DOZENS of schools across Somerset could face inspections after government announced plans to end exemptions for 'outstanding' rated settings.

Currently 26 schools and colleges across the county are rated as 'outstanding' and have been enjoying their exemptions from inspections, which began in 2012.

But some of the schools already had the highest mark from Ofsted, and have now not been inspected for more than ten years.

Under the plans, put out for consultation on Friday, January 10, schools previously judged by the watchdog as outstanding will no longer be exempt from routine inspection, and will receive visits in the next five academic years.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said exemption means there is often not an up-to-date picture of school performance.

Mr Williamson said: "Making sure that all schools are regularly inspected means they will benefit from the expert insight Ofsted provides when making these decisions.

"We know parents trust Ofsted - and with good reason. It serves a valuable purpose as the only organisation that gives a clear, accessible and impartial view on school and college performance.

"But it's also far more than that - it's a driver of improvement.

"Although we continue to trust our best schools and colleges to get on with the job of educating, without Ofsted standards they would go unchecked and the exemption meant there is often not an up-to- date picture."

Ofsted, which visits schools to carry out inspections, with results ranging from 'inadequate' to 'outstanding', has backed the proposals.

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said Ofsted has long argued the exemption has 'served its purpose' and 'needs to go'.

Exemption from inspection would end this September.

Around 3,700 state schools and colleges in England will be affected by the change, the Department for Education said.

Figures have shown that, as of May 2018, there were nearly 300 schools which had not been assessed for more than a decade, including settings in Somerset.

Schools that have gone the longest without an inspection are set to be prioritised for visits.

In Somerset, seven will have gone uninspected for ten years by the time the September deadline hits.

These include Richard Huish College, Taunton, Greenfylde First School, Ilminster, and Burnham-on-Sea Infant School.

Headteacher Karen Wedlake, of Trull Primary School, which hasn't been inspected since July 2010, says the changes are 'long overdue'.

Ms Wedlake says while the school 'welcomes' the changes, she insists it has never 'rested on its laurels' during the time it went without reinspection.

"Why shouldn’t we be inspected just like everyone else?" she said.

"We are acutely aware that our last inspection was a long time ago, yet we have never rested on our laurels.

"Our SIAMS inspection in November 2017 graded us as Outstanding, the council council has constantly monitored us and we even paid to have the Quality Mark Award assessment done which we passed with flying colours.

"All of this just goes to show that we continue to work incredibly hard, day in, day out."

Ms Wedlake says she advises parents to look at more than just an Ofsted rating when choosing schools, as there are other measures which can also give an accurate and timely reflection of the school.

She said: "The new EIF (Education Inspection Framework) is a rigorous one and one that has changed its focus to look at all the foundation subjects as well as the core ones.

"Inspection offers a two day view of a school, but in my view the real test of a school is how happy the children and the parents are.

"If ever a prospective parent mentions our last Ofsted inspection, I always tell them not to go on this as it is too old. Instead I tell them to get a feel for a school, a sort of gut instinct as they look around.

"With this approach we are still over subscribed with many more parents choosing to put our school down as their first choice of school, than places we can offer.

"That has to count for something."