Members present:

Mr Barry Sheerman, in the Chair
Mr John Baron
Mr David Chaytor
Valerie Davey
Jeff Ennis
Paul Holmes
Ms Meg Munn
Mr Kerry Pollard
Mr Jonathan R Shaw
Mr Andrew Turner


MR DAVID BELL, HM Chief Inspector of Schools, MR MAURICE SMITH, Acting Director Early Years, MR DAVID TAYLOR, Director of Inspection, MR ROBERT GREEN, Director of Strategy and Resources and MISS ELIZABETH PASSMORE, Director of Inspection, OFSTED, examined.


  1. I welcome David Bell and the team; there are some familiar faces and some not so familiar. This is the first operational meeting we have had with you, Mr Bell, because it was rather a get-to-know you occasion the first time you came in. Now we can blame you for everything, as you have been in post for how many months?
  2. (Mr Bell) Six months

  3. The buck now stops with you. Would you like to make a brief opening remark?
  4. (Mr Bell) I can hardly believe it is six months since I first came here. I have to say, you were generous to me in taking account of my newness, I suspect. I might not be so lucky today! I am not sure that an HMCI is supposed to say this, but my job is proving to be interesting, stimulating and very, very exciting. OFSTED is an excellent organisation to work for, and already I have been very impressed at the calibre of my colleagues, a number of whom are with me today. It is very clear to me that OFSTED's history since 1992 has been one of evolution rather than revolution. We have adapted our inspection arrangements in line with changing circumstances and the new demands that have been placed upon us by Parliament. We have delivered what we have been asked to do. You will not be surprised to know that it is a personal priority of mind to ensure that this record is maintained. Consistently, OFSTED has inspected and reported on its findings without fear or favour. It is that capacity to speak from the basis of our evidence that makes the post of HCI so worthwhile, and also the work of OFSTED vitally important. One of the personal challenges I have had to face in the last six months is coming to grips with our wide range of inspection responsibilities. In the last year we extended our brief to include regulation on Early Years and the inspection of 16-19 colleges. Another part of my role is to provide advice to Government and contribute more generally to the national policy debates on education. Again, if you just look over the past six months, using the evidence we have got we have reported on topics as diverse as the primary curriculum, teaching assistants, achievements of black Caribbean youngsters, and work on LEAs. All this is in addition to the 1800 school inspections that have taken place since we last met. Nothing stands still, and we are taking new developments in our stride. Let me give you one example because it is something this Committee raised a year and a half ago. We have new ways of working with schools with serious weaknesses, so that we now hope to arrest the decline into special measures. Schools and LEAs are invited to an action plan seminar. Earlier visits are being made to schools with serious weaknesses, and we are making an assessment about the capacity of a school to improve and the progress that needs to be made. A major part of my work is about management of OFSTED. It is a much larger and much more widely dispersed organisation than it has ever been before. The senior team from OFSTED that you have here today recognised the very significant management and leadership challenges that we face in running the organisation as efficiently and effectively as possible. If I might make one or two more specific comments on Early Years by way of introduction in this first part of the session, it is just over a year since we took over responsibilities for inspecting day-care and child-minding. This followed implementation of the Government's national childcare strategy, the publication of the 14 national standards against which childcare and providers are judged. Our overall aim is to ensure children are safe, well cared for, and engaged in meaningful activity. Our regulatory duty is to register, inspect and investigate complaints against providers, and enforce necessary action. Just to give you a feel for the span of our work, so far we have registered 15,000 new applicants. We have inspected over 50,000 existing providers. We have investigated 6,000 complaints against providers and we have enforced 100 actions. Alongside that, internally we have had to observe over 1,400 ex local authority staff, establish eight regional offices and support our home-based inspectors in their work. We believe there are signs of achievement in our first operational year; equally, though, we are not complacent as there have been and continue to be some difficulties along the way. For example, with our information systems we are making steady, if unspectacular, progress in resolving a number of our difficulties. We are on track to achieve our prime objective of inspection of 100,000 providers by March 2003. However, we have been hampered by some delays in obtaining clearance from the CRO. Nevertheless, we are working hard to improve our performance after a slow start in some regions of the country, particularly where the recruitment of administrative staff proved to be problematic. Let me conclude these opening remarks by saying I believe that OFSTED continues to provide a unique perspective on the education system through our right of access to inspect. I am determined to make as much of this as possible in co-ordinating our inspection activity, not least because we need to continue with our efforts to make inspection as light a burden as possible, consistent with the need to maintain standards. Mr Chairman, I look forward to discussing this and other aspects with the Committee this morning.

  5. Mr Bell, thank you very much for your introduction. Can I open the questions by asking you if you looked at the widely-reported OECD study this morning in the Financial Times?
  6. (Mr Bell) I am sorry, I have not.

  7. It is quite worrying when it can say the findings there seem to contradict the perceived wisdom about successful countries and states that most industrial countries have a lot to learn. What it does point out, something that was reinforced by our visit to New Zealand recently, is this growing problem that we seem to be able to teach to a relatively good level with a reasonable percentage of our students, but we share this difficulty with four or five other OECD countries, including New Zealand. We had interesting evidence of that in New Zealand. Does the inspection system help in this?
  8. (Mr Bell) It helps first of all in relation to the point you made about teaching. If you look at our inspection evidence, just when OFSTED was being created, chief inspectors were talking at that time of up to 30 per cent of teaching that was unsatisfactory, or poor teaching had dropped to just around 5 per cent. Inspection is not the cause of that, but I think inspection has been an important mechanism in focussing on what constitutes high-quality teaching. So there is important evidence that inspection has helped to drive up the quality of teaching. On the second part of the question, I recall at our first session here making the point that one of the biggest problems facing the English education system is the gap between the very best and the very worst. For all sorts of reasons, we have a big gap. Some of our inspection evidence or activity recently has been focussed on, for example, schools that are facing the most challenging circumstances, which often will contain young people who are disengaged 100 per cent, or are increasingly disengaged from education. I happen to think that the amount of discussion, debate and so on about the 14-19 curriculum does offer some opportunity for thinking more creatively about different kinds of opportunities for young people. I know that that is a concept that this Committee -

