Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
TOMLINSON, CBE, MR
80. Are you advertising?
(Mr Tomlinson) I am trying. This report made specific
reference to the issues you raise. Putting it in context, local
government reorganisation increased the number of Local Education
Authorities by 50 in 1997-1998 to 150. That has meant that we
have had to find chief education officers, second tier officers
and chief inspectors, or whatever. There has been a tremendous
demand for officers at all levels as a result of the expansion.
What we say here is that we do believe there is a need for a national
framework for the identification, training and career progression
of officers and inspectors for local authority purposes. It is
not there at the moment and we do believe if we want high quality
we are going to have to look very seriously at some framework
and their training and career progression. The performance management
of such people in local authorities is not a strong feature.
Chairman: I am going to move on to specialist
81. What evidence do you have on the performance
of specialist schools?
(Mr Tomlinson) We have not done a great detailed analysis,
we did produce a report on sports colleges, their first two years,
which indicated the strengths and some of the weaknesses of those
colleges. A great deal of analysis, which we just received and
are looking at, has come from the Technology Trust, which has
had external people analysing the data from the colleges to see
how their performance compares. I received that last week and
have asked my colleagues to look at that and what other information
we have had. As soon as I have that data I will be happy to provide
it to the Committee.
(Mr Taylor) There is a reportas usual it is
in preparation, but we cannot hold up our advertisingand
we have done some further analysis which Mike referred to, which
is going into a report which we hope to publish later this academic
year looking at the variety of specialist schools. What that will
be doing is confirming, obviously, a general picture about examination
results which, as Mike said, is being made public. That analysis
is out there for you to see. It is also looking at the quality
of teaching and learning in different kinds of colleges. A number
of positive features are coming through, but at the moment we
are still preparing that report, so I would not want to go into
any more detail.
82. There is not enough evidence to form any
views at all?
(Mr Taylor) It is still in the process of being collated
and examined. I am very cautious about making statements in advance
of that. One area which is coming out as a general direction in
relation to the previous point is that many of these colleges
are doing rather better with a concerted policy for information
and communication technology across the curriculum, using their
specialist subject as the entry point. That is particularly true,
for example, in the specialist language colleges, where good use
of ICT is spreading out.
83. Is that as a result of the extra funding
or as a result of the fact it has a label on the specialists?
(Mr Tomlinson) Labels do not produce quality, but
targeted resources can help.
84. I want to move to Education Action Zones.
These are areas that are close to my heart, because although I
represent Huddersfield I actually live in Calderdale and not very
far from Halifax. I believe Mr Tomlinson has had quite some experiences
there in a certain school; is that right?
(Mr Tomlinson) I am equally pleased to announce the
very successful last inspection, it is a tremendous achievement
by all at The Ridings, 100 per cent of their teaching was satisfactory
or better. That is a fabulous and I congratulated the school.
85. It is well done to all the people at The
Ridings. I want to press you hard on that, it might sound a very
soft question, give us your valuation across Education Action
Zones? That is not your overall opinion, is it?
(Mr Tomlinson) First of all, at the moment we have
inspected six of the Education Action Zones. Those were the first
ones to be put in place. The evidence we have at the moment is
not drawn from all of the Action Zones, it is six. The ones we
have information on are Blackburn with Darwen, Halifax, Kitts
Green and Shard End in Birmingham, North Southwark, Salford and
Trafford, which are working together, and Weston-super-Mare. Those
are the six and they represent quite a diverse range. We produced
a summary report a little while ago and drew attention to the
fact that initially four out of the six experienced some significant
difficulty in terms of getting set up and started in programmes,
in terms of the programmes, personnel in place, and so on, but
they have begun to be more effective. What we have identified
are the features of effective liaison work, and we have set them
out in the Report as a series of features. The first is that there
needs to be good planning based on commitment to shared action
by the school and other partners, alongside an understanding of
individual needs. It is balancing the collective needs with the
individual, good consultation and communication. Many of them
are straight forward and you would not expect them to be there.
Good links with other work. What has not happened, and maybe we
should not be surprised, is those we may regard to be the hotbeds
of innovative action have not materialised in practice.
86. Is it that private sector partnership has
not worked as well as it might have done?
