Select Committee on Education and Employment First Special Report

Sixth Report: Standards and Quality in Education: the  Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief  Inspector of Schools 1998-99 (HC 345)

Sixth Report:  Standards and Quality in Education: the  Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief  Inspector of Schools 1998-99 (HC 345)
Published: 16 May 2000
Government Reply:  Seventh Special Report, Session

 1999-2000 (HC 861)

Published: 27 July 2000


Government Response

Further Government Action

1. We welcome the positive tone of the 1998-99 Annual Report.

The Government endorses the Committee's welcome of the positive tone of HM Chief Inspector's Report. We recognise that good, well-motivated teachers are the key to success in every school and appreciate that the improvements noted have been achieved as a result of their hard work and dedication. The Green Paper Teachers—meeting the challenge of change set out a vision for a modern teaching profession and we will to continue to work to ensure that teachers' efforts are valued and rewarded.

The improvements highlighted in the Annual Report demonstrate that our literacy and numeracy strategies are having a real impact on standards of pupil achievement, paving the way to success in secondary education and to lifelong learning. We expect to see further improvements as the strategies become more fully established.

This year's Key Stage 2 results show improvement in English and mathematics for the second year running and OFSTED's recently published reports, The National Literacy Strategy: An evaluation at the end of the second year and The National Numeracy Strategy: The first year confirm that our strategies continue to impact positively on the teaching of English and mathematics.

2. OFSTED had not carried out an empirical study into the extent to which the investment in reducing Key Stage 1 class sizes represents value for money. We expect that OFSTED will consider carrying out such a study in due course.

We welcome the comments from HMCI on the Government's infant class size initiative, and in particular the fact that inspection reports indicate a clear correlation between class size and attainment at Key Stage 1. It also seems sensible for OFSTED to consider a study along the lines suggested.

3. The quality of supply teachers is a matter of serious concern. We recommend that OFSTED should bring forward proposals for monitoring the quality and classroom readiness of supply teachers, in order to identify areas where improvement is needed. The next step would be to put in place a strategy to help supply teachers with weaknesses to improve their performance.

The Green Paper, Teachers — meeting the challenge of change, recognised how important it is that supply teachers have the skills and knowledge we expect of all teachers. While by no means all supply teaching is of poor quality, it is too variable. The Government wants to raise the expectations of supply teachers throughout the system, by providing help for supply teachers to access training opportunities, encouraging schools to provide better support to temporary teachers and ensuring that those who supply temporary teachers to schools are committed to the standards agenda.

Already, the new professional bursaries for teachers are available to supply teachers in the pilot areas; in addition, the Department will shortly introduce: a distance learning package for supply teachers; a new framework clarifying responsibility for the training of supply teachers in different circumstances; a model introduction package to help schools support supply teachers; and a voluntary quality mark for teacher supply agencies.

DfEE officials have collaborated with OFSTED on the development of these proposals and will continue to work with colleagues during their implementation. OFSTED's analysis of the effectiveness of supply teaching in schools will be the measure of their success.

4. We recommend that OFSTED should study ways in which the impact of staff mobility on pupil attainment may be monitored and evaluated.

We recognise that staff mobility is amongst the factors which impact on pupil attainment and is taken into consideration by inspectors.

Dr Janet Dobson of the Migration Research Unit at University College London was commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation in June 1999 to produce a report on the nature and causes of pupil mobility in schools and the implications of high mobility for national strategies to raise achievement. The final report, published in September 2000, represents the findings of the second phase of the research programme. (The initial phase was funded by DfEE, an interim report was produced in October 1999 and published in the DfEE research series). We understand that OFSTED are commissioning further work in this area.

5. We feel strongly that teachers in all subjects should be given every assistance to improve their information and communications technology skills, and that this assistance should be made equally available for part-time teachers as for full-time teachers.

£230 million of proceeds from the National Lottery are being made available to support the training of serving teachers in the use of ICT in subject teaching over the period up to 2002. The training is available to both part-time and full-time teachers employed by maintained schools. It is focused on pedagogical rather than technical skills, and is intended to bring all serving teachers up to the standard required of teachers now emerging into the profession. All trainee teachers are now subject to the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) National Curriculum for the use of ICT in subject teaching which was introduced in September 1998.

It is hoped that other qualified teachers who received their training before the introduction of the ITT National Curriculum, can make arrangements with local authorities, schools or fellow teachers to receive training in ICT. Information about the Lottery funded teacher training programme, including all the approved training providers, and CD-ROM based training needs identification materials are available free of charge from the New Opportunities Fund, which is administering the training programme.

