Examination of Witnesses(Questions 100-114)|
WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2002
100. What steps have you taken in the last 12
months to continue the reduction of this great burden of bureaucracy
that teachers always complain about?
(Mr Bell) Is this the steps we have taken?
101. The steps you have taken to simplify the
(Mr Bell) I can highlight a couple of issues. First
of all, as a general principle, the inspection arrangements that
are going to come into play next year build further on the principle
of inspection in proportion to risk, in other words, not inspecting
too regularly those institutions. That is a principle that began
in 2000 and will be enhanced. That is the general approach but
I will ask Elizabeth to highlight some of the very specific actions
that we have taken.
(Miss Passmore) The first thing obviously I think
you would expect us to say is schools are now only being inspected
normally between every four to six years. We feel that as we have
tried to smooth out the timescale, that of itself has been an
important step. We said that we would move to having forms being
able to be completed electronically. We piloted that first because
some of these things sound good but do not always work so well.
We conducted a pilot where we received very positive feedback,
and forms are now available if schools wish to complete them electronically
in a much more simple form than was ever possible before. We are
moving to pre-entering data. It sounded like a panacea at one
point but we are concerned that if we did not enter up-to-date
and accurate data we would be in danger of giving schools more
work rather than less when they checked it. That is progressing
not quite as fast as we initially hoped. We have reduced the amount
of information that we require from schools. We have written and
pleaded with them not to undertake extra preparation and do things
differently for the period that inspectors are present. We have
specifically said to inspectors that they must not ask schools
to fill in forms in a particular way that the inspectors would
wish. The inspectors must take and use material from schools in
a form in which it should be available. We have given further
guidance to inspectors in general on what is required and, again,
asked them not to ask schools for things that they should not
be asking for. We are continuing to review our procedures to try
and ensure that schools do not receive visits other than Section
10, visits from the HMI survey for example, within a specified
period of having had a Section 10 inspection. We are looking to
make sure that the different bits of Ofsted therefore are not
placing undue demands on school.
102. Will that process continue or do you think
you have now reached perfection?
(Miss Passmore) No, I do not think we have reached
perfection. We have made a good effort but we shall continue to
103. A distinguished history but not yet perfection.
(Mr Taylor) Could I make the obvious point that bureaucracy
is about attitude as well as activity. One of the things which
a lot of us who go round the country and meet teachers and heads
hear is people saying to us that the attitude of inspectors is
one of the things that is most important in reducing the sense
that inspection is a bureaucratic process done to them rather
than one which is genuinely aiming to work with the grain. I believe
it is very important the message we have given increasingly over
the last couple of years that inspectors are there to work with
schools and colleges to bring about improvement. They are not
there to be interfere or be punitive; they are there to support
and encourage good practice. All of those are anti-bureaucratic
not because they reduce particular amounts of paper work but because
they help prevent the impression that we are a bureaucracy with
Byzantine methods of working.
104. Have any of your inspectors objected to
this reduction? Have they found it has caused problems for them?
(Miss Passmore) I have not had very direct feedback
105. The Association of Lay Inspectors submitted
evidence both to you and the Committee which is very critical
saying their morale is low, they are overworked and underpaid
and the shift from requiring paperwork submissions from schools
has meant that they have to do more work and they are not getting
the time or money. They sound very, very critical and uncertain
about what the future holds from their point of view. Have you
got any comments on that?
(Miss Passmore) When we launched the consultation
a year ago about changing the arrangements to Section 10 and we
raised questions about looking at how long might a lay inspector
be considered to be a lay inspector, it did, unsurprisingly, raise
some concerns. We have moved on a great deal from that and in
discussions with the Association of Lay Inspectors we have termly
meetings to which representatives come. We have had separate,
specific meetings to talk about the draft framework. We have provided
some training specifically for these inspectors earlier this year,
which was well received. At their conference on Saturday of last
week one of my colleagues went to talk about the training for
new lay inspectors because it is the one group of inspectors where
we have had no new recruits in the last ten years and we do not
think that can be right. We are looking to advertise very shortly
for some new lay inspectors but we are including the existing
lay inspectors in devising the training and bringing on stream
some new lay inspectors in a very controlled manner. So there
were some concerns. I hope that we have been sensitive to responding
to them and we will continue to work with that Association as
with other inspectors' associations.
106. What about specific examples because schools
now are required to provide less up-front paperwork? That means
the inspectors have to do a lot more work and yet they are only
being remunerated within the same financial basis as before.
(Miss Passmore) Direct remuneration is a matter between
the contractor and the inspectors. As far as paperwork is concerned,
we now do require evidence to be collected on evidence forms which
are different from the original ones. In total it should not amount
to a great deal more and it is a rather better organised way of
collecting evidence which may not have been collected quite so
carefully in the past.
Paul Holmes: But they say categorically
it is more and also, for example, there are 40% more scoring categories
than there used to be.
107. Can we have a written response to that?
(Miss Passmore) Yes.
108. One of the new requirements under the Act,
I understand, is that you are going to look at schools' ability
to consult their pupils by setting up school councils. Is that
going to be a problem for schools, do you think?
(Mr Bell) As a requirement of the
Act it is something we consulted on last year, building on the
109. I thought there was statutory guidance
that schools had to consult.
(Mr Bell) You are talking about what schools themselves
110. Yes, and you inspect on that.
(Mr Bell) It is an interesting issue. Do not forget,
again back to the bit about the range of things covered within
Ofsted, we do look at ways in which pupils are involved and engaged
in schools. We do not have a specific requirement to report on
school councils but in lots of ways we do report on the involvement
and engagement of schools by pupils.
111. My understanding was that you would have
a duty to report on schools' ability to consult under statutory
guidance. Certainly that is what the Minister said in his letter
(Mr Bell) Chairman, new tasks are being sent our way
112. As your inspectors go into schools, not
just the bureaucracy that people think is associated with the
Ofsted inspection but this whole red tape bureaucracy is a bit
of a political football, as you know. What is your impression
from your inspections about the level of bureaucracy and red tape?
Is this an urban myth or a rural myth or is it a very real problem
getting in the way of teachers teaching in the classrooms?
(Mr Bell) We are just analysing all of the inspection
data and that is something we will report on. If I might plead
your indulgence and ask that I might not report on that until
we have finished it. It is something we will comment on in the
113. Can I say that this has been a very good
session, as far as we are concerned, and a robust session, as
ever. I hope you are going to have a glance through OECD Education
Report of March 2002 and let us know what think. We also look
forward to your Annual Report in February 2003 on standards and
equality and we will be inviting interested parties to comment
on it before you come back here to account to the Committee on
5 March 2003. We may also be seeing you before that in terms of
our inquiry into secondary education.
(Mr Bell) I am happy to do that, Chairman.
114. When we meet informally, as we do on certain
occasions, we will give you further information on the Committee's
activities in New Zealand!
(Mr Bell) Thank you very much.