  9. I was looking at one of your reports when you were talking about LEAs and you said there is no proven relationship with the quality of an LEA and overall standards of attainment. On our visit to Birmingham - and Elizabeth Passmore gave evidence to our Committee during that visit - we were rather of the opinion that the work of that education authority had made a significant difference in what was occurring and had occurred, in terms of achievement in Birmingham. People could ask whether there is a proven relationship between the number of people and the budget of the inspectorate and improving standards in schools. The depressing thing about the OECD standard is that we seemed to be on a par with a number of countries that are not devoting enormous amounts of money to a growing inspection system and growing numbers. How many people work at OFSTED?
  10. (Mr Bell) Including our Early Years staff, it is full-time equivalent 2,200, but the majority of those people are involved in Early Years and childcare regulation.

  11. What is the annual budget?
  12. (Mr Bell) Our annual budget is 195 million, but, again, the majority of that budget is devoted to the Early Years work.

  13. The numbers are getting almost half the size of the Department of Education and Skills itself.
  14. (Mr Bell) The point I would make is, given the billions of pounds that are spent on education each year, the amount of money that we are spending on the schools systems represents a minuscule proportion of that expenditure. I think we have made an important contribution in terms of quality teaching in schools, the quality of leadership, increasing the range of the curriculum and so on. Prior to the inspection system being set up in 1992, the majority of schools and teachers would go through their careers without any inspection and there would be no public reporting of what was going on in schools. I think that the combination of focussing on what goes on by inspecting schools, and making schools publicly accountable is an important lever in driving up standards.

    (Ms Passmore) We found when we looked at all 150 local authorities and the performance in those local authorities, if you take the whole lot together, you cannot find post correlation between the way in which a local authority performs the functions that we are required to inspect and the outcomes for those young people. But there were some cases where there was clear evidence that an authority that had not been performing particularly well and schools that had not performed particularly well, had together moved forward considerably. The best example of that is the authority you will be visiting shortly. There are authorities where - I suppose one would say fortunately - despite the authority not performing very well, individual schools are well led and the people responsible for leading those schools are nevertheless doing well for the youngsters in those schools.

  15. When we were in Birmingham and when we were in Auckland, the real challenge was that you could have individual schools - dog eat dog, everybody competing to be the best - but it was very difficult, certainly with the very devolved nature of the schools in New Zealand, but in a very real sense in the United Kingdom as well, to get change across the system, systemic change to raise the overall level of groups of schools. Without a local education authority, many of us believe that there will be no instrument or tool to do that.
  16. (Mr Bell) I happen to think that there is no silver bullet when it comes to systemic change. I think it is a combination of factors that bring about change. We know that the Department is talking about ideas about a federation of schools, about some schools helping to support and lead other schools. I think that that will be an interesting development and an interesting development for us to report on. Can successful schools bring forward, lead forward and achieve improvements in other schools? At the moment, if you look at school-to-school, it is relatively untested.

    (Mr Taylor) When you started referring to the report from the OECD, my initial thought was that at last somebody else is saying exactly what we have been saying for rather a long time, and the stress on the importance of teaching has been the thing that is most needed to turn round what we referred to, for example in our Early Year Reading Report of 1994, as the "long tale of under-achievement". The need for that to be tackled through systematic national systemic teaching and strategies was what led most directly to the decision which was a cross-party decision to have national strategies for literacy and numeracy. I think we were directly instrumental in bringing about that, on the basis of reporting on what we found, and on the basis of our relentless probe of the area of under-achievement, exclusion and disadvantage, which were for us the most intractable and irremediable problems. The fact that eight years on from that we are still finding that this tale of under-achievement exists does not in any way invalidate the method of inspection, shows that the capacity to implement that nationally is still imperfect.

    Mr Shaw

  17. I would like to ask you a few questions about the early years. It is a year since the transfer of staff from the local education authorities or other local authorities to OFSTED's employment. There was concern in many quarters that the relationships that had been built up over many years within local authorities would break down, and particularly when one considers issues such as child protection. Relationships on the ground are vitally important for sharing of information. What has been your observation of those relationships? Have there been any problems?
  18. (Mr Bell) I will ask my colleague Maurice Smith to comment specifically on the child protection issue, but let me make a more general point about relationships. You will of course know that local authorities retain some important residual responsibilities in terms of early years and childcare development partnerships. We have made a great effort to ensure that there are good working relationships. For example, OFSTED staff will have regular meetings with representatives of early years and childcare development partnerships. In many cases, they will attend on a regular basis with early years and childcare development partnerships. We place great strength on building and in many cases maintaining relationships, because are right - it was a transfer of staff that had often worked for those authorities to OFSTED. That has been a real priority for us to keep those relationships going.

    (Mr Smith) I wonder whether you would mind if I added a little local flavour to how those relationships work, having just come from a position as one of the regional managers in the North-West. We have written protocols with nine local functions - child care, the environmental health authority, the fire brigade, et cetera. Those written protocols only become live when those individuals meet each other across the table; and those meetings are now well established following on from the protocols. A senior member of staff from each region - and I am talking about the team manager and above in the main - attend as part of each of the 150 partnerships, so OFSTED has a seat at the table. In addition, we have regular meetings with those other colleagues I have mentioned. In each region we also have a dedicated senior member of staff who has specific responsibility for liaison in terms of child protection. That person's responsibility is to link in with however many there are - and in the North-West there are 22 - area child protection committees, and also to link in with the named officer in each authority. On the child protection front, OFSTED is not primarily a child protection agency but it does have a place in the child protection landscape. Indeed, our checking mechanisms where we have found some difficulty in advance of somebody being registered, are effectively child protection measures to prevent people coming in to the system who will be a risk to children.

  19. It is about those informal relationships which are very necessary with professionals, not necessarily team managers and above but those operating at the grass roots level. What is your observation of those relationships being monitored and built on?
  20. (Mr Smith) Those relationships are good and are being built on. One might have thought it would have been a disadvantage to separate out this role.

