempt schools must be inspected within the next five years - with schools that have gone the longest without an inspection being prioritised.
The National Education Union said outstanding schools should never have been treated differently.
A spokeswoman for the DfE said the inspections would help to drive up standards, increase parent choice and contribute to the building of a stronger school system that can better serve pupils and their families.