Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)




  20. But pay is important.
  (Mr Tomlinson) It is, indeed.

  21. My far distant past studying economics suggests that there is no profession that bucks the trend that you have to pay to get good quality people in any organisation.
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes.

  22. That is the truth, is it not?
  (Mr Tomlinson) That is absolutely the truth. I think the difficulty for education, as for many other public sector people, is that whatever the public sector determines to do the private sector can, on a spot salary basis, always up the salary ante. In some key subject areas, that is often what happens. While it is important, I do not think we will ever get to the point where we can effectively compete with the private sector in the way that we might wish. But I do think that many people enter teaching not for the money side of things (though it is important) but what they believe they can achieve by working with young people. In that sense, there are other factors that impact upon their wish to go into the profession and their desire to stay in it once they have started.

Mr St Aubyn

  23. Perhaps we could discover what some of those other factors are, because I think this is very important. Certainly, the letters I am getting from teachers who have written to say, sadly, they are going to leave the profession in my area, mirrors stories we have seen in the press recently from excellent teachers who are quitting, and it seems to be about this pointless pile of paperwork that to their minds has nothing to do with education. Would you like to comment on that view which is coming from teachers on the ground?

  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes, I am getting the same messages from headteachers and teachers. In the report I did say in my commentary that I would want to see the level of bureaucratic demand upon teachers reduced so that they are free to teach, and, equally, that headteachers are saved from some of it at the moment in order to be able to lead their schools, which is what they want to do. So, yes, it is an issue. It is not only, however, an issue that is the responsibility of Central Government itself; it is also something to which local education authorities contribute, in some cases quite substantially, and OFSTED is not immune from that either: I am at the moment looking with colleagues at ways in which we can reduce further the bureaucratic demands of inspection. We need to make our contribution to that reduction as does everybody else.

  24. Nevertheless, your message to David Blunkett is that his department is producing too much paperwork for teachers at the moment and they should do their bit to cut down on this work.
  (Mr Tomlinson) My message is that all of us concerned with education are putting too much bureaucratic and administrative burden upon schools and we need to reduce it wherever we have any responsibility for that.

  25. Given the consequence of these teacher shortages, do you believe it has reached the case where the performance of children is now being impaired when it comes to their key exams and how is this going to affect the process of your inspections?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I have no evidence at all that it is as yet affecting the performance of children. Clearly the test and examination data for this summer will be of interest to everyone, but I would not expect impacts on those results coming from, say, one or two months or three months of difficulties. It is further down the line that one must be worried, about the long-term effects. So I have no evidence at all that the performance of children in the tests and examinations this year will be adversely affected. Indeed, the one thing that my colleagues are telling me at the moment is more worrying for them, oddly enough, is in certain subjects like geography and biology, where the foot and mouth problem is seriously affecting field work which is an essential component of examinations. There is some real concern about the extent to which that factor may well affect what comes out of GCSE level examinations.

  26. What about in, say, the field of mathematics, where there is perhaps one of the most severe shortages of teachers. I am told by parents in my constituency how their children are going for over a month without a maths lesson and they are facing maths GCSE this summer. That must surely impair their performance.
  (Mr Tomlinson) As I say, I can only speak from the evidence that we have. We do not have any evidence yet that that is widespread, nor evidence that at the moment it is going to lead inevitably to a reduction in the standards. That is not that I am trying to dodge you; I do not have the evidence, and I am determined to stick with the evidence rather than speculation. We may well, during the course of the year through the inspection system, begin to collect information which does show that, in which case it would be reported next year in the annual report.

  27. You will be asking schools to show you their record not of the week you are there but of the week before you were there of when they have had shortages in specific subjects.
  (Mr Tomlinson) I have been talking to headteachers about how best we can include within the context of the school, reference to the numbers of teachers that have been covered by supply or those on non-permanent contract, because I believe that is a very important part of the context in which the school is having to operate. It not only affects, obviously, teaching, but it also affects the capacity of the senior managers in the school to manage, because for much of their time they are concerned to ensure that there are teachers in the school who can cover the classes, and that clearly means, if they are doing that at a greater level than previously, that they cannot also be expected to be having a great deal of attention given to strategic management in the school and so on. So I am talking with heads about that and the general agreement is that they would welcome advice being given to inspectors to include that in the contextual factors of the school.


  28. To summarise, you would expect, on the evidence—and this Committee has always wanted the Chief Inspector to base his responses on evidence—that the general increasing improvement in standards would carry on this year as it has in the last number of years.
  (Mr Tomlinson) I think that is the hypothesis; whether the evidence will support that hypothesis down the track we will have to wait and see.

  29. I was sitting in the Chamber in the House of Commons yesterday when we were debating the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, which parties from all sides support—there is enormous support from everywhere, the Disability Coalition and so on—and, as I listened to it, I thought, "Here we are, we are going to pass this piece of legislation almost definitely before the election, yet the other side of that will be an enormous amount of red tape—
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes.

  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes.

