Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (NAEIAC) (SQE 04)

  1.  The National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants obtained and examined the 1999-2000 Annual Report of the HM Inspector of Schools, and wishes to submit comments on two of the key chapters of this report to the Education Sub-Committee of the House of Commons Education and Employment Select Committee, for consideration prior to its forthcoming meeting with Mr Tomlinson. NAEIAC, as the recognised professional body and trade union for educational inspectors, advisers and consultants, is firmly committed to the belief that the standards and quality of education can be improved through the intervention of professional inspection, advice, support, training and management, and now enjoys improved channels for communication and consultation with HMCI and OFSTED on these significant issues, through new and permanent joint machinery recently introduced.


  2.  Our submission may be summarised as follows:

    —  The chapter on LEA support for school improvement contains valuable observations and needs to be read in conjuction with the recent OFSTED/Audit Commission joint report on this key subject. However, the brief reference in this chapter to the need for a national framework of professional competencies and training from LEA advisers and inspectors touches on a major issue and the Education Sub-Committee should be aware that NAEIAC and OFSTED are both now fully involved in providing detailed research support for a DfEE initiative, launched in October 2000, to identify and introduce such a framework in the near future.

    —  The Annual Report describes evidence of the quality level of current under-five provision, and OFSTED is moving to assume its new responsibilities for the inspection of all early years childcare and education institutions. We believe that the objective of securing a unified and rigorous inspection regime for all such settings remains an important one and that a key element in identifying a suitable process for reaching this objective in due course is regular and detailed dialogue between OFSTED, DfEE and local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships, and the associations representing the relevant workforce, including NAEIAC.


  3.  The chapter of the Annual Report dealing with LEA support for school improvement includes valuable observations and comments and should be read in conjuction with OFSTED's recent joint publication with the Audit Commission on this specific subject, based on the detailed evidence obtained from 91 inspections and 10 return inspections of individual LEA's over 1996-2000. These observations offer a noteworthy contrast to the nature of certain recommendations contained in OFSTED's draft discussion paper on this matter published in the summer of 2000, based on the first 40 of these inspections. As the joint report itself conceded "the developing evidence has not borne out a few of the earlier, tentative conclusions". This Annual Report now confirms that "there were considerable signs of improvement this year across a wide range of LEA functions, in that the proportion of work judged to be good or very good rose-as did the number of LEA's judged to be performing their functions well or very well overall," while also pointing out that ". . . this year's inspections did not consititue a representative sample. There was an over-representation of inner urban authorities . . .".

  4.  While the listed observations refer to such significant issues as the quality of strategic management by elected members and senior officers, the requirements of the DfEE's Code of Practice on LEA School Relations, and the need for effective performance management and overall planning in school improvement activity, there is only the briefest reference to the important case for a "national framework for defining competencies and training for LEA advisers, inspectors and other officers" (paragraph 343). However, this touches on a major issue deserving wider attention and activity over the coming period, and the Education Sub-Committee should be aware that NAEIAC and OFSTED are both involved in detailed research and preparation to assist a DfEE initiative to introduce such a framework, announced in a policy paper published in October 2000.

  5.  In NAEIAC's earlier comments to the sub-committee with regard to OFSTED's Annual Report for 1998-99, we referred to our own analysis of the specific references to LEA advisory and inspection services contained within the flow of inspection reports on individual authorities. We stated then that this research pointed to "trends within the inspection reports on LEA's towards highlighting the need for measures to enhance available staff expertise, and/or provide improved staff training opportunities within LEA inspection and advisory services. Many inspection reports also underline the case for strengthening quality assurance management systems within these services to ensure that usually good local practice is consistently applied in future school improvement activity. A small number of the reports also refer to a specific need for clearer local formats for reports and evaluations of individual schools. The related conclusions and recommendations contained within these reports helpfully identify areas for local remedial action where appropriate, reinforcing NAEIAC's arguments for the early introduction of defined professional standards in this field, and for a continuing professional development programme for educational advisory and inspection staffs."

  6.  Given recent and welcome government initiatives to move towards clearer and better supported continuing professional development programmes for classroom teachers, and for headteachers, it is indeed necessary to match this activity with similar, carefully prepared, steps towards the introduction of a CPD programme for LEA advisers and inspectors, given the importance of the role they play in promoting the standards agenda through the provision of local school improvement services. Our Association, therefore, welcomes the new DfEE commitment to improve the training and development of such staff, through the establishment of appropriate national professional standards, and is pleased that OFSTED is now fully involved in assisting this project in practical ways, alongside our own efforts in NAEIAC.


  7.  The Annual Report confirms that "provision for under-fives in nurseries and Reception classes is good. The teaching is good or very good in about seven in ten lessons in both kinds of setting" (paragraph 53). However, there are subsequent references to significant variations between different types of setting receiving nursery education grants and to weaknesses in the performance of a sizeable minority of playgroups and pre-schools and to weaknesses in the performance of a sizeable minority of playgroups and pre-schools, as opposed to local authority day nurseries and independent provision, as evidenced in last years OFSTED report "The Quality of Nursery Education for Three and Four Year olds 1999-2000".

  8.  In NAEIAC's comments to the Education Sub-Committee on OFSTED's Annual Report 1998-99, we referred to and welcomed the decision to award OFSTED the responsibility of organising an appropriate inspection process for all relevant institutions concerned with early years childcare and education, reflecting an integrated approach in this sector. We stated that "in these circumstances, given the importance of ensuring that provision for under-five's is of an appropriate quality and consistently meets the relevant standards, attention is drawn to the projected transitional arrangements . . . the current problem of an absence of defined unified, rigorous requirements for inspectors' training and experience should be resolved as speedily as possible, to remove any potential uncertaintites over the inspection evidence available".

  9.  We maintain our view that a unified and rigorous inspection regime, covering all these settings, represents an important objective to be achieved. In recent exchanges on this particular subject with OFSTED, we feel that an apparent concensus for the longer-term has been established in this respect. The process of moving towards such a carefully designed joint inspection framework is therefore a significant issue for resolution and implemention over the next period. We contend that a key element in securing this process is regular and detailed dialogue between OFSTED, the DfEE—and the Local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships via that Department—and such representative bodies of the workforce concerned as our own Association. This should assist in providing worthwhile input on practical matters from those concerned with under-five provision on a day-to-day basis. Our most recent meeting with OFSTED on this issue encourages the NAEIAC to believe that this type of dialogue can and should be achieved in practice.


  10.  NAEIAC hope that the above points will be of interest to the Sub-Committee, and would be happy to respond to any requests for further information which may assist the Sub-Committee's deliberations.

National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants

March 2001

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