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


Memorandum from General Teaching Council for England (OFS 13)



    —  a complete overhaul of the Ofsted Framework

    —  building a consensus of commitment to accountability where schools are seen as professional partners within an agreed framework of accountability;

    —  establishing three principles of accountability that balance the need for internal and external accountability through rigorous

      —  School Self-Evaluation,

      —  Quality Assurance Activities and

      —  External Audit and Quality Assessment.

  1.  The General Teaching Council for England, through its code, disciplinary responsibilities and register, is itself an important new player in the accountability framework. It is charged with upholding and improving standards of teaching in the public interest through its register, code and responsibilities for safeguarding competence and conduct.

  2  .However, the Council is also interested in developing and promoting the professions' capacity for rigorous self-evaluation and improvement by establishing partnerships with key agencies serving the profession, including Ofsted. The Council believes this will be the most effective way to raise standards, raise the status of the profession and make it more attractive to potential applicants and transform the landscape of accountability. The Council therefore wants to explore ways that it can work with Ofsted to present accountability as something that affirms professionalism and professional values and does not undermine them. New approaches, which could be positively developmental rather than judgmental, would create a partnership in pursuit of continuous improvement and avoid undermining teacher morale, professionalism and trust.

  3.  The General Teaching Council has devised some principles of accountability for the teaching profession. These principles are founded on the premise that models of accountability should reflect:

    —  a sense of partnership in which professional practices are kept under constant review within a community of professionals;

    —  a joint commitment to an appropriate balance of self, internal and external accountability;

    —  an acceptance that the processes of internal, subjective self-evaluation can be made as valid as external, objective criterion-referenced assessment;

    —  an obligation and responsibility to genuinely transform the landscape of accountability to one that actively engages teacher professionalism and positively contributes to teacher effectiveness;

    —  a joint commitment to embed a positive culture of school effectiveness and school improvement in which teachers feel confident and able to develop the processes of internal and external accountability between Ofsted and the profession.

  4.  The Council believes there is now a consensus of commitment to accountability, and teachers therefore consider it essential to be regarded as partners in inspection.

  5.  The Council considers there should be three dimensions to professional accountability, each of them requiring appropriate resources, including time:

    —  School self-evaluation emphasising the processes of school improvement and school effectiveness;

    —  Quality assurance activities in which schools involve trusted and respected external "critical friends" in asking probing questions of the processes, practices and outcomes of the school. The opportunity to benchmark and exchange effective practice is an important aspect of professional development and school improvement;

    —  External audit and quality assessment, particularly of the educational outcomes provided by the school, for the purposes of public accountability.


  6.  In the Council's view, the relationship between internal and external systems of accountability should be the subject of whole-scale revision. The review should actively consider encompassing more explicit links between inspection and improvement.

  7.  The Ofsted framework therefore, should include an assessment of how well a school has been able to evaluate itself and develop an improvement programme based upon the evidence of its own findings and on regular audits of that data.

  8.  As schools' quality assurance mechanisms, improvement planning and capacity to use data becomes ever more sophisticated, the case for a "leaner" and less expensive inspection process becomes ever more compelling. The introduction of Performance Management arrangements fit increasingly well into this and the revised inspection system needs to take greater account of these developments.

  9.  A rigorous internal self-evaluation system shared with parents, governors and other stakeholders with robust external audit and assessment would ensure that the accountability framework was systematic, scrupulous and thorough. Public accountability then becomes a matter of professional self-esteem, where teachers can positively embrace the outcomes of the process.

  10.  The Council urges that professional development opportunities relating to self-evaluation should be widely available for teachers as self-evaluation becomes more widespread. However, the Council's policy on Continuing Professional Development emphasises the need for teachers to have professional learning opportunities that are integrated into their everyday professional practice and enables them to evaluate the impact of their teaching on a continuous basis. The Council would like to emphasise the importance of schools being allowed to identify and prioritise their own training and development needs within a wider context of self-evaluation for school improvement.

  11.  The professionalism and self-evaluative expertise that exists within schools ought therefore to be a main focus for a future accountability framework.


  12.  An inclusive and coherent framework should be devised for school accountability which has national, local and school dimensions enabling Ofsted and LEAs to work within an agreed structure of quality assuring, auditing and supporting school self-review processes.

  13.  We would suggest an extension of the school self-review programme. This should consist of closer and more regular monitoring from external sources including local authority teams, backed up by more in depth inspections for schools causing concern, at the recommendation of these external advisory and monitoring teams. The balance of internal and external evaluation needs to be weighted in respect of each individual school.

