Memorandum from Mr Mike Tomlinson (NHMCI 09)
As you will recall, when my Directors of Inspection and I met the Committee last month, we undertook to come back to you on a number of items. I am sorry for the delay in responding.
TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
The Committee raised a concern that younger people appeared either not to be attracted to teaching or, where they were, to be leaving the profession well before the usual age for retirement. I can confirm that there appears to be a "dip" in the age profile of teachers between the ages of approximately 28 and 38.
I can also confirm that the number of school days lost each year through "authorised" absences is seven million.
REGULATION OF SUPPLY TEACHER AGENCIES
The Committee enquired about the regulation of such agencies. I understand that they fall within the remit of the DTI's Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and are covered by the Employment Agencies Act 1973.
The Committee asked for clarification on OFSTED's and the DfES's perceptions of the success of specialist schools. I said at the time that any difference in views may have been attributable to the use of different exam data. I now understand that both departments used the data from the same year. However, it appears that the DfES, in coming to its conclusions, compared specialist schools' GCSE A*-C grades against those of all other non-selective schools. OFSTED's conclusions were based on three comparisons:
of A*-C grades, where specialist schools' results were found to be significantly higher than other schools';
of A*-G grades, where specialist schools' results were higher than others'; and
of average point scores, where again specialist schools came out higher.
Furthermore, OFSTED's comparisons were made against all schools (including specialist school and grammar schools).
LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITIES (LEAS)
The Committee asked for further information on two matters I commented on in my Annual Report:
that about forty per cent of LEAs inspected in the academic year 2000-01 were unsatisfactory in combating racism; and
that inspections of Best Value reviews of education functions revealed that some local authorities appeared not to have followed the guidance which advised them to review "worst first".
I attach, at annex A, a note that sets out the relevant extracts on combating racism from the inspection reports of LEAs not considered to be doing sufficiently well in this area. Some of the examples given show generally unsatisfactory work in this area at the time of inspection. Other examples point to one shortcoming in a function where the LEA's work was generally satisfactory. I would point out that these extracts represent a picture obtained at the time of an inspectionin some cases, well over a year ago. In most, I would expect to see substantial progress when those LEAs are next inspected.
At annex B is a spreadsheet recording details of those Best Value reviews of education functions that were inspected by OFSTED in the academic year 2000-01. One part of the spreadsheet describes the quality of the individual services, as determined by inspectors. Those who scored unsatisfactory or poor were weaker services, and warranted Best Value review early on in the cycle. Those services that scored good or better were effective, and, prime facie, should not have been reviewed at that stage in the Best Value review cycle. It may have been the case, nonetheless, that the relevant authorities considered that there were substantive reasons for reviewing these effective services first. However, it is ultimately for local authorities to decide on which services merit Best Value reviews, taking account of guidance and their local priorities.
PETER TYMMS & CAROL FITZ-GIBBON PAPER: MEASURING EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS
Finally, the Committee asked for a report on this paper which is concerned with the validity of examinations data. This issue would appear to be properly for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, although, as requested we have produced an analysis which can be found at annex C.
I hope this response is helpful to the Committee in its deliberations.