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


Memorandum from the National Association of Headteachers (SQE 06)


  1.  In its initial response to this report, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) welcomed the tone of the report. The Chief Inspector notes the contribution to rising standards of teachers and Local Education Authorities (LEAs), governors and parents, and the trend of improvement in the quality of teaching. It is also pleasing to note reference to those aspects of a school which cannot be judged by objective measures. These are the features of a school which are evident to those working in or visiting the school, which cannot be measured in an objective way, but which make an important contribution to the learning of the pupils and students.

  2.  Of course, the celebration of success does not preclude the highlighting of areas in which further work is required. The report highlights a number of areas where inspection evidence indicates concern. We now look at some of these points.


  3.  The report notes the insufficient progress of some pupils at Key Stage 3. This stage of education has received much attention in recent months, and there are concerns, in particular, about whether the timescale set for implementation of the proposals is practical.

  4.  Last year's report identified discrepancies between levels of funding across LEAs, and between the primary and secondary phases. This year's report repeats those concerns. NAHT has for some years advocated the introduction of a National Funding Formula as a way of addressing these discrepancies, and continues to argue for this. There are still too many examples of schools working in similar contexts receiving varying levels of funding, as a result of differences in the funding arrangements of the LEAs which funds them.

  5.  The Association notes the improvement reported by the Chief Inspector in LEA support for school improvement. Where this support is of high quality, it is very helpful to schools. However, there are still too many schools which do not have access to high quality support and advice from the LEA, which puts them at a disadvantage in the school improvement process.

  6.  The Chief Inspector raises the question of the supply of teachers, and the recruitment of heads and deputies. This is a problem that has been developing over a number of years, and is not restricted to inner-city areas. Indeed, schools across most parts of the country are now facing difficulties in appointing teaching staff, and in finding suitable supply teachers to cover for those who are absent through sickness or on training courses. The report notes that of those schools undergoing a full inspection, most were adequately staffed. The Chief Inspector can only report on the basis of the evidence provided by inspections during the year under review, but it is likely that the evidence from the following year will show that the issue of teacher shortage is more widespread.

  7.  The point about non-contact time to undertake monitoring and evaluation of teaching is very valid. The view of NAHT is that non-contact time should be made available to enable staff to carry out tasks that must be performed during the school day; monitoring of teaching clearly comes into that category. Many primary schools do not have the scope within the budget to all non-contact time to staff. This puts a lot of pressure on primary deputies in particular, who have to carry out their deputy head duties as well as a full class teaching responsibility. A further group who are under huge pressure in this area is the heads of small primary schools. These heads often carry a substantial teaching commitment, have few staff to whom duties can be delegated, and have to carry out all the tasks of the headteacher as well. Time for monitoring teaching and learning is very hard to find for these heads.


  8.  Schools welcome the recognition in the report of their contribution to the rising standards seen in recent years. However, they also accept that there areas in all schools that can be strengthened and developed. Many of these areas have already been the subject of discussion with DfEE, TTA, QCA or OFSTED, as appropriate. It is also now important to consider whether improvements can be made to the inspection process itself. NAHT has raised a number of areas in which the Association feels the inspection process can be improved, maintaining the rigour of the process but ensuring that inspection gives a more accurate, longer term view of the progress the school is making. These have been discussed with the Chief Inspector, and we look forward to further discussions in coming months.

National Association of Headteachers

March 2001

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