  31.—an enormous amount—and the people out there, the people who make these jibes, will throw up their hands and say, `What are these awful people doing?'" Yet, there was this Bill, we know it is going to have enormous implications.
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes.

  32. I think we sometimes have to bear that in mind, do we not?
  (Mr Tomlinson) We do. There are an awful lot of things which are now required of schools and local education authorities (target setting is a good example) where, yes, it does involve bureaucracy but everyone is agreed that actually it also does help what is happening in schools, and it is getting the balance right. I mean, there cannot be no bureaucratic demands. Schools wish to be consulted about plans that the local authority is making and, once that process is put into place, it does mean that extra papers comes into schools and they are asked for their views. And it is a difficult balance to strike. Clearly, if one listens to headteachers, we have not found that right balance at the moment.

Helen Jones

  33. In your inspections have you found any evidence to show that some schools are better at reducing the amount of paperwork that is required of teachers than others? I can think of one in my area that successfully uses IT to cut down the amount of paperwork.
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes.

  34. Should we not be spreading that good practice as well?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes, we should, indeed. Others operate systems at senior management level which have a very strong set of indicators about whether or not stuff will be passed through, and to where; in other words, there is a very effective sifting process so that heads of department and subject coordinators in primary schools know that when something comes through it is important. There are other things in the pipeline. We are working with other Government departments, notably the DfEE, and working with the Cabinet Office to produce a universal system of document classification, so that all of us together use that same classification, which then, once documents go into school, is a clear indicator of the importance of the document and whether a response is needed and so on. There is not that commonality at the moment.

  35. No.
  (Mr Tomlinson) That should further help.

  36. There sometimes needs to be better management.
  (Mr Tomlinson) There does indeed.

  37. In dealing with this paperwork. You do not necessarily have to spread it, as you say, amongst all your staff, and that is your experience?
  (Mr Tomlinson) No, you do not.
  (Mr Taylor) Could I chip in on one point, which is about the administrative support available to help teachers to do their job. It is something we have bleated on about for years and years. Anybody who was a teacher and went into something where they had even the modest luxury of the administrative support that MPs or HMI have realises that heads of large departments in secondary schools, for example, have to do jobs which, in almost all other professions that I know of, would be done by somebody else. We have never systematically tackled the question of how to allow teachers to do teaching rather more than administration. Some schools are better at it than others, but, even so, if teachers are doing what Nick was suggesting they are, which is leaving because of administration, it is because they are having to do jobs which in many cases they would simply not have to do if the level of proper logistical support was available to allow teachers to get on with teaching.

Dr Harris

  38. I want to look at teacher supply again and ask you what methods you think the Government should use to tackle it. For example, do you think the training salary is a good idea?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I will also ask David to come in as well. The first thing to say is that I do not think there is any single, simple, quick solution to this. I think what is needed for the future is a real serious consideration of the supply side issue, about how we are going to ensure a supply of teachers. We are clearly unlikely to get all our needs met by way of graduate entry: I do not think we are going to attract into teaching the proportion that is needed. There are those who have a much better command of the statistics than myself, but I think that is pretty clear. So we have got to find other routes. Clearly, the graduate route is one, and I think that that is proving quite popular. David, you can comment in more detail on that.
  (Mr Taylor) We do not have substantial evidence on the quality of the success of the graduate teacher direct route, which is by-passing the post-graduate certificate which is the normal route. But I think it is an encouraging thing and I think we want to continue to press for ways of using teachers' initial teaching experience as part of the training process. With the new emphasis on induction and early in-service training, we have got a system now which I think means that more of the preparation of teaching skills can be done in schools. The more we can do to accelerate people in, the better, but obviously we are still dealing at the supply end with the intractable problem of comparative salaries elsewhere. My son's contemporaries are getting offered £28,000 to go and work for management consultants on entry, so whatever "golden hellos" and so on are being offered into teaching are not going to compare. We have got to make sure that teaching is a profession that has other attractions to get in the best graduates. I think the thinking about how we can radically approach the link between undergraduate courses and the teaching profession, to make sure that people are really considering that as a way of progressing, is one of the routes, but there are simply no obvious panaceas here or somebody would have found them long ago.

  39. I will come back to that. Do you think there are problems with morale, with new teachers getting paid or welcomed more than others? How would you say that plays in the staff room in terms of morale which is already under threat?
  (Mr Tomlinson) We do not have the substantial evidence, but there are issues and it is one of the reasons why a profession which is marked by great solidarity looks askance at differential rewards. But I think people are realists: if they are part of a staff, they want to make sure that their pupils are taught well across the curriculum so they recognise that there are shortage areas which are really now hitting bad times, For example—not using the word "crisis"—in maths and science, it is very, very serious now. I think they recognise that. One of our concerns is the large number of people now who are dropping out within the first three years: 25 per cent of all people who start teaching, leave teaching within three years. Forty per cent of those who start teacher training never make it to the classroom. Those are the kind of figures that we really need to be looking at and analysing the reasons for.

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