Select Committee on Education and Employment Third Special Report


Letter to Mr Barry Sheerman MP, Education & Employment Committee, from Mr Mike Tomlinson CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools

19 February 2001

I am responding to the Committee's Second Report, concerning OFSTED's Corporate Plan 2000, which you published on 19 December.


As you know, I have appointed Maggie Smith as the Director of Early Years and she joins OFSTED on 1 March. I believe Maggie will bring the necessary range of skills and experience to the post and will ensure the transfer of early years regulation work from local authorities is successful. Maggie will, of course, be present on 21 March when we meet as part of the Committee's consideration of my recent Annual Report.


I would like to assure the Committee OFSTED takes very seriously the Report's remarks in respect of our dealings with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). On 5 February, Gurbux Singh, Chair of the CRE, and I had a fruitful meeting at which we agreed both organisations would work together in a number of areas in the future.

In addition, we are preparing a publication, The Numbers Game, which provides guidance on the use of assessment data in primary and secondary schools and will also be used for the training of our inspectors. It will include a separate section, Evaluating educational inclusion: Guidance to inspectors, which will stress:

­  inspectors are required to comment on the school's results and the way in which their evaluation of the performance of different subgroups of pupils is used as a key management tool; and

­  that normally their analyses should include reference to the separate performances and progress made by pupils from different ethnic backgrounds.

DfEE is requiring schools to collect more data on ethnic minority pupils. When the new system of individual pupil records with their unique pupil numbers is fully operational, OFSTED will be able to better identify and track the performance of subgroups of the population, including ethnic background groups. The new data will also allow improved comparisons with the national picture.


OFSTED will seek to avoid making any public statement that is not based on clear evidence.


Durham Education Authority's complaints have been the subject of two internal OFSTED investigations, a complete review by the independent OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator (OCA), scrutinised by the House of Lords in an unstarred debate and the subject of further scrutiny as part of the Select Committee hearing. OFSTED considers this is demonstrative of its public accountability.

The OCA's annual report for 1999 commented in some detail on OFSTED's handling of the case. As a consequence of recommendations made by the OCA, some of OFSTED's procedures were revised. Overall however, the OCA found the conclusion of OFSTED's investigation to be sustainable and there was no need for the case to be reopened. This is a matter of public record. There will be occasions, where despite lengthy enquiries, the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome. OFSTED is however confident it is fully accountable through the processes detailed above.


Estelle Morris's response to the Committee of 13 February outlines the Government's proposals in respect of the Committee's recommendations on swimming.


We note the Committee's recommendation that the HM Chief Inspector should be accountable to a Board. The establishment of such a Board would require primary legislation and is, therefore, a matter for Parliament. However, we do not believe a Board would add any significant value to the existing lines of accountability.

Mike Tomlinson

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