  21. That was a concern during the Bill.
  22. (Mr Smith) In central government. My experience has been that that is not the case and that relationships are strong. I would add, going back to a report recently published about child protection, one of the issues we do come across is the issue of stability of personnel in the child protection field under the relevant social services departments. From personal experience, I will relate that forming a relationship with a local child protection senior officer is often a relationship that changes fairly frequently.

  23. There is an explosion of childcare provision now, so the transfer means there is a lot more work in early-years and indeed in after-schools as well. In the maintained sector there is a team of inspectors, but in the private and voluntary sector there is only one inspector. Do you think that is right? Why is there a difference, with one inspector for private and voluntary and a team for the -
  24. (Mr Smith) It is not always one inspector for the private and voluntary sector. We will actually send two inspectors, depending on the size and nature of provision. But we will do it according to need. Our view is that in terms of our inspection responsibilities under the Children Act, we only require one inspector to inspect on that basis. When we come to combined inspections, which include funded nursery education, then often there will be more than one inspector.

    Jeff Ennis

  25. You mentioned in your earlier comments, Mr Bell, that you registered another 15,000 new childcare providers. Is the childcare register now complete? Have you got everybody registered who should be registered?
  26. (Mr Bell) No, because we had a transitional period from September 2001 to March 2003, an 18-month transitional period. Our stated intention at the beginning was that that exercise would be completed. As I indicated, we are on target to complete that process by March 2003.

  27. Going back to the transition from local government responsibility to OFSTED responsibility, you have apparently still got problems with the information systems operated by the early-years inspectors. Without going into too much detail, can you enlarge on what those problems are and when you expect to rectify them?
  28. (Mr Smith) The problems, in the main, have been to do with what I am reliably informed is called connectivity, logging on to the system, and the amount of capacity. We have taken three steps. As we speak, they are taking place. That is the installation of ISDN lines for those people in remote areas; installation of broadband for those people who can connect to that; and the increase in the number of ports by 50 per cent. They have been the main problems with the system that we have had.

  29. When will it all be sorted out?
  30. (Mr Smith) It has improved considerably over the last six months - and I speak both statistically and from personal experience. The final piece in that jigsaw goes in place in mid December.

  31. In terms of the differential inspection in terms of the maintained sector and the private and voluntary sector, are we going to bring them closer together? Are we looking at different ways of inspecting; or will we always maintain this difference?
  32. (Mr Bell) You will be aware that we are working under different legislation, which is the first point. As Maurice indicated, we are also working in different settings in terms of size, scope and range. There is a debate to be had in due course about the possibility of trying to bring together, and bring together more closely, different sorts of inspection regimes. It would be commonsense, would it not, that it would never be appropriate to have a single all-encompassing inspection framework that counts in the same way in a 500-place primary school as in a child-minder's home. However, we need to be clear about the common underpinning principle of inspection. One of the advantages of the OFSTED approach is to be able to use the expertise of making judgments about the quality of provision, and apply that in the future. The transitional inspections that are due to be completed by next April are largely focussed on compliance against the 14 national standards. We always said that after those transitional inspections were completed, we would be moving to making more quality-based judgments. That, I think, offers an opportunity for us to think more carefully about the way in which we go about inspecting.

  33. Do you think the more formal inspection of child-minding premises will put new child-minders off registering and not come in to the sector?
  34. (Mr Smith) I have no evidence for that.

    Mr Pollard

  35. It is about people going underground and not registering because of the inspection process. My understanding is that there are many of these. I could give you names in my own constituency, but I will not, where people have said, "I am opting out of that" and both parties agree.
  36. (Mr Smith) I have nothing to add to what I have said, except that that has always been the case I have no evidence to suggest whether OFSTED taking on these responsibilities has changed that in any way.

    Valerie Davey

  37. I want to ask you about your responsibility in the area of childcare. Is the Criminal Records Bureau fit for purpose?
  38. (Mr Bell) There is a specific policy issue about the creation of the Criminal Records Bureau, which is obviously not for me to comment on. As Maurice indicated earlier, it is an important part of the checking of the suitability of potential providers. There are difficulties and timescale delays at the moment, but I think it is an important part of the process. We are not, as Maurice said, a child protection agency, but if we can carry out a number of checks, including criminal checks, I think that that is important in helping us to regulate a good childcare system.

  39. But you do have a co-ordinating role in that area, do you not? Therefore, if you have an "inefficient" element within that, or a slow element - you said there had been delays for you caused by the Criminal Records Bureau - then that must be a matter of concern. Would you like to be more involved in the issues that were clearly raised over the summer with the Criminal Records Bureau, for schools?
  40. (Mr Bell) Can I make one important point? There have been good operational relationships between staff in OFSTED and the Criminal Records Bureau. I have to make that point very clear. Colleagues have worked together well, and there has been sympathy within the CRB to our difficulties. I am sure you will appreciate that teachers CRB checked have been fast-tracked. -whether that would have a detrimental effect on childcare providers and so on. It is important to state that once these operational difficulties that the CRB is facing are over, we have got the basis for a good relationship to work efficiently.

    (Mr Smith) The Criminal Records Bureau is fit for our purpose, particularly in terms of enhanced checking. It is the pace of fitness for purpose that gives us concern. If that offers any risk, the risk is that people would be put off by the length of time, but we have not found any evidence for that.

