Select Committee on Education and Skills Fourth Special Report




Memorandum from OFSTED

The HMCI appointment process

1.  We continue to believe that Parliament should have a role in the appointment of HMCI and that such a role would contribute positively to perceived and actual transparency in the public appointments process and the accountability of HMCI to Parliament. We would welcome further discussion with the Secretary of State as to how future appointments might be informed and supported by Parliament (paragraph 5).

This is a matter for the Secretary of State rather than for OFSTED. However, we are not clear how this would make HMCI more accountable to Parliament as the accountability is already there through the Select Committee and through Parliamentary Questions.

Pupil behaviour and attendance

2.  We welcome initiatives to tackle the issue of pupil non­attendance and recommend that the Department, in consultation with OFSTED, should encourage the development of good practice guidelines for schools regarding strategies for dealing with poor attendance, including the disclosure of personal information (paragraph 16).

OFSTED's report Improving Attendance and Behaviour in Secondary Schools (2001) was published in response to a request from the Secretary of State. The report analysed what works and made recommendations to schools. Since the publication of the report, OFSTED has collaborated with the Audit Commission on the dissemination of good practice by local education authorities to improve attendance. This material appears on a special Audit Commission website. OFSTED has also assisted the DfES with further advice on attendance for schools and local authorities which has been the subject of regional conferences and appears on the DfES website.

3.  We support the view that parental and community support will be central to any successful strategy to address the pupil behaviour and non­attendance problem. We look to the Department for Education and Skills to work with schools to promote this, through policy and public information, as a matter of urgency (paragraph 18).

OFSTED agrees that parental and wider community support is vital in addressing behaviour and attendance at school. The DfES is sponsoring a special behaviour improvement programme, closely associated with the government's initiative on street crime, focusing on 34 local education authorities. The programme, which includes elements on attendance as well as behaviour, is intended, amongst other things, to support better inter­agency and community links. OFSTED is involved in evaluating the programme as part of a joint inspectorate exercise led by HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

4.  We recommend that the existing penalties for parents who collude in pupil non­attendance or who are responsible for causing non­attendance should be reviewed, and if necessary expanded, to ensure that they are sufficient for the task (paragraph 19).

This is a matter of government policy. OFSTED will continue to collect evidence about how schools and local education authorities work to increase parents' awareness of the need for full school attendance and to reduce absence, parentally condoned or otherwise.

Teacher recruitment and retention

5.  We welcome the progress made in teacher recruitment. We recommend that the Government should put greater emphasis on retention in the profession in order that experienced teachers and school leaders may be retained within the profession (paragraph 22).

If schools are to have available to them the numbers of teachers required to maintain the progress of recent years, significant efforts will be required on both the recruitment and the retention of teachers. The age profile of the teaching profession makes it particularly important that we improve the retention of teachers in early and mid career.

6.  While we acknowledge the importance of targeted inducements to for those joining and rejoining the teaching profession, we remain concerned that these strategies may have the effect of demotivating those teachers who have committed themselves to the profession without the benefit of these additional incentives, while adding to overall wage cost inflation (paragraph 23).

As noted above, recruitment and retention are both important and it is for government to find the right balance between them in the allocation of financial incentives. At the same time, it is important to recognise the importance of factors other than the purely financial that influence people to become and remain teachers.

7.  We welcome innovative school­based approaches to initial teacher training, particularly where these have been shown to encourage entrants from previously under­represented minority ethnic groups. We are, however, concerned that the expansion of the Graduate Teacher Programmes has been accelerated while significant issues regarding the quality of the initiative remain unresolved (paragraph 25).

In seeking to meet the government's projections for teacher recruitment, it is clear that a greater diversity of routes into the profession is required. In particular, we need to make it easier for those who find that traditional routes do not fit their requirements to obtain training, for example career changers and those who cannot train full­time. At the same time, it is important that all trainees can be assured of high quality training so that they can meet the same high standards expected, regardless of the training route. OFSTED will continue to play a key role in monitoring the quality of all routes to Qualified Teacher Status, including the Graduate Teacher Programme.

