Select Committee on Education and Skills Second Report


The Education and Skills Committee has agreed to the following Report:



1.  Since the 1999 Report on the work of OFSTED of our predecessor Committee, meetings with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI) on the matter of his Annual Report[1] have become an annual occasion. This was the first such meeting in the current Parliament.[2] The Committee took evidence on Wednesday 13 March 2002 from Mr Mike Tomlinson on his Annual Report for 2000-01, which had been published on 5 February 2002.[3] Interested parties had been invited by the Committee to comment on the Annual Report.[4] Only a small proportion of the issues dealt with in HMCI's Annual Report could be covered in the oral evidence given by Mr Tomlinson and his colleagues Miss Elizabeth Passmore and Mr David Taylor (both Directors of Inspection). Mr Tomlinson was appointed in November 2000 and leaves his post as HMCI at the end of April 2002. We wish him well with the challenges ahead in his new post in Hackney. His successor will be Mr David Bell.


2.  Our predecessor committee, in its Fourth Report of 1998-99, recommended that the appointment of HMCI should be informed by Parliamentary recommendation based on the advice of this Committee. The recommendation was rejected by the Government and reiterated in the Committee's Eighth Report[5] of 2000-01 in anticipation of the appointment of Mr Tomlinson's successor. The Government's response stated that:

    "The Government has no plans to propose Parliamentary involvement in the appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Schools. Recruitment for the post will be run in accordance with the guidelines of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments following advertisements in the national press."[6]

3.  More recently, the Committee's proposal has received support from a previous HMCI, Mr Chris Woodhead:

    " would be better if the [appointment] decision were made by the Select Committee on behalf of Parliament. ...Such changes would not eliminate the potential for conflict. Nor should they. They would, however, strengthen the Chief Inspector's position, and, difficult though it might be for ministers, constitutionally this would be a good thing."[7]

4.  Mr Tomlinson declined to comment about the process in detail, but observed that:

    "The process is open in so far as it is an open competition: adverts are placed and people are entitled to apply. There is a usual procedure which surrounds any appointment of that nature within the civil service. I do not think I can give you a simple answer to your question about whether it would have been better. It would have been different, that is for sure; whether it would have led to a better process, a different outcome, I really cannot speculate."[8]

5.  We continue to believe that Parliament should have a role in the appointment of HMCI and that such a role would contribute positively to perceived and actual transparency in the public appointments process and the accountability of HMCI to Parliament. We would welcome further discussion with the Secretary of State as to how future appointments might be informed and supported by Parliament.


6.  We were interested to explore the timing of the publication of OFSTED reports, particularly in relation to emerging Government policy. In order for Government policy to be securely grounded it is critical that the intelligence gathered through inspection should be fed into the policy development process. Inevitably there will be occasions when the reporting timetable for OFSTED falls out of step with the machinery of the policy process. We therefore sought assurances from the Chief Inspector that he was in a position to brief ministers on an ad hoc basis and that such briefings had taken place prior to recent policy announcements. The focus of our question on report timing and advice to ministers was specialist schools, but we were keen to establish the nature of the advisory role as a matter of principle. Mr Tomlinson told us:

7.  OFSTED has a valuable role to play in informing policy development at departmental level. We shall, in our future programme, take particular interest in the extent to which initiatives emerging from Government can be seen to be firmly grounded in the rich data and analyses accumulated by the Inspectorate.


8.  The inspection of nursery provision was brought within OFSTED's remit by the Care Standards Act 2000. OFSTED began its work in this area in September 2001 and it is therefore not included in the 2000-01 Annual Report. Our predecessor committee, in its First Report of 2000-01, made a series of recommendations to support the work of OFSTED in the scrutiny of nursery provision.[10]

9.  Informal reports from members' constituencies on the implementation of nursery inspections suggested that initial inspections had not lived up to the light touch that had been promised.[11] We remain concerned that the burden of inspection should be appropriate and not unnecessarily burdensome and expect to discuss the inspection regime and initial results from nursery education in greater detail following the publication of the 2001-02 HMCI Annual Report.


10.  Pupil behaviour is an important issue for two reasons: first, children who disrupt teaching and learning in schools impair their own and their peers' educational and life chances. Second, pupil behaviour has been identified by teacher unions and HMCI as one of the key factors in teacher retention alongside workload, low professional esteem, policy overload and pay.[12] In turn, improving teacher retention is essential if the profession is to be reinvigorated and strengthened.

11.  HMCI reported that pupil behaviour was found to have neither improved nor deteriorated since the period of the last Report, but remains a pressing problem for all schools.[13] Recent publicity has highlighted the issue of parents taking children on holiday during term time and raised concerns about authorised but inappropriate absences from schools. The Annual Report notes that "over 80 per cent of young people stopped in shopping centres during school time by the police or welfare service are accompanied by an adult."[14]

12.  In his evidence to the Committee, Mr Tomlinson reflected on the importance of schools providing an appropriate and engaging learning environment for all pupils. Schools that have piloted vocational streams for 14-16 year-olds have experienced an increase in the motivation of previously disaffected pupils and improved on the projected achievements of those pupils.[15]

13.  Mr Tomlinson highlighted the role that parents and communities had to play if violent and disruptive behaviour was to be tackled in schools:

    " it is very difficult for schools to impose codes of behaviour if, indeed, those codes are not supported by the parents or if those codes are not part of the normal, expected behaviour of those families or those communities."[16]

14.  Mr Tomlinson was reluctant to support additional legal measures against parents who fail to ensure that their children attend school and behave appropriately. Instead he affirmed his view that these were matters on which schools and parents must work together: "we have got to seek to get more parents supportive of education and perceive its value and we have got to have better parenting."[17]

