Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Ofsted (OFS 13)

  At the hearing last month, I said that I would provide you with some further information on PFI issues through our inspection of local education authorities and the workload of lay inspectors.


  The Audit Commission takes the lead on the scrutiny of how effective an LEA is in managing its resources, including its involvement in PFI activity. As part of its joint work with Ofsted on LEA inspections, the Audit Commission inspects asset management planning and capital funding. We are currently reviewing all the criteria for reaching judgements in LEA inspections. During the course of that work we will take the opportunity to examine more closely at how we consider PFI in future. This will be informed by the Audit Commission's report on PFI and schools, and our growing body of evidence from LEA inspections as more PFI projects have developed and been completed.

  The Audit Commission intends to publish its report on PFI and schools on 17 December. The report examines the quality and cost of buildings and services delivered by the early PFI schemes involving schools, and users' initial experiences. The report also considers implementation issues, including the capacity of LEAs to manage PFI schemes, and the key lessons that can be learnt from the early schemes. I have asked the Audit Commission to send a copy of the report to your Clerk when it is published.


  I also agreed to write to you about the concerns expressed by lay inspectors that their workload has increased. Ofsted has been making every effort to reduce the demands on schools for paperwork in advance of their inspection. We have been much clearer about what limited sources of documentary evidence inspectors need to take away from schools before an inspection and what should be left in the school to be used during the inspection period. Inspection is not a document-chasing activity. It is about observing schools' outcomes and practices, and making use of school-based documentation to support evaluations. The current inspection Framework and guidance expects inspectors, including lay inspectors, to use documentation wisely in this way.

  The original inspection Framework required inspection teams to record their corporate judgements on a judgement recording form (JRF). This has been replaced by the record of corporate judgements (RCJ), which, as its name suggests, requires inspectors as a team to make corporate judgements about the school. There are 23% more whole school judgements, mainly because we have separated aspects into their component parts. For example, "the leadership of the school" which covered the work of the headteacher, senior staff and governors, has become "the leadership and management of the headteacher and key staff" and "the effectiveness of the governing body in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities".

  The submission from the Association of Lay Inspectors (ALI) suggests that Ofsted has placed an ever-increasing load on lay inspectors. This is far from our actual stance, as we showed at the training events for lay inspectors held in the summer term 2002. The main purpose of the training was to revitalise the notion that lay inspectors should bring a different perspective to an inspection. We advised against lay inspectors always taking on responsibility for aspects of the school's work traditionally allocated to them by registered inspectors. Instead we suggested a wider-ranging role for lay inspectors, who can view the quality of a school from the perspective of those who depend on it. Many lay inspectors have responded to this advice with enthusiasm. Some, however, have shown reluctance to lose their detailed responsibilities and writing tasks in favour of this approach.

  Inspection is a demanding job and we know that inspectors work hard. The in-school work of inspection is particularly challenging, and many inspectors put in great efforts to ensure that they complete their work on the inspection before they move onto their next activity. We do not require inspectors to work long hours and our monitoring has shown that team meetings, for example, are much shorter and more efficient under the current inspection Framework than for previous Frameworks.

13 November 2002

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