(Mr Tomlinson) I do not think we know why. In some
parts there was an agreement beforehand that certain possibilities
would not be undertaken, dropping the national curriculum, changing
teachers or adopting different conditions for teacher. Those have
simply not been taken up. It is possibly simply down to the fact
that early energies have been directed at getting the things up
and running, getting people in place, getting finance and support
sorted out and getting everyone on side.
87. Is it fair to say that in too many EAZs
they are inviting too many private sector players to come in to
play in part or in whole. What is seen is that some private sector
organisations feel they own the project and they have the responsibility
to deliver its success.
(Mr Tomlinson) We have no evidence that they have
drawn in more businesses. What we have found is that in general
all of those have established very useful partnerships.
88. We went on a visit to an EAZ in South London
where we could see that the head teacher was so involved in keeping
all of the players involved in her school that the kids in the
school were telling us they saw far less of this head teacher
than they had of the predecessor under the old regime.
(Mr Tomlinson) I suspect that is one of the ones we
have not yet inspected. I am going to stick to my guns and say
we have no evidence on that one at all.
89. Excellence in Cities is another initiative
of the Department of Education and Employment. You seem to be
more firm on Excellence in Cities than you have been on
(Mr Tomlinson) I suspect a great deal has been learned
from the Education Action Zones when they were set up, whereas
Excellence in Cities followed some time later. There has
been a great deal of learning from the early experiences of the
EAZs. Secondly, they are slightly different in that there are
different elements to be set out, as to what should be tackled
within the EiC. What we are noticing is that certainly the learning
mentors, where they are in place, are having a very positive effect
through the EAZs. We are also learning to be positive about working
in relation to a time period as well. They do seem to have attracted
a great deal of teacher, governor and other support and very concerted
action in areas which very much need this. No one would deny that
there is a need to take concerted and targeted action to improve
the opportunities of young people who are disadvantaged by where
they are born or whatever. There is an absolute need to help them
maintain the highest possible standard of which they are capable.
I would be supportive of anything which seeks to achieve that
(Mr Taylor) Essentially what we are saying is that
where EAZs were characterised by a thousand blooms blossoming
EAZ has taken six prime species and bedded them in more defined
borders. The ones which we are focusing on are clearly ones which
schools are able to relate quite quickly to their current practice,
where they can find an entry point, where sometimes with the EAZs
initially the biggest trouble is to see how this desire for innovation
is connected to their current planning, and so on. Can I make
one point on the gifted and talented work, which we also hope
to report on quite soon. Looking at it more broadly in Excellence
in Cities, what is clearly happening is that the questions
raised by focusing on this issue are still quite challenging ones,
firstly in terms of identifying who this group are. We can use
words like "gifted" and "talented" in a rather
flip way, and the Government has tried to tone it down a bit more,
through this initiative, but it is still quite a difficult area.
Getting the identification process such that you can target the
programme on their needs is the first stage. The second stage
is that, whereas it has been relatively successful laying on special
programmes, summer schools and after school initiatives, getting
that into mainstream, everyday classes so that it is just part
of good teaching, which is about recognising the needs of all
individuals and providing for it in school, is not surprisingly
a big challenge and not surprisingly has not yet been met successfully.
It is one thing to lay on extra classes and say, "Come here
and be given the chance to succeed at your giftedness", it
is another thing to be day-in and day-out making sure you have
highly challenging expectations in every lesson you teach that
do not leave those very pupils unsatisfied.
Mr St Aubyn
90. It seems to me what you are saying on Excellence
in Cities slightly contradicts what you are saying about the
lack of evidence as to what works and what does not work. You
are saying in Excellence in Cities there is a clarity of
purpose. If you think about the reports you have done on the city
technology colleges, where the private sector is a clarity of
purpose, that does seem to contrast what you were telling us about
the Education Action Zones, where there was confusion. Part of
this problem of setting them surely was related to the number
(Mr Taylor) I was saying that it has taken more effort
to get that clarity of purpose, but the better users are beginning
now to be able to do it and embed it in the same way, for example,
in relation to primary literacy and numeracy. Using the EAZ as
a mechanism they have successfully raised standards.
91. Do you think in EAZ there is some body which
needs to be identified as clearly leading this process?