    Paul Holmes

  41. Moving on to 16-19 inspections, when the inspections first started in schools, one of the complaints was that you were not comparing apples and pears, to coin a phrase. You would go to a school in a very affluent area and compare it to a school in a very deprived area, and say, "look how well one is doing and look how badly the other is doing." The Association of Colleges is saying exactly the same thing is happening in colleges. Some colleges that serve very deprived areas, where traditional industries have shut down and just getting kids to stay on at school and college is an achievement in itself; but your inspections do not recognise that, and you will then compare that college to another one in an affluent, middle-class area.
  42. (Mr Bell) To make an important opening comment about that, you will have seen from the Association of Colleges' submission to this Committee that the first point it makes is that it welcomes the focus on teaching and learning that the OFSTED adult learning inspectorate inspectors have brought. That is the starting point and it is a really important point to make by way of part response to what you said, Mr Holmes. If we focus on the quality of the teaching and learning, that is a good place to begin. We do use a common inspection framework, so that all colleges are judged against a common inspection framework. Also, it is not true to say that our evidence suggests that colleges serving more deprived areas always get the negative judgments under the inspection process; nor is it true to say that the colleges servicing in a more affluent area always get a positive judgment. That is the virtue of a common inspection framework; that you make judgments vigorously against that framework.

    (Mr Taylor) If I could pick up on the specific point about how we would inspect against the value-added or individual institutions; plainly it is fundamental to all our inspections that we judge our colleges, as we judge schools, in their context. We look at the nature of the socio-economic composition of the intake and assess as far as we can the progress being made by all the students, of whatever level of attainment, against the baseline with which they start their courses. In the first year of inspection in colleges on which we will be reporting fully in the annual report in February next year, and in the joint college report with the ALI, we will be analysing in quite some detail the way in which the differential findings for different parts of the whole college sector have come out. At this point, it seems clear that we are finding that using, as fully as we can, the existing measures of value-added and progress, there are considerable differences in performance. Those are reflected by the proportions of colleges doing well or badly in their first inspections. We have focussed on one of the key areas, being relatively poor progress in the lower attaining pupils' courses, particularly levels one and two. We think that is a national concern, that the quality of provision and response for those students, is not as good as for the higher achieving A Level students. That is a general picture and a matter on which we shall be commenting. That is not to say that we are being harder on colleges that predominantly have those students; but that the quality, as observed by inspectors, is weaker in some of the lower level courses and work-related courses that are being seen, than it is in A levels.

    (Mr Bell) The finding that David has just referred to is supported by our area-wide inspections, where we looked at provision for 16-19 year olds across a larger area than one single institution. The choice, the options and advice is often poorer for students at levels one and two, than for students at level three.

  43. You made the general point that with colleges that serve areas of high deprivation, some do well but the majority do not. You say that they do not all do badly. The same thing is always said about schools, but it still remains true with schools, that the vast majority of schools that ever went into special measures, served areas of social deprivation. The Association of Colleges is saying that it is concerned that the relatively low inspection grades achieved by the majority of colleges are disadvantaged. In the vast majority of cases it is true that colleges that serve deprived areas are getting much lower inspection grades than others. With schools and league tables trying to work in value-added factors, how far an you do that with college inspections?
  44. (Mr Taylor) If I may finish the point, we have fairly well-established ALIS type evaluations of progress from GCSE to A level, subject to the reliability of either of those measures, because no value-added indicator is better than the input and output ratios. There are no such measures nationally, and the Association of Colleges and we have had many productive discussions about the need to get better, by developing a value-added regime, which will reflect progress in vocational courses and in lower level courses. That is one of the challenges to the system. We can only use those indices that are there now. We do so, but we are working with the centre and with the LSC to try and develop much more sensitive ways of measuring progress to reflect the real achievements of some students who start with very low levels of achievement.

  45. One specific adjustment that the college would argue is needed, and which has to be recognised, is the nature of their students, particularly adult students. Many of them are pursuing a college course while they look for employment. Often, they will leave the course because they got employment - sometimes as a result of things they did on the course - and so they never complete the course; yet the criteria that you apply focus very much on things like completing the course and achieving the qualification. An awful lot of students leave the course because they have a job, which to them might be more important. How do you build things like that into a general framework, where you are measuring how many students are passing the course?
  46. (Mr Taylor) We are working with ALI to build it in as sensibly as possible, bearing in mind that at the moment there is a deficiency in some of the data we need about where the students who leave the course prematurely are actually going. If we were clearer on the destinations of all those people who leave courses - and colleges themselves are not always as clear as they might be - then we could say more about whether for somebody to leave the course prematurely for an alternative course of action it is a positive thing or not. At the moment, we are still concerned that levels of retention are too low across the board, and you cannot explain that factor entirely by people leaving for what one might term to be good reasons. We think ti is right to continue to focus our attention with ALI on the issue of retention as a very serious one.

    Mr Chaytor

  47. We now have a system of inspection of colleges, inspection of local education authorities, and area inspections. What is the evidence that all this inspection has led to any improvement in quality of 16-19 provision, or any structural and organisational change in specific parts of the country?
  48. (Mr Bell) Can I take the second part of your question first, and in a sense make the comment to Mr Holmes as well. These sorts of concerns about the comparison of the data that has been used are important for judging any single institution; but of course they are equally important when you try to make comparisons across the sector as a whole, because many young people are educated in post-16 provision of schools or sixth-form colleges. That is a pressing issue because you will recall the proposals within the Government's Green Paper Success for All suggest that the local learning and skills council will be given precisely the kind of reorganisation or plan-setting powers that you have described. Therefore, it will be important in our inspections to be able to make those accurate comparisons between different sorts of institutions, and also look at the range of provision across an area. It is true to say, Chairman, that we have a new inspection power to do area-wide inspections of 14-19 provision, so that is a really pressing issue for us, to get that right.

  49. What is the evidence that change has been brought about by the current inspection at the moment? You are saying it may well be brought about in the future.
  50. (Mr Bell) Obviously, this is not our area of responsibility. My understanding is that I do not think there have been massive amounts of change coming about in post-16 provision. That is partly to do, I think, with the absence of power. What has been proposed within the Success for All Green Paper is that the local learning and skills councils should be given this new responsibility for bringing about plans which may in turn lead to the organisation.

