Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 111)



  100. But do you plan to be a little bit more radical in how you push down this line, in the sense that there is a real issue, you can observe that there is a problem, but are you going to try to push further down this line of making positive recommendations and seeing them through?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes; the first line is to get the evidence, going back to what was said earlier, to have clear evidence, also to have, within that, clear ideas of what might then be done, as a result of the findings that we have, and my job then would be to offer advice, with those findings, to the Secretary of State and officials, and say, `this really does need to be tackled.' And that is my proper role, offering advice and help to the Secretary of State, based upon good and firm inspection evidence.

  Chairman: Chief Inspector, we want to finish this session on the professional development of teachers. Jeff Ennis.

Jeff Ennis

  101. I wanted to ask a supplementary on an issue that was raised earlier by Mr Shaw, in terms of the inspection of local education authorities, Mr Tomlinson. How do you see the relationship between your department of OFSTED and the Audit Commission developing, in terms of delivering better value for money, and spreading best practice amongst LEAs?
  (Mr Tomlinson) First of all, the current inspection of local education authorities is done jointly with the Audit Commission, the teams are drawn from OFSTED and from the Audit Commission, and the reports are joint reports. So that, in that sense, we are working very closely indeed with them.

  102. Are you equal partners then, Mr Tomlinson?
  (Mr Tomlinson) No, because the Act gives us responsibility for taking the lead on the inspection of local education authorities. The Act actually does not require us to involve the Audit Commission in every inspection, but we took the policy decision that we would; and, therefore, the involvement of the Audit Commission has been throughout in every inspection report. And we have developed now, in fact, more recently, both logos, for example, appear on reports, so it is quite clear, and other reports have had both logos on them as well. So at that level we work very closely, the two teams, if I may put them in that way, meet together to discuss inspection and practice, and all the rest, and I think both the Audit Commission and ourselves regard this area as being one of considerable success, in terms of careful joint working. The wider issue, of course, is about our responsibility, along with other inspectorates, for best value, and that, as you know, is currently subject to considerable review about the rate of inspection that falls upon a local authority and its services, and the amount of work that local authorities have to do in preparation for the best value. And we are all involved in discussions about how better to co-ordinate all that inspection, how better to reduce the burden on local authorities, and, in doing that, how better to use the inspection as a real tool for helping authorities to improve the quality of their services.

Mr Shaw

  103. Turning to the professional development of teachers, the General Council have welcomed the involvement of teachers serving as part of an inspection team. And a headteacher in my constituency has been involved, has been a member of an inspection team for a number of years, and with the agreement of his governing body he has spent three weeks a year inspecting schools. It seems to me, that is quite valuable, not only for him but also for the school and in terms of spreading good practice, etc. Is that something that you envisage seeing happening further, with deputy heads and other teachers being given time, not just once but being able to develop their skills, as inspectors, because we do not want them just to be an add-on, as part of the team, we want them to be an integral part and get something out of it, as well as putting something qualitative into it?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes. Just by way of background; a quarter of our inspectors presently are practising headteachers, deputy headteachers, heads of department, or classroom teachers, a quarter, which is a surprise to some people, that so many members of the profession are actually involved, and, as you say, they may do up to three inspections a year, by agreement with their governing body. We have surveyed those involved and their governing bodies, and all are agreed, all are agreed, that it is one of the most professionally and personally stimulating activities they have ever been involved in, in inspection.


  104. Apart from teaching?
  (Mr Tomlinson) They say that their teaching improves as a result of the activity.

Mr Shaw

  105. Is there sometimes an issue of pay; because, obviously, the school continue to pay the teacher?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Indeed. There are agreements between the individuals and the governing body about how to handle the payment made to the individual, and that is not our affair, that is clearly a matter for the individual school to resolve.

  106. The example I am thinking of is that the money goes back to the school, that they get from the inspection, but a lot of inspectors are former teachers, obviously, they have all worked in the field, and there have been redundancy packages, and enhanced pensions, and then they pay them again. I wonder if there should perhaps be an arrangement where we could just pay people once and involve more teachers?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I think that relates to an awful lot of Employment Acts, and all the rest of it, which I am not going to get into. Going back to your main point though, however, yes, we would like to see more teachers not only acquire the skills that are associated with inspection but also to be able to practise it. We have joint work with the National College for School Leadership at the moment, where we are jointly developing courses for aspirant or new headteachers to introduce them to the skills of inspection, which, not surprisingly, are precisely the skills they need for good school self-evaluation, and indeed for performance management, and what we are looking at is how then we can involve those headteachers, potential headteachers, in inspection work. Thirdly, we have opened up the training for inspectors, again, through contractors, and in the first wave we have had 300 teachers and others nominated by contractors for training, such that they can become inspectors and practise inspection through those contractors, which for us has been a welcome development.

  107. Some more teachers and heads involved in inspection; that is what you want?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Yes; and we consulted on that, by the way. That was one of the questions we consulted on, which I understand we are likely to find has got a large measure of approval.


  108. Chief Inspector, we are coming to the end of the session, it has been, certainly from our point of view, a good one, but I just want to ask you one thing. The Second Reading of the Education Bill went through the House last night, and much stress is put on putting more power into schools themselves, more responsibility to run themselves, but very much an emphasis on giving group innovation and enterprise and change. Where does that innovation and change come from, in your view?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I will go back also to my own teaching. A lot of it comes from within the school, that is often supported, and perhaps the catalyst might be outside the school. For example, I can think of, in my early days of teaching, the developments in Nuffield science, both at what was then O level and A level; now that had external support and encouragement, but a lot of the development actually came from within the schools themselves, a lot of the innovation. I think it is a mixture of all of those. I think, first and foremost, schools have got to feel confident that they have the power to innovate, they have also got, if you give them the power to innovate, to accept that on occasions it may not work, but that they will not be severely criticised for the fact it does not work, because that is the nature of innovation, it does not have, necessarily, a positive end in every instance.

  109. But the Government started off trying very hard to look to the private sector for innovation and new ideas, and seems to have almost discarded that, in terms of now winding up the Education Action Zones; is not that a sign that the Government is getting more and more desperate to find inventive, innovative experimentation in the school system?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I do not know. I think you would have to ask the Government that question. I think, if you asked teachers, they would say there is an awful lot of innovation coming down on them, and change, from the perspective of implementing new strategies, etc.

  110. But you have been in the profession, Chief Inspector, a long time; are there any sources of innovation?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I have indicated that some innovation comes from external sources.

  111. Academic?
  (Mr Tomlinson) Academic, yes; as I said, Nuffield is a classic example of where a lot of innovation came, not just in science, I think there was a Latin project, was there not, David, through Nuffield, yes. So they can be the catalyst for significant innovation; and, of course, a great deal of private enterprise, not least industry, does often support innovation in schools, through the funding that it has and through the personnel that it gives to that. So there are all sorts of ways. I do not think it could be considered to be the realm only of one group of people, in one group of circumstances.

  Chairman: Chief Inspector, thank you for your time, and we look forward to seeing you again in the spring. Thank you.

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