Letter to Clerk of the Education Sub-committee
from the Director of Policy and Communications, Commission for
Thank you for your letter of 3rd November to our
Chair, Mr Gurbux Singh and for the enclosed transcript of the
evidence given by HMCI to the Select Committee on 1 November.
Mr Singh has asked me to reply on his behalf. The
Commission wishes to draw the following points to the attention
of Education Sub-committee.
The CRE would like to express its thanks to Members
of the Sub-committee for raising issues related to its research
into OFSTED school inspections with HMCI.
Given the announcement of Mr Woodhead's resignation,
the CRE Chair is anxious to meet with Mr Tomlinson as soon as
he begins in his new role and will organise such a meeting without
delay. The CRE wishes to support OFSTED strengthen its school
inspections. This has always been our wish and we look forward
to a friendly, positive and constructive relationship with Mr
Tomlinson and OFSTED.
It is the CRE's view that the issues raised at Committee
by Mr O'Brien, concerning accountability are most important and
we are attracted to the suggestion that HMCI might be accountable
to a Board. This should in no way interfere with the proper independence
of HMCI and OFSTED itself. However it could provide a useful sounding
board and support for HMCI and help restore confidence in the
post and the organisation. In our view it would be helpful if
the range of expertise represented on such a Board included expertise
in race and other equality issues.
The impending appointment of a new HMCI sometime
in the new year provides the opportunity to consider again what
skills, experiences and expertise should be required of the postholder.
Given the unsatisfactory performance of OFSTED illustrated by
the recent CRE research, and the nature of the exchanges about
the research at Committee we would strongly suggest that a clear
understanding of race equality issues in education, and an understanding
of how to address and inspect them, underpinned by a demonstrable
commitment to race equality should be clearly written into the
job description and person specification for the post, and made
clear in advertisements for the post.
The CRE is particularly pleased to note the programme
of training in educational inclusion about to begin for all inspectors.
This is a major initiative and an expensive one, both in cash
and time. Because of this it seems to us particularly important
that OFSTED is in a position sometime after the end of the programme
to evaluate its impact and success. One measure of its success
might be an improvement in the regularity and quality of reporting
on inclusion issues in general and race equality issues in particular.
For this reason the CRE continues to believe that it would be
valuable for OFSTED to undertake appropriately timed research
into inspection reports that sought to identify the impact of
the inclusion training. The CRE is willing to help in this in
any way it can should OFSTED wish to take up this option.
One of the key findings of our research is that merely
to count the number of reports that mention race equality or related
terms is not very meaningful. Many reports do mention these terms,
but only to comment quantitatively on the ethnic profile of the
school's catchment area. What we believe is needed, and what the
OFSTED Framework for Inspection requires is a substantive assessment
of race equality, in terms of relative achievement levels, the
incidence of racial harassment, and the impact of exclusions on
different racial groups etc. It is the relative absence of this
substantive reporting that strikes us as a problem in need of
a solution. Further research as suggested above, and a continuing
interest in the issue by the Education Sub Committee would be
powerful drivers of positive improvement.
The issue raised in Committee by Mr St Aubyn concerning
the need for targets relating to inspectors' adherence to the
race equality elements in the inspection framework strikes us
a valuable and worth further attention. The development and application
of such targets/performance indicators may be a helpful mechanism
for monitoring the effectiveness of the inclusion training due
to begin in December 2000.
If any member of the Education Sub Committee would
like to discuss further these or any other issues I would be delighted
to help them.