    (Mr Taylor) This is new; we have only been doing these inspections for just over a year, but there are some positive outcomes already emerging. We have largely been in the process of training our searchlight on the areas of the investigation. We have highlighted the lack of strategic planning for post-16, poor provision of guidance on work-based training groups and will continue to highlight them. They will feature prominently in next year's reporting. On the ground, just the fact that we have drawn attention to such issues is beginning to make a difference. That difference will need concerted action by the local learning and skills councils and the providers themselves, but we have already unearthed some serious issues that need to be addressed if proper provision for all 14 and 16-19 year olds is to be put in place. Inspection is already starting to work in those areas.

  51. One of the traditional criticisms of OFSTED is that it came in, it reported, and then it moved on, without building on the recommendations that it made. I was interested to hear you saying, Mr Bell, in your opening remarks, that in secondary school inspections, in fact all school inspections, you are now taking a more interventionist approach in setting up special measures, working parties, to try to prevent schools with serious weaknesses descending into special measures. Are you taking a more interventionist approach in the 16-19 year old area, and, if so, what is it; and how will you influence the LSC, given it is the LSC that has structural responsibilities?
  52. (Mr Taylor) We are, but we are having to make very clear what is our role and what is the LSC's role. That partnership, involving the ALI, the DfES and the DWP as well, is crucial in taking this forward constructively. We have built in to the inspection regime a systematic follow-up of a monitoring character by HMI; re-inspection of any curriculum area that is found deficient, with the promise of a full re-inspection of any that is continuing to be unsatisfactory and a cause for concern; regular reporting back to the local learning and skills councils, to ensure that the actions plans which follow inspections are followed up systematically. Indeed, the intervention programme is already showing clear successes in terms of colleges which, on their first inspection, were failing. Some of those colleges have made extremely good progress and some have not made such good progress yet. We are continuing to work closely with them to make sure that that progress is as it should be.


  53. Do you not get worried about this whole area? This is an area that is pretty new to you. At the same time, the learning and skills councils, which people say are not really up and running properly - it seems to me that most of our constituents would say, "we know what the skills needed in this country are and we know what needs to be done for 14-19"; but at the same time, the Junior Minister is now telling us that there is going to be a new reappraisal of skills needs that will not report until June. Is this not the most confused area that you are working in, David?
  54. (Mr Bell) We bring clarity to it, Mr Chairman.

  55. You have all these partners. I am surprised that you do not pick up that this is a very confused area of education and training -
  56. (Mr Bell) To some extent, we would support that point. If you look at our area-wide inspections, we are saying that there is an incoherence in a number of areas, and an absence, as David suggested, of strategic planning and so on.

  57. Absolutely.
  58. (Mr Bell) If you look at what is proposed in the Green Paper Success for All, that identification of incoherence or a problem now has to be translated into a specific plan of action laid out by the local learning and skills councils. Our task, surely, is to report on what we find; and then others who are responsible for implementation take that forward? We are contributing to what I would accept is in some areas an incoherence of provisions; and it is for others to take forward the next steps.

    Chairman: We will be taking it up with the Learning and Skills Council shortly. Can I now move on to the Connexions inspections.

    Ms Munn

  59. This again is a relatively new area for OFSTED, so can I start with some general comments about how you feel OFSTED has adapted to taking over the inspection of something that is quite different.
  60. (Mr Bell) You are right. I guess our traditional inspection activity in this area had been looking at careers provision in schools and looking at council-led youth services; so this was a new area. As you know, the Connexion service is an interesting partnership of a range of providers both public, private and voluntary. We were asked to carry out these inspections, and, as we say in the introduction to our report, these were inspecting partnerships that were pilots and had only been in place for a relatively short time. However, this report has highlighted some of the important issues that remain for Connexion's partnerships up and down the country to address. Let me give you two that I think are particularly important. One is making young people more generally aware of the work of Connexions Our report points out that for those young people that HMI interviewed as part of the inspection, who are having direct experience of working for a personal advisor, were in many cases quite complimentary about the work that is being done. But a more general knowledge and understanding of what Connexions did and how it could help you, as a young person, was not always there. To some extent that is inevitable, is it not, given the fact that these are such new services? However, it raises quite an important issue for Connexions' partnerships. The second point that I think is terribly important - and in some senses this is reasonably predicable - is to do with the engagement of all the different partners making proper provision for young people. For example, what is the relationship between the Connexions' personal advisor and the working going on in an individual school? What is the relationship between the Connexions Service and the work being done by the educational psychologist, and so on? These are important issues that really need to be addressed. Again, let me pick up on a theme that seems to be emerging this morning. Our job is to identify those areas, and in this case we have identified these issues quite early in the process. I hope that will be useful both to the Connexions Service national unit and to individual Connexions partnerships.

  61. One of the tensions in setting up Connexions, which concerned me, is the laudable aim, and a very sensible aim and trying to focus in on a small group of young people who are struggling and need a lot of support, and the ones that need some kind of database to carry round for all their personal advisors, whether for education or youth development team, or whatever. Do you need to focus in on giving them extra help and support, but at the same time providing a universal service so that in theory every young person has a personal advisory who will help them through planning the next stages of their life. Do you think Connexions are beginning to show how they are going to manage this inherent tension?
  62. (Mr Bell) David Taylor might wish to comment, but I think the report is quite clear; that a number of these management and operational issues about relationships between personal advisers and other services would remain unresolved. That is a general observation. To be fair, there is a tension for the Connexions Service because it is a universal service, though it does work on the premise too that there will be higher levels of intervention for young people with specific difficulties. One of the important questions that remains for the Connexions Services is how you can avoid the Connexions personal advisor just becoming yet another individual, like all the others that deal with them if they are in difficulty? For example, if you are a young person in the criminal justice system and you have your YOT officer, you might be having problems with substance abuse and there will be somebody supporting you there; you may have special educational needs or family difficulties, and a social worker is supporting you. One of the intentions of the Connexions Service was to allow the personal advisor to be a kind of gatekeeper. It is early days, but that is an important issue that needs to be resolved.

