Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
TOMLINSON, CBE, MR
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
(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 evidenceand
this Committee has always wanted the Chief Inspector to base his
responses on evidencethat the general increasing improvement
in standards would carry on this year as it has in the last number
(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 supportthere
is enormous support from everywhere, the Disability Coalition
and so onand, 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 amountand 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.
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
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes.
34. Should we not be spreading that good practice
(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.
(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.
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
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 examplenot
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.