27 November 2012

An overview of the role of Ofsted since its inception in 1992 is published today by RISE (Research and Information on State Education) as part of its RISE reviews series.

The review is a valuable study of an organisation which has hardly been out of the news since its start. It has been written by Adrian Elliott, former headteacher, school inspector and author of State Schools Since the 1950s: The Good News.

Adrian Elliott said:

Ofsted continues to divide opinion more than any other part of the English educational system. Many believe it has removed creativity from the classroom and driven good teachers out of the profession through a climate of fear. Others believe it has been a major force for school improvement by ending decades of secrecy about what actually happens behind the classroom door. Either way it is arguably the most influential body in education today.


Ofsted was set up following a period of sustained criticism of English state education. Government policy after 1992 was to ensure all schools were inspected regularly in a rigorous and transparent process. Reports were to be written to a common format accessible to parents and judgements on schools consistent. Ken Clarke, the then education secretary, intended that it should “take the mystery out of education”.

By the late 1990s all English schools had been inspected whilst the high profile and controversial views of the chief inspector, Chris Woodhead, fuelled a continuing debate over standards. After Woodhead’s departure, Ofsted adopted a more collaborative approach to schools and encouraged them to evaluate their own performance. Now the coalition government is simplifying and toughening inspection.

The review chronicles each of these key stages in the development of Ofsted and puts them into context through two decades of change in education.

Notes to editors

1. Twenty years inspecting English schools – Ofsted 1992-2012 can be downloaded now from the RISE website

2. RISE is the Research and Information on State Education Trust. It is a charity which commissions reports and provides information on state education. RISE reports have covered many issues of particular interest to parents, such as class size, home-school agreements, parental involvement in Ofsted inspections, school complaints procedures, parent governor representatives, parents and new schools, and school admissions.

3. As a charity RISE is dependent on donations to carry out its work. Publication of this review has been with the support of ASCL, ATL and the NUT. To donate please follow this link.

Read summary or download full review