8.  We recommend that the GTP should be kept under review and that further expansion of the scheme should be contingent upon the introduction of an appropriate system of quality assurance covering the whole Programme. In this way, the public, the teaching profession and individual trainees may be assured that the training available through the Graduate Teacher Programme is consistent with that offered through other routes into teaching and represents good value for money (paragraph 26).

See response to paragraph 25. OFSTED is actively developing proposals for the inspection of the new Designated Recommending Bodies for GTP. These proposals assume that these bodies will become accredited ITT providers within a fixed period of time and then subject to the same inspection scrutiny as other providers.

Teacher workload  

9.  We recommend that in the Annual Report for 2001­02 Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools should report on the evaluation of measures to reduce the burden of inspection and on any further initiatives to reduce teacher workload (paragraph 27).

We shall be pleased to report on the effectiveness of OFSTED's and others' initiatives to reduce workload. Despite the numerous changes introduced in recent years to reduce the demands of inspection, we remain vigilant on the issue.

The Cabinet Office's Public Sector Team, jointly with DfES, has been asking schools about reducing teacher workload, including asking about inspection, as part of its "Making a Difference ­ Schools II project". Informal feedback from the first few visits has been encouraging from an inspection point of view. This is perhaps not surprising because the review is concentrating on regular workload pressures and most schools receive a section 10 inspection only once every 4­6 years. We will consider carefully any emerging findings from the review team and respond to them.

10.  In order to ensure clarity for all parties, inspectors and inspected, we recommend that OFSTED should publish explicit guidance on expectations for sufficient and effective planning (paragraph 30).

OFSTED does not have any expectations of particular approaches to planning. We emphasised this in a letter sent by the previous HMCI to all schools in September 2001, which also asked headteachers not to ask staff to prepare lesson plans specifically for the inspection. Our position is that lessons should have clear objectives and that planning, whatever form it takes, should be effective. Inspectors judge processes like planning on their contribution to effective learning. Inspectors are expected not to carry into inspection their own predilections about how schools should operate. They must be sufficiently open­minded to be able to judge what they find on its merits.

OFSTED does, however, write many reports illustrating effective practice in schools. One school's successful approach, though, can be another school's burden. The current source of guidance on planning for the national curriculum is the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. We understand that the DfES is exploring possibilities for producing further guidance and that they would wish to consult OFSTED in doing so.

11.  We consider the current model for school funding to be excessively burdensome. We recommend that Government should review the strategy for school funding as a matter of urgency in order to achieve a system that is less onerous in terms of management and administration and offers a more efficient use of public funds (paragraph 32).

Our major contribution has been to work with the DfES and Audit Commission in defining a common approach to recording financial information and reconciling our inspection data requirements of schools with this common format.

Supply teachers  

12.  We recommend that the existing rigorous framework should be maintained to assure the personal and professional suitability of individuals before they are engaged as supply teachers. Any system should also take account of the continuing professional development requirements of teachers employed through supply agencies. We further recommend that supply agencies should be monitored (paragraph 36).

The increasing role of temporary (supply) teachers in schools makes it vital that this important element of the school teaching workforce is properly regulated. OFSTED will be reporting on the use and impact of temporary teachers in schools in the autumn. This report will not focus specifically on supply agencies as we have at present no remit for monitoring their activities.

13.  We note the enthusiasm with which Mr Tomlinson suggested that OFSTED might, in future, take responsibility for regulating teacher supply agencies. We welcome this openness and we recommend that the Department should consider taking powers to regulate teacher supply agencies (paragraph 37).

OFSTED has no statutory powers to regulate teacher supply agencies. We would be happy to discuss with the DfES what role we might play in the future.