    (Mr Taylor) It emphasises one thing we have said in our report, which is that the role of the personal adviser is quite a complex one. Some of the people that came in from careers guidance backgrounds had quite a lot of work to do to take on some of those functions. That is something we have highlighted as still needing to be done. On the careers, education and guidance front, that is where that inherent tension between the universal service and them ore specific support for those most in need, is the most apparent. We have registered continuing concerns that a possible unintended casualty in some places is the loss of the kind of universal support in years ten and eleven particularly, to access to advice and guidance on careers and work-related matters that all young people should receive at that stage.

    Mr Pollard

  63. What challenges does inspection of the Connexions Service place on the experience and expertise of your staff?
  64. (Mr Taylor) It has been very exciting actually. We have recruited a number of people with quite a range of backgrounds, including youth services, careers education, secondary and post-compulsory. We have deliberately set it up as a cross-divisional project where we involve HMI with a range of backgrounds. The framework is a new framework and in some ways a pioneering one, with a very strong focus on the young person at the heart of the experience, as being one that has gained immeasurably from that internal dialogue as well as making sure that we brought in our external partners. I think it was important that we worked hard to get the right kind of teams, but having done so I have a very high level of confidence that we are bringing that sort of multi-skill approach to inspect Connexions, which will guarantee a quality product.

    Chairman: This Committee will be looking at Connexions in more depth in future. I get the distinct impression when we visited schools and mentioned the Connexions Service that ... Perhaps it would not be accurate to say that. We are going to look at inspection regulation and tendering

    Mr Turner

  65. You have always had a small directly employed inspectorate, and now you have a massive one and a contracting inspectorate. Which is better?
  66. (Mr Bell) I am not sure it is a question of which is better and which is worse. The decision, as you know, is enshrined in legislation, that a market would be created for the inspection of schools. I think that that market has increasingly matured over time. We are in the process of consulting at the moment with the market about new ways of contracting in the future. For example, we are considering the possibility of reducing the number of contractors, and of offering them longer periods of time over which they can have guarantee of work and so on. That has been a maturing process in the contracting system. Do not forget as well that at the very beginning of OFSTED we tendered on a school-by-school basis with a very, very large number of people. Over time those numbers have reduced. That was enshrined in law. The arrangements that were determined for the childcare system were that we would transfer over the staff that we have got. As we have indicated earlier, these arrangements are working well. We have had a slow start, but it is beginning to move forward. These are different systems, rather than one being better and one being worse.

  67. Presumably, if you thought that the market system would work better for early years or the direct employment system would work better elsewhere, you would be encouraging Parliament to change the law.
  68. (Mr Bell) My view, the market system in school inspections has delivered very effectively for us over the past ten years. Therefore, there is little, if no, prospect of me coming back and saying we should return to a directly employed workforce in terms of inspection of schools. As far as the inspection of childcare is concerned, we have to consider all options for the future of that kind of work. It has been a very demanding task for us having to expect 100,000 plus providers to carry out the regulation and so on. Our focus at the moment, as you would expect, is to deliver the task that was set to us in the transitional period; then, as I suggested earlier, we are moving to a new kind of inspection system with the emphasis on quality and so on. Therefore, we will consider all the options in the way in which we deliver in the future.

  69. Clearly, the fewer providers there are, the bigger they are, the more potential there is for conflict for other work they may be doing with schools or with a local education authority or indeed with a local authority, or even with the government. How can you judge at what level the involvement of a large-scale operator like Price Waterhouse Coopers - in some other work being done by the local authority, say - which would present a conflict of interests?
  70. (Ms Passmore) We have always had to take account of connection or a situation which would mean it would be unfair for a school to be inspected by a particular person or particular team. As we look at developing our contracting arrangements, we have to take account of the situation as we find it now, which is very different from the situation ten years ago, when these large consulting companies were not involved in education in the way they are. It is something we are very alert to. We want to make sure that we allow our inspectors to continue to repot properly. As David has already said - in words we have used throughout our entire history of inspections - "without fear or favour" - but we want to make sure that the people we involve have the right lines of demarcation between different areas.

    (Mr Bell) If we do look at fewer contractors and possibly longer period of time, we might bring about further benefits because we have a greater incentive for organisations that are really focussed down on inspection activities. I think there is a potential benefit there.

    Mr Baron

  71. Mr Bell, many schools share a concern that the tendering process produces inconsistencies when it comes to inspection, something that seems to be borne out by the National Association of Education Inspectors. Do you think this is an issue and what are you trying to do to combat it?
  72. (Mr Bell) It is a major responsibility of mine, again enshrined in law, as far as maintaining the quality of the inspection system. There is a lot that we do, and it is a big challenge because we have got about 4,000 actively and regularly inspected, and it is a fair number of people doing these things. To give you an indication of the ways in which we do it, we give very clear guidance about what is expected of inspectors, and there is a lot of training from inspectors. We also have a division of OFSTED that is responsible for inspection quality. Just to give you some indication of that activity, last year there were approximately 4,000 inspections. Around half of those were directly monitored on site by the HMI going out and seeing how these inspections were carrying out that task. The remainder would be monitored via a review of documentation. All the evidence we have brought together would be checked to see if the written report matched up. It is something that we take incredibly seriously. Obviously, it is one of the virtues of the OFSTED inspection system that we are able to say that a judgment made in a school in Cumbria is done in the same way as a judgment on a school in Cornwall. That is very important.

    (Ms Passmore) We have to look carefully at what is meant sometimes between consistency and uniformity. There are things we would be very, very concerned about if we felt that there was not the right sort of standard of approach being applied to the way inspectors conduct inspections; but, equally, we are very concerned that inspectors take account of the school as it is. Therefore we do not want a formulaic situation where you have to report on such tight lines that you cannot take account of the school that has got a particularly innovative curriculum or is doing something really exciting in terms of out-of-school activity. We want to make sure that there is a consistency of standard of the way we do things, but that there is sufficient flexibility in the way inspectors respond. This sometimes leads to people saying, "why is it different in this school from the one down the road?" It is because we have tried to take account of the right sort of circumstances.

