Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from NASUWT (OFS 10)

  1.  Further to your recent letter inviting written submissions to the Education and Skills Select Committee on the work of OFSTED.

  2.  NASUWT asserts that there are undoubted advantages in a system of rigorous quality management of education services.

  3.  However, there has been a massive increase in inspection activity within the pre- and post-16 system which has engendered confusion, complexity, duplication and overload.

  4.  This burden is increased further by the introduction of unnecessary and highly bureaucratic regimes of self-evaluation which are not yet proven in terms of their efficacy. Existing models of self-evaluation tend to be time-consuming, and require a range of skills, which are not immediately available in all schools. The hidden costs associated with the conduct of self-evaluation are considerable and neither does this mechanism deliver a desirable or rigorous level of public accountability. This may equally be the case in respect of OFSTED's own model of self-evaluation.

  5.  There are substantial direct and hidden costs associated with the current inspection regimes which is not matched by the benefits of inspection.

  6.  The case for some sort of independent audit system designed to make schools accountable and to facilitate educational and organisational improvement is not at issue.

  7.  Instead, the underlying question that is addressed is whether the most appropriate system is in place.

  8.  The majority of independent research is broadly critical of the design, operation and the impact of OFSTED inspections as they operate currently. In spite of recent reforms in the inspection framework major concerns remain about the scope of OFSTED's role in defining, guiding and carrying out the different functions of quality management. The connections between inspection and improvement are still far from clear.

  9.  NASUWT is not opposed to an inspection process. However, the process should be supportive as well as inspectorial. The Association acknowledges that some progress has been made under the good offices of the present Chief Inspector. However, there is more that could be done.

  10.  The Association proposes the following changes to the inspection system:

    (i)  Rationalise the various inspections frameworks in a way which delivers real benefits for schools and colleges and which minimises the burdens on institutions;

    (ii)  Replace the current private contracting system with a smaller, permanent group of professional, qualified and trained inspectors who have recent and relevant experience of teaching;

    (iii)  Introduce agreed criteria for identifying those schools with problems and where an inspection is appropriate, working within a newly agreed framework;

    (iv)  Provide specialist advisers to work closely with LEA inspectors to support school improvement;

    (v)  Abolish the grading system;

    (vi)  Ensure that non-statutory requirements are not included in the inspection process;

    (vii)  Abandon the proposal to undertake surveys of student opinion since it is flawed on ethical and methodological grounds. Neither is this process likely to add tangible gains to the inspection process. Moreover, this development will undermine any budding confidence teachers are likely to have in the purpose and operation of inspection;

    (viii)  Introduce an independent body to which OFSTED would be accountable;

    (ix)  Introduce a fully independent appeals body with powers of redress.

  11.  There are further critical issues to be addressed in respect of:

    (i)  the relationship between school inspection, self-evaluation and performance management;

    (ii)  the role of OFSTED in assuring social inclusion and anti-discrimination;

    (iii)  the quality of the school inspections process and its implementation;

    (iv)  the standard of reports;

    (v)  the impact of the OFSTED Self-Evaluation Framework in schools, with particular regard to:

      (a)  the time and resources it requires;

      (b)  the training implications for teachers and managers;

      (c)  how flexibly it responds to different schools in different contexts;

      (d)  its impact upon school development plans;

      (e)  the extent to which it constitutes self-inspection rather than self-evaluation.

  As part of the Association's submission to the Select Committee, I have forwarded to you copies of the Association's recently published reports and commentaries in respect of the work of OFSTED.

  Should you require any additional information in respect of the Association's response, please contact Patrick Roach, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Equality.

Nigel de Gruchy

General Secretary

November 2001

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