  14.  The Council believes that teachers' capacity for critical appraisal of their practice and for rigorous self-evaluation should be a consistent thread of CPD starting with ITT provision and developing through a teachers' career. The GTC Professional Learning Framework sets out the areas of experience which support the development of this capacity. External audit of self-evaluation processes should focus upon the extent and quality of opportunities for teachers' engagement with these areas of experience and the systems in place to enable them to review the impact of their engagement.

  15.  LEAs have an important responsibility to identify schools in difficulties. Effective LEAs audit schools for strengths and areas for development, network statistical neighbours and use their resources to identify issues and bring best practice to schools needing greater support. However other bodies can add critical formative perspectives on a school's performance, values and reputation and the Council is of the view that school's should be able to identify a number of partners whom they would wish to engage in the quality assurance of their review processes and the outcomes. The GTC is of the view that these organisations should be not prescribed but a list of options be presented to schools: these might include community organisations, local business partners, faith organisations, local college etc.

  16.  While the Council welcomes proposals for schools to identify themes for their own inspection it would like to see schools having a greater freedom to negotiate the identification of a range of issues for audit and review. The proposal to identify just one issue as part of a formal inspection is not welcomed by the Council, as the identification of a single issue, could easily become contentious, divisive and invidious in schools.

  17.  The Council, in affirming the concept of professional accountability, welcomes in principle the proposal to include the views of pupils to broaden the sources of information that inform the evaluation of school effectiveness. The views of pupils can be an important element in the accountability of the profession to its client groups. This element of a revised accountability framework needs to be very sensitively and carefully considered before implementation, to ensure that pupils can make a meaningful response and teachers can be sure of fair treatment. An anonymised questionnaire in the context of a formal inspection may not be the best means of achieving these objectives. The Council would not welcome the evaluation or judgement of teachers' performance by pupils. There is already a lot of good practice in seeking pupils' perspectives on which Ofsted can draw. The Council's view is that it may, for example, be more effective for external auditors to check that schools have established systems for seeking pupils' views and can demonstrate that they respond constructively to pupils' concerns and suggestions.


  18.  The Council's key concerns for external accountability can be summarised as follows. It should:

    —  contribute to improving standards of teaching and learning;

    —  enhance and not undermine teacher professionalism;

    —  complement other means by which professional communities evaluate their practice;

    —  assure educational outcomes for the purposes of public accountability.

  19.  The Council would like to see Ofsted lead a highly rigorous examination of quality assurance audit processes that requires schools to provide compelling evidence of their school improvement strategies, one that systematically challenges schools, on the basis of their own evidence, to agree with Ofsted's conclusions.

  20.  The Council welcomes the proposal for Ofsted to take on a more advisory role and feels Ofsted should move beyond this to actively engage in advising on the development of self-evaluation and review processes within the schools they inspect.

  21.  The Council feels strongly that using more serving teachers and headteachers in school inspections is not only likely to be a source of professional development for those involved but is also likely to contribute significantly to the quality of the inspection process and the dissemination of effective practice. The Council acknowledges that the need to embed inspection skills requires a significant and regular investment in time, training and practice. However, the Council would suggest that serving teachers and heads involved in inspection serve on an occasional basis over a longer period of time rather than intensively or regularly over a shorter, fixed period of time. This, the Council believes, will facilitate much better quality and continuity of inspection and minimise any adverse impacts on the workloads of those serving teachers concerned. The Council therefore welcomes teacher involvement in inspection teams but the `supply' implications for schools must be fully taken in to account.

  22.  The Council is keen to highlight the need for inspectors to be highly skilled and have up to date knowledge of schools. The use of local or seconded teachers with relevant experience and knowledge of the context and partnerships in which schools operate is viewed by the Council as very important. The Council believes that extending these opportunities will reduce the variability in quality of school inspections.


  23.  The Council believes the Ofsted consultation, "Improving Inspection, Improving Schools", is an enormous opportunity for Ofsted to engage and lead the profession in a truly pro-active and positive manner through a far reaching and whole scale revision of its Framework.

  24.  The Council believes that the central thrust of any new Framework for accountability must be to place responsibility where it lies - within the very institutions required to deliver high standards of achievement. Schools can only deliver sustained improvement if the appropriate structures for support and accountability are amenable and accessible to the people expected to produce the outcomes.

  25.  The Council believes that its three principles of accountability will be helpful to Ofsted in reformulating its approach to the structures and processes of accountability and urges Ofsted to give them active consideration. While the Council acknowledges that school self-evaluation is still variable and that it is not always easy to make clear the distinctions between school self-evaluation and quality assurance, excellent models of school self-evaluation are now widespread, many of which have been adopted from leading examples in industry and commerce.

Carol Adams

Chief Executive

November 2001

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