Specialist Schools

14.  We recommend that the contribution schools make to their communities should be prioritised as each specialist school becomes due for redesignation. We further recommend that in cases where specialist colleges cannot demonstrate a significant contribution to raising standards in neighbouring schools they should be withdrawn from the scheme or required to undertake remedial action (paragraph 39).

OFSTED's report, Specialist Schools: an evaluation of progress (2001), provided analysis of specialist schools' community roles and examples of good practice. The report has been widely disseminated and all newly designated schools receive a copy of it.

HMI continue to work closely with the DfES on the guidance for new specialist schools and the assessment of applications and on monitoring the progress of existing schools in meeting their targets under the scheme.

The guidance for re­designation in phases 2­4 of the scheme highlights the importance of the community role, in particular the emphasis on high­quality learning outcomes. It is expected that, in these new phases, targets will become more ambitious and involve a greater number of partner schools and community groups. When assessing a school's suitability for re­designation, progress in meeting community targets in schools' current plans is given equal weight with the progress in pursuing in­school developments. A school which fails to demonstrate sufficient progress and has not in its subsequent plan provided details of how these deficiencies will be addressed will be the subject of further scrutiny by the DfES assessors. If, despite prompts, a revised plan remains significantly weak, the school risks losing its specialist school designation.

15.  We concur with the view that a more flexible approach to specialist school designation is needed, particularly in areas of economic and social deprivation and we look forward to the publication of the Department's revised criteria for specialist school status (paragraph 41).

A considerable number of existing specialist schools are located in areas of socio­economic deprivation. For example, 17 out of the 45 schools specially visited in the recent OFSTED survey were in such areas. The DfES gives some preference to applications from schools located in Excellence in Cities partnership areas and in other areas of deprivation. In addition, the revised guidance for specialist schools helps relatively small schools, many of which are in such areas, by reducing the sponsorship requirement for schools with fewer than 500 pupils. The same criteria for judging applications for specialist status apply in all cases.

Further Education

16.  We look forward to a more detailed and representative commentary on post compulsory provision in the 2001­02 Annual Report from HMCI. Moreover we would welcome clear recommendations to support the improvement of post 16 provision based on an analysis of strengths and weaknesses and examples of good practice (paragraph 50).

The 2001/02 Annual Report will have a more detailed commentary on the college sector than in last year's report quite simply because there were only 5 inspections to draw on this time last year. Next year there will be 17 Area­Wide reviews and 96 further education sector colleges on which to draw, plus inspections of independent specialist colleges and dance and drama institutions.

In addition, there will be commentary on OFSTED's inspections of youth services, Connexions Partnerships, young offender institutions and secure units. We shall report on the effectiveness of the youth work supported by DfES grants to National Voluntary Youth Organisations. We shall also, as always, report on school sixth forms. There will be a clear focus on strengths and weaknesses, with examples of good practice cited.

OFSTED is also preparing a joint report with the Adult Learning Inspectorate on standards and quality in further education colleges and in those geographical areas inspected as part of our area wide inspection programme. This joint report will be published in February 2003. We shall also publish a curriculum review of each of the 14 designated areas of learning, drawn from our inspection findings in the first year of operation under the new arrangements.

Local Education Authority Inspections

17.  We support Mr Tomlinson's views on the integration of local services and recommend that this issue should be prioritised in any review of the effectiveness of outsourced local authority education functions (paragraph 53).

OFSTED will continue to examine the effectiveness of the integration of local services during the course of organisational inspections of local education authorities, when such activity impacts on educational provision. In addition, OFSTED has already reviewed, at one local authority's request, that authority's proposals for the integration of its education and social services departments.

Future programme

18.   We welcome this programme of work, and look forward to contributing to the work of OFSTED through constructive engagement as part of our scrutiny of its activities (paragraph 55).

We look forward to future discussions with the Committee about the evidence which emerges from these activities.

25 June 2002

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