Select Committee on Education and Skills First Special Report




16 July 2001

I am writing in response to the recommendations of the Education and Employment Committee's Eighth Report: Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1999-2000.

Early Years

The work to transfer the regulation of early years childcare from local authorities to OFSTED is progressing well. Our first regional centre opened on 25 June and we began processing new applications for registration from 2 July. Both Maggie Smith, the Director of the Early Years Directorate, and I look forward to discussing this new aspect of OFSTED's remit with the Committee in due course.

Recruitment and retention of teachers

I welcome the statement that the Committee shares my concerns about the likely impact on educational standards of a failure to address adequately problems of teacher supply and retention. OFSTED is monitoring these matters closely, including the efforts of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to support schools in recruiting and retaining teachers.

I intend to report on the effects of teacher shortage and subject mismatch in my 2000-01 Annual Report. OFSTED is also conducting an inspection of the use and impact of supply teachers, on which I shall report in 2002.

Reducing bureaucracy

In recent years, OFSTED has taken many steps to reduce the demands of inspection on schools, LEAs and other bodies while maintaining the integrity of the inspection system. We recognise the need not to add unnecessary bureaucracy. A joint report, Reducing the Burden of Inspection, by OFSTED and the Standards and Effectiveness Unit at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), was published in May 2001. The report included 24 recommendations for further reducing the demands of inspection, and implementation of these will start from September 2001. They will in our view make a real difference. The key areas for change are in better co-ordination between government agencies to avoid duplication, more effective use of new technologies, and greater clarity about what is and is not needed in preparation for an inspection.

Boys' writing

It is too early to give a definitive judgement as to whether improvement in writing as a component of English has been achieved or whether boys' performance relative to that of girls has improved. The National Curriculum tests at Key Stages 1-3, together with optional and progress test data for years other than the end of a key stage, will provide further evidence when aggregated results are available.

Retrieval from section 10 inspections and HMI inspection work does provide evidence of a continuation of the problem. It is likely to remain a priority for some considerable time. In most primary and secondary schools attainment in writing still lags behind that in the other English attainment targets and attainment by boys in writing is poorer than that of girls.

Inspection evidence points to a number of trends which should have a positive impact on boys' attainment in writing over the longer term, though they may be insufficiently widespread to affect radically results this year or in the immediate future. These include:

  • schools using data more extensively to pinpoint the issue of boys' performance and look at its causes in more detail;

  • increased awareness of the link between curriculum balance in English and boys' performance;

  • greater emphasis on the direct teaching of writing, through modelling and emphasis on word and sentence levels; and

  • improved awareness of the need for literacy, including writing, to be a cross-curricular priority, and for writing to be expected and supported in all subjects.

Prisoners' education

We have been closely concerned for a number of years with inspections of education for those under custody, both adult prisoners and those in what is now termed the Juvenile Estate. With the advent of the Adult Learning Inspectorate, OFSTED's responsibilities for those over the age of 18 have passed to that body, but we retain our responsibilities in relation to juveniles. Our concerns have focused especially on the need for greater clarity and consistency in the provision and for ensuring the quality of assessment and curricular arrangements. We welcome therefore the recommendation that the Committee should look closely at what is added to prisoners' education and skills whilst they are in prison.


We agree with the conclusion that ICT skills should be accorded the highest priority. We will therefore continue to inspect the impact of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and New Opportunities Fund (NOF) ICT training in schools.

Our recent interim report on the Government's initiatives in ICT in schools indicates that the use of Standards Fund money to develop the NGfL has succeeded in increasing ICT resources in schools and has given many pupils and teachers electronic access to such resources via the grid and the Internet. However, the NOF training programme started slowly and we were therefore unable to report any widespread impact of the training at this stage. More recent evidence is beginning to suggest some positive impact, although there is still too much inconsistency in the quality of training.

The interim report also indicates that the support for ICT in LEAs is inconsistent, with two-thirds of LEA services providing inadequate support. Many LEAs, especially the smaller ones, have not sufficiently recognised the level of funding needed in addition to Standards Fund money to deliver the necessary support to teachers. The Committee will be interested to note that in the autumn 2001, OFSTED plans to run jointly with the DfES a series of seminars for senior LEA officers to disseminate the positive features found in those LEAs where ICT support is judged to be very good.

The Committee will also be interested to note that OFSTED will be inspecting the ICT strand of the national Key Stage 3 Strategy which aims to provide materials, training and support for schools in their teaching of ICT as a subject. We believe that the strategy should, in addition, seek to improve links between this strand and the application of the ICT in English, mathematics and science strands and in the foundation subjects strands. We also feel that, more generally, there is a need for ICT to become more embedded in other Government strategies, notably the National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy Strategy, and that we will hopefully find evidence of this in our future inspections.

Key issues and trends relating to ICT will, of course, be reported in my 2000-01 Annual Report. In the summer term 2002, we also plan to publish reviews of aspects of good practice in relation to the subjects of the National Curriculum, including ICT.

Specialist schools and sport in schools

A report on specialist schools, to which reference was made in the Committee's proceedings, is due for publication shortly. The report covers the longest-established specialist schools. It focuses on attainment in the schools, the quality of the teaching in the specialist subjects, the impact of specialist status on the schools' overall provision and their work with other schools and the local community. The report will also include reference to the extent to which specialist sports colleges raise standards of attainment in physical education and sport as well as in overall standards.

Since the implementation of the revised National Curriculum in 2000, inspection evidence indicates that the majority of schools meet their statutory requirement to provide a broad and balanced physical education (PE) programme, although most of the sport-related programmes take place as extra-curricular activity or out-of-school provision. However, not all pupils in primary schools have access to swimming and in many secondary schools pupils receive a programme that is dominated by games.

Inspection evidence also indicates that the suspension of the National Curriculum Orders in 1999-2000 in regard to foundation subjects has reduced the time that some schools give to physical education, particularly in Key Stage 1. OFSTED plans to continue to monitor the effects of the revised National Curriculum on foundation subjects in particular, including PE and sport. In the spring and summer terms 2002, we plan to report on these effects in my Annual Report, as well as in our website and in a range of other subject-related publications, including good practice reports and reviews. OFSTED will continue to monitor and evaluate the development of sports colleges. It also plans to evaluate aspects of the national sport strategy, in particular the role and impact of the sports co-ordinator and primary link teacher in this strategy.

In conclusion, we look forward to engaging with the Committee in the future and reporting on our forthcoming programme of work.


previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 July 2001