15.  Mr Tomlinson reported that 4 million school days were lost each year through authorised absence and a further 1 million through unauthorised absence.[18] Strategies for encouraging parental commitment to regular school attendance include demonstrating to parents by example the consequences of non attendance:

    "Where schools have been successful in tackling this [non-attendance], they have done it by sitting down with parents and showing them by example the impact of this sporadic absence upon the achievement of children. In other words, being able to say, 'Look, your son or daughter knew this person who left last year. They had a similar attendance pattern to yours and their performance at the end of the year was ... This is what is happening. You may not think that the one day is significant but, if that one day is repeated over a long period of time, cumulatively it will have the impact of lowering the potential achievement of your son or your daughter and the consequences of that are in terms of their life chances' and so on. The schools that do this find that the parents are then much more engaged with the issue, much more engaged with the importance of what is happening, and are much more likely - not for sure, but much more likely - to take what we would, I think, all regard as the right action in future."[19]

16.  We welcome initiatives to tackle the issue of pupil non-attendance and recommend that the Department, in consultation with OFSTED, should encourage the development of good practice guidelines for schools regarding strategies for dealing with poor attendance, including the disclosure of personal information.

17.  We remain concerned about non-attendance condoned by parents and guardians without apparent regard for the implications on their children's future. In some instances, non-attendance can span many weeks or months and to date, existing legal sanctions have proved an inadequate deterrent. Mr Tomlinson rejected the suggestion that additional legal penalties against such behaviour should be developed:

    "what people tell me is that, even with the laws that we have got, when you do take people to court it does not result in the young people attending school again and you find the young people are not paying the fine or are unable to pay the fine."[20]

18.  We support the view that parental and community support will be central to any successful strategy to address the pupil behaviour and non-attendance problem. We look to the Department for Education and Skills to work with schools to promote this, through policy and public information, as a matter of urgency.

19.  We recommend that the existing penalties for parents who collude in pupil non-attendance or who are responsible for causing non-attendance should be reviewed, and if necessary expanded, to ensure that they are sufficient for the task.


20.  The Annual Report notes that "there are real problems in recruiting teachers and retaining them, and these have got worse over the past two years."[21] Teacher shortages are greatest in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and those where housing costs are high, in shortage subjects and in special schools. In turn, a significant number of schools going into special measures are those which have particular difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality teaching staff.

21.  Mr Tomlinson commented that the demographic profile of the teaching profession further compounds problems of teacher retention,[22] as does the apparent reluctance of practising teachers to apply for middle and senior management posts. Mr Tomlinson said "At head of department level the common statement is that they do not really think they want to do the job with all the administrative burden and the demands that are being made upon them in various forms."[23]

22.  The Government's response to our predecessor Committee's Eighth Report of 2000-01,[24] outlined a number of initiatives aimed at increasing recruitment into the teaching profession and improving retention rates. These include training bursaries, 'golden hellos', refresher courses for returners and relaxation of the rules of the teachers' pension scheme. We welcome the progress made in teacher recruitment. We recommend that the Government should put greater emphasis on retention in the profession in order that experienced teachers and school leaders may be retained within the profession.

23.  While we acknowledge the importance of targeted inducements to for those joining and rejoining the teaching profession, we remain concerned that these strategies may have the effect of demotivating those teachers who have committed themselves to the profession without the benefit of these additional incentives, while adding to overall wage cost inflation.

24.  The Annual Report recorded the finding that more than half of the Graduate Teacher Programmes inspected had important weaknesses.[25] In his evidence Mr Taylor supported the notion of employment-based initial teacher training but reiterated concerns that many Graduate Teacher Programmes had yet to establish the infrastructure necessary properly to support initial teacher training.[26]

25.  We welcome innovative school-based approaches to initial teacher training, particularly where these have been shown to encourage entrants from previously under-represented minority ethnic groups.[27] We are, however, concerned that the expansion of the Graduate Teacher Programmes has been accelerated while significant issues regarding the quality of the initiative remain unresolved.

26.  We recommend that the Graduate Teacher Programme should be kept under review and that further expansion of the scheme should be contingent upon the introduction of an appropriate system of quality assurance covering the whole Programme. In this way, the public, the teaching profession and individual trainees may be assured that the training available through the Graduate Teacher Programme is consistent with that offered through other routes into teaching and represents good value for money.

1   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Work of OFSTED, HC 62-I, para 204. Back

2   The Committee met with Mr Tomlinson on 5 December 2001 to discuss the work of OFSTED. Back

3   Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 2000-2001, HC 500, February 2002. Hereafter cited as HC 500. Back

4   See List of Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence, page xix. Back

5   Eighth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1999-2000, HC 362. Back

6   First Special Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2001-02, HC 215 - Annex I, page vii. Back

7   Chris Woodhead, Class War, Little Brown, London 2002. Back

8   Q.1. Back

9   Q.63. Back

10   First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Early Years, HC 33-I. Back

11   Q.16. Back

12   HC500, page 20 and HC506-i, Q.8 and 9.  Back

13   HC500 page 38. Back

14   HC500, page 20. Back

15   Q.5. Back

16   Q.6. Back

17   Q.7. Back

18   Q.31. Back

19   Q.30. Back

20   Q.7. Back

21   HC 500 page 90. Back

22   Q.20. Back

23   Q.18. Back

24   Published as the First Special Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2001-02, HC 215 page iv. Back

25   HC500 page 87. Back

26   Q.28. Back

27   HC500 p age 87.  Back

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