(Mr Taylor) There is certainly clear evidence that
the stronger the management and the stronger the links with the
private partners the better the quality of feed-through into the
92. I was interested in what David was saying
about the gifted and talented. I was going to ask you, do you
feel there is a role for the extension test, Key Stage 2 and Key
Stage 3, and Key Stage 4 for that matter as well, in terms of
giving progress to the more talented pupils? Very often the concentration
is on Level 4 at Key Stage 2, which, to be honest, for the more
talented pupils is not a very demanding level to aspire to. Is
your feeling that schools are using these extension tests in any
sort of creative way or are they just being ignored?
(Mr Taylor) I am sure we would say yes to the general
principle, which is more thought to be looking at the higher levels
of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3, and evidence about how successful
it has been. It is increasing the numbers of pupils achieving
Level 5, now some 30 per cent of 11 year-olds.
93. What about Level 6?
(Mr Taylor) And Level 6.
94. We discussed earlier this issue about teacher
retention and recruitment and you said, which is fair enough,
that until some of them are seen to fail one cannot make a judgment
on the teaching salary, as to whether it is high or low, until
the government, or someone else, comes up with a new scheme. In
that sense, would you say that the bonuses for shortage subjects
could be deemed to have failed, in terms of not being sufficient
to do the job, because by definition a new scheme has been brought
in on top of that?
(Mr Tomlinson) I was a science teacher and I knew
very well, way back in the 60s and 70s, that as a science teacher
I was one of the relatively rarer species than say a geography
or a history teacher. The possibilities of my salary being higher
as a science teacher were real. It has always been there. There
was always an incentive to pay differential salaries, and I was
one of the beneficiaries as a science teacher. I think that that
is much more open through the system that has been introduced.
I do not know whether it is a failure or a success. I have no
evidence to be able to say for sure that it is.
95. If you have a shortage and you take an action
to try to tackle that shortage and you still have a shortage and
feel it necessary to bring in another scheme then, surely, one
could make a judgment implicitly that what you did earlier was
(Mr Tomlinson) I think that is a reasonable conclusion
to come to, yes. What I do not know are the exact reasons as to
whether the salary point was the only factor which led to the
failure of that particular initiative. I simply do not know, but
it is not an unreasonable comment to make. It is a question of
whether that was the factor.
Chairman: We have two or three things we must
cover very quickly.
96. Do you have anything you are keen to share
with us on the subject of degree standards?
(Mr Tomlinson) No, degree standards are not within
the remit of the Chief Inspector.
97. Do you have anything you want to share with
us on Section 28?
(Mr Tomlinson) None whatsoever, it is outside of my
98. Do you have anything you want to share with
us on A-level standards, and whether they should be made more
(Mr Tomlinson) No, the QCA are responsible for improving
Dr Harris: Do you have any immediate plans for
a career in journalism? May I wish you a long and successful tenure.
99. Can I ask you about the schools with serious
weaknesses, rather than those in special measures, your Report
seems to define that those that have been identified as having
serious weaknesses do not make the same progress as those in special
measures. Is that largely saying that we should skip the middle
ground and those relating to putting schools into special measures,
or is there something that you have identified as the way schools
or LEAs support the schools more effectively and would that include,
for instanceI know many LEAs use this successfullyseconding
teachers to go into those schools at that time? It seems to happen
with schools in special measures, but not those with serious weaknesses.
I wonder if you can comment?
(Ms Passmore) The special measures arrangements work.
Schools are very clear about them, local authorities are very
clear and the effect is with monitoring from the time of six months
those schools get better. What we are finding with serious weaknesses
is that in some ways it can be regarded as a bit of the warning
shot, I guess, but it is not being acted upon. We do comment on
schools action plans now, which we did not. We do point out to
schools and authorities where we feel there are problems. We only
monitor a sample, we obviously monitor those where we might be
more concerned than others. What comes through is that there is
not the same level of rigor and vigour in getting on with making
things better. There is an element with special measures, there
is a very important monitoring that takes place six months after
the judgment, by which time we expect things to be improving.
There seems to be more of an attitude to serious weaknesses coming
through that we do not have to be so quick about it. I think the
answer to schools and authorities is that we do have to be so
quick about it because those children are continuing, all of the
time that things are not being improved, not to get the quality
of education they should be. We have been obviously gathering
together information from the schools. We inspected every single
one of the serious weaknesses, for one year we followed them all
up, and we have found that 20 per cent of them have either failed,
continued to have serious weaknesses or have been under achieving
when we go back. That information has only just become available
to us because we are only just completing the next section 10