  73. I fully accept your point about consistency. Do you not think, though, that that aim would be helped, for example, with contracts on an annual basis. There does seem to be some long distance travelled by many of the inspection teams, and sometimes different inspection teams visit the same school. Would that not be helped if we fell back on what was happening in regard to early years and basically a regional office?
  74. (Ms Passmore) Yes, although I have had the view put to me very forcibly in the last week that there is something important about inspectors having a rather greater national perspective. It was always regarded as very important in the work of the HMI that we did see the variety across the country, and we have to guard against what could be a problem of saying, "it is always like this in X area, and therefore you cannot expect any more". I am anxious that we do not do something that depresses expectations because of difficult circumstances.

  75. What about annual awards?
  76. (Ms Passmore) The annual awarding we are looking at and trying to increase the period. We have to take account of the changes that might come along, that Parliament might have in store for us but of which we are not yet aware. We cannot contract for too long a period therefore, but we certainly want to make it a more attractive proposition, that it will be longer than the current period.


  77. Some members of this committee would be concerned, and some of us believe strongly that small and medium size enterprises are the ones we would rather champion. It would be worrying for us if we saw that big organisations like OFSTED were dealing with big players. There are rumours that you are looking to drop the principle of smaller players that carry out inspection work, and go for the bigger players. That would worry us because we think that at the end of the day it is limbering up to the bigger businesses. We have had some interesting conversations with Capita and others on individual learning accounts. We would be a bit worried if we saw OFSTED becoming more dependent on the big players, and starting and pushing out the smaller players. At the end of the day, you might get into a situation where you are too dependent on a small group of big players that then would not only force prices up but take the availability - the smaller ones will go to the wall and they will not come back easily. What do you say about that? (Mr Bell) It has been a process of evolution really, as I suggested, since the beginning of OFSTED, where you had very small operations and of course there has been consolidation, consolidation, consolidation over that period of ten years. We are seeing that happening naturally within the market. That is not something that we have direct control over. If particular kinds of organisations decide to link with other kinds of organisations - and there is evidence that that is happening - that is not really for us to control. I accept the point of course we are suggesting that that is the way we are going in a push within OFSTED. It is really for the market, the inspection providers to determine that.
  78. I am sorry, Mr Bell, I do not agree with that. I believe you are the sole purchaser of this kind of service. I know in parallel in the private sector if you have the powerful role that you have, you can make yourself open to the smaller player, new people coming into the market or you can get into a comfortable relationship with the big players. It really is the message you give to the world out there. I understand what you say about consolidation but we would be very concerned if there was not a message going out from OFSTED that if a smaller group wanted to tender for OFSTED inspection they would not be excluded.
  79. (Mr Bell) To be frank, there is always a balance to be struck on this between making sure that the market offers opportunities for a range of providers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, ensuring that the system we have provides quality and value for money, because again those are statutory responsibilities that I have. That is why we are in a consultation period at the moment. We do want to hear what the market has to say. We are anxious as well to open up that consultation more widely. We will hear what a range of other people have to say and I am sure what this Committee has to say will be important.

    Valerie Davey

  80. One of the concerns this Committee has had as well is that teachers are seconded in, it is valuable for them, for their training; is that still a criterion?
  81. (Mr Bell) Again it is for individual contractors.

  82. Again, I would beg to differ, as the Chairman did. That is one of your criterion.
  83. (Mr Bell) Yes, but what I would say is that I am very keen - very keen - to continue to encourage serving teachers and headteachers to participate in inspection. It is not just good for us, as it were, in terms of having a broader range of people doing inspection. I actually believe it is very good for the individuals concerned because those skills that they take back can be applied in their own schools.

    (Miss Passmore) As far as the market is concerned, we have reached the point where we feel that to have a very large number of contractors offering a very small number of inspections does not allow us to meet our requirements to deliver a value for money service, so we have put a minimum number of inspections on.


  84. At what level?
  85. (Miss Passmore) At the moment we are looking at 45 inspections over the course of the whole year for the coming year. Looking further ahead, there are proposals to look for a longer contracting period and for perhaps larger areas, but at the moment the consultation is only with contractors. That finishes tomorrow. We are then going to look at that response at consultation much more widely because some of the concerns you have raised are concerns that I share about achieving a reasonable balance between what is value for money in all the administration that we have to deal with, whether it be one contractor or 50 contractors, and we are very keen to make sure that we are able to deliver the service well. We do want to increase - we have said to the Committee before - the number of headteachers and teachers who take part in inspections and we have been looking at the ways in which we can do that so that it is beneficial for the people taking part in inspections but does not leave their schools in a difficult situation while they are doing that work. We have in the Education Bill that is has just been enacted powers to look at ways in which we can do Section 10 inspections slightly differently, y doing more internally, and we are considering whether that may be a route of involving teachers for perhaps a term or two terms which would not then be so difficult for their schools.

  86. I do not want the Committee to spend too much time on this but I have to say we do have some misgivings about the sort of drift we are getting from this. Even a little bit of consultancy, dare I say it even my own institution, the London School of Economics, will tell you the perils of getting into a situation of large scale but with a small number of providers.
  87. (Mr Bell) I can assure you that we are in consultative mode at the moment.

    Chairman: Be wary. School inspections - and we are going to be led on this by John.

    Mr Baron

  88. Mr Bell, one of the key problems facing schools at the moment is the recruitment and retention of teachers. There is a school of thought out there that part of the problem is the amount of red tape, bureaucracy, and the number of directives that seem to be swamping the profession. Your predecessor indicated at the back end of last year that OFSTED would focus more on this issue, not only as a way of monitoring the issue but as a way of helping the schools improve the way things are going forward. Are you going to maintain that focus?
  89. (Mr Bell) If I might just highlight the fact that you asked us to report in the Annual Report for next year on some of the issues to do with bureaucracy in schools and that we will do. I think the issue of bureaucracy and OFSTED has two dimensions to it. One is what is OFSTED doing itself either to increase or reduce bureaucracy. My predecessor talked about a number of steps that we had taken to try to reduce bureaucracy associated with inspection. For example, schools should not go about doing especially written lesson plans or policy documents just for the inspectors and so on. You are right the other part of this was for us to be able to report on the impact of bureaucratic demands on schools. As I say, that is something that we will come back to you and report on when we talk about the Annual Report next March.