In the period up to the end of July 2000 over 140,000 teachers in England had registered with approved training providers, and of those, some 40,000 have now completed their training. The latest information about take-up and completion will be available early in the new year.

6. We urge the Government to develop urgently a sound alternative to the current formula based funding mechanism.

The Government will be issuing a Green Paper on local authority funding later in the summer, which will also cover the future of education funding. We agree with HM Chief Inspector and the NAHT that a more equitable and transparent funding system is desirable. The Green Paper will contain a range of options for debate, and could include for example, improvements to the distribution of funding from central Government to make it fairer. The objective is to remove the worst of the disparities which exist across the country: we will be looking to level up not down. We also want to examine the separation of school and LEA budgets, to bring greater clarity to the funding received by schools. At the same time we are also working to increase the overall level of delegation by LEAs, and to bring greater simplicity and clarity to the formulae LEAs use to fund their schools.

The green paper Modernising Local Government Finance was published on 19 September by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The Department has been closely involved, as education accounts for around 40 per cent of local authority expenditure. The green paper sets out a range of options for reforming local authority grant distribution. For education, the three key issues in the green paper are: ensuring that funding matches the respective responsibilities of schools and LEAs; ensuring that funds allocated to education by central government are spent on it; and ensuring a fair allocation of funding between authorities and schools. The green paper's proposal for showing separately the funding intended for schools and Local Education Authority functions would make clearer how much funding central government is providing for schools and how much for LEA functions.

The paper also includes ideas for a fairer distribution of school funding between local authorities, through a basic entitlement per pupil, with top ups for areas where there are high levels of deprivation and where schools need to pay more to recruit and retain staff. But unlike the current system—which uses regression analysis against past expenditure, and data which could be ten years out of date—the Government proposes that these top-ups be based on evidence about variations in pupil characteristics, cost and achievement.

7. We are concerned at the relatively low priority given in the HMCI's Annual Report to the issue of bullying, and we recommend that a detailed study of the impact of bullying on pupil attainment should be included in the next Annual Report.

The emotional and mental distress which bullying causes can damage a child's education and lead to disaffection. We attach a high priority to helping schools prevent and combat bullying and want all schools to treat bullying seriously and deal with it promptly and firmly whenever and wherever it occurs. Since last September headteachers have been required by law to put measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils.

Our role is to provide guidance to help schools draw up strategies and keep those strategies under review. We included advice on bullying, and difficult behaviour generally, in Circular 10/99 Social Inclusion: Pupil Support sent to schools last July. We will be launching a further anti-bullying initiative this Autumn, comprising a public information film; a video aimed at young people; a revised and updated anti-bullying pack for schools and an anti-bullying website. We also provide funding for locally devised projects to tackle behavioural problems including bullying.

The new anti-bullying material is scheduled for launch on 13 December 2000.

Mike Tomlinson, the new Chief Inspector of Schools, has also made clear that OFSTED will reassess its approach to bullying. As well as seeking to identify where schools have been effective in preventing bullying, OFSTED will consider whether a question about bullying can be added to the questionnaire that parents fill out.

8. We look forward to seeing the improved collection of data on pupil attainment in swimming, which we consider to be a key life skill.

The National Curriculum entitles all children to learn to swim unaided for a distance of 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. We have asked OFSTED to report on swimming at Key Stages 1 and 2, using enhanced inspection evidence gathered during November 1999 and information from their existing inspection database. We anticipate receiving their report in the Autumn.

OFSTED have carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the provision of swimming in schools and the results were published in November 2000. We welcome the OFSTED findings that attainment of pupils is satisfactory or better in most lessons; and well over 4 out of 5 schools are providing satisfactory or better time allocation for swimming. The report does highlight that some pupils, particularly in inner city areas, are not able to swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school. We will be working with OFSTED to determine the reasons why, and to consider proposals to tackle the issue.

9. We re-iterate the firmly held view, expressed in our Report last year on the Work of OFSTED, that it is of the highest importance that HM Chief Inspector's advice to Ministers, and his Commentary on education in print, in public lectures and elsewhere, can be backed up the inspection evidence gathered by OFSTED.

There is a long standing convention that HM Inspectors' advice and comment on educational standards is in every case underpinned by inspection evidence.

10. In our view, it is essential for the improvement of educational standards that the supporting evidence for statements made in the HMCI's Annual Report should be clearly identified.

As above

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