  90. Can you give us an early indication of how forthright you are going to be on this. If you think it is warranted, are you going to be quite critical in order to highlight the problems surrounding this issue?
  91. (Mr Bell) We have said I think for the third time this morning that we will report without fear or favour. I think this is an important issue for us to talk about. At times it is quite difficult to get a handle on it. Headteachers and teachers will say we have got a lot of bureaucracy and, of course, quite legitimately either in inspection or in more casual conversation you say to people, "Give me some of the specifics." It is quite important to drill down because presumably for government it will be important to know exactly where that bureaucratic burden falls and what are the things that people are most concerned about, so we will try to do that in our report. If I can give you an example. We have commented on in other work on Education Action Zones and Excellence in Cities. At times there can be a kind of bureaucratic overhead in bidding, in writing bids, in securing funding, and so on. We have commented already quite forcibly on that. Those are the sorts of ways in which we can make a very specific contribution to identify where there might be a particular bureaucratic burden.

    Jeff Ennis

  92. The last time you gave evidence to the Committee my colleague Meg Munn asked you about the issue with regard to schools' policy on inclusion as opposed to focusing on the resource of the school and achievements of the school. You said you would take a rain check on that and prepare for it this time. How important do you think the issue of inclusivity is in terms of the overall ethos?
  93. (Mr Bell) It is always dangerous to have people with good memories!


  94. I hope Meg Munn is paying you a good sum for asking her question!
  95. (Mr Bell) Education inclusion is an area where I think OFSTED can be quite - I use the word advisedly - proud of the way in which we have incorporated this in our inspection arrangements. We have in the last year or so produced guidance called Inspecting Educational Inclusion. All inspectors were required to undertake training in these materials as a condition of continuing registration. That right away gave a signal of how important we saw this. What I think is very important about that guidance is that we make the point that talking about education inclusion is not something that can be relegated to a paragraph of a report of a school inspection; it should actually infuse everything that you report on in a school inspection. I think that is a really powerful issue for us. That is one way in which we can do it. The other way, of course, is that we have quite a distinguished history in reporting on a whole range of issues to do with special educational need -

  96. You say distinguished history. Is there an external adjudicator on this distinguished history apart from us?
  97. (Mr Bell) We have talked about SEN issues at the back of our evidence. We have talked about issues of racial equality. One of the most important pieces of work we ever did was reporting on the education of children in public care, a group of children who we would all have to accept had not been properly included within the education system. So we do take this really, really seriously both in individual institutional inspection and in the broader policy and survey work we do.

  98. Have you got a distinguished history in influencing the climate within schools. I come back to the OECD report which I am looking at again in the editorial in the Financial Times when, yes, it says our schools are performing pretty well but where we should be concentrating all our efforts is lower down the ability range. It just seems to me that all the work you do in all these inspections, perhaps Carol Fitz-Gibbon is right, get rid of you lot and spend the money on helping address the underachieving child. Let teachers get on with teaching and children with learning. That is the sort of thing that teachers say to us, "OFSTED has done a job. Get rid of it now and put the resources into helping lift this tail." What do you say to Carol Fitz-Gibbon who says this is a waste of public money?
  99. (Mr Bell) To repeat the point I made earlier, it is a very small proportion of the education budget.

  100. Your budget?
  101. (Mr Bell) The OFSTED budget is a very small proportion of the overall education budget.

  102. Most of our constituents think it is a lot of money.
  103. (Mr Bell) At this point I might bring in Robert Green to give you the killer fact.

    (Mr Green) I am grateful to everybody who has been trying to bring me in! The fact is the OFSTED budget is about half a per cent of the education budget in terms of schools and FE.

    Mr Chaytor

  104. Can I pursue the point about the "distinguished history". What I am interested in is how do we measure the impact of the distinguished history? Your report on local education authorities seemed to include this apparent relationship between good LEAs and the performance of schools. Would it not be logical to conclude that there is a case for external evaluation of OFSTED to demonstrate whether there was a proven relationship between ten years of distinguished history and the fact that -
  105. (Mr Bell) Chairman, I am going to forever regret using the terminology "distinguished history", I am sure. What I would say is that it is very difficult to prove cause and effect when it comes to inspection and the raising of standards. I for one would not claim that inspection causes improvement. What I would say to you is, first of all, that the inspection system identified in many cases the need for improvement in a way that had previously not gone on in the English education system. That is a fact. I think if one takes the most extreme end of the continuum and looks at the number of schools that were in special measures with serious weaknesses, there are a quarter of a million children who were from schools that were in special measures that are now, I would argue, receiving a better standard of education because of what we have identified.

  106. But how do we measure that? The concept of serious weakness and special measures is your own characterisation, as it were. There is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy about this. What about the external measures? If I can give you an example. There is no point in having a reduction in the number of schools in special measures unless there is an objective measurement of the improvement in the education of the children attending those schools.
  107. (Mr Bell) It depends what you mean by objective improvement. What I would say is that those schools have been judged in the first place using the inspection system to determine whether they are in special measures or not. If you are saying to me, "That is your judgment, nobody else's ..."

  108. It is a subjective judgment.
  109. (Mr Bell) The reality is if you look at the judgments that inspectors have to make before determining a school is in special measures, they are very rigorous indeed. To be frank, I would say that if we are suggesting that it is not possible using the inspection system to identify schools that are failing to provide an adequate standard of education, that is just not true. I think we were able and are still able to identify such schools. You raised a question about the external evaluation of OFSTED's work. I take very seriously my accountability and OFSTED's accountability to this Committee. That seems to me to be a very serious kind of external challenge to the work of OFSTED. I said it publicly recently that I have absolutely no problem with people looking at our work. The books are open, if I can put it that way. One of the other virtues of the OFSTED inspection system is that the work, the criteria, the framework we use are all open and transparent. So I do not have a problem. I think the issue is do you really want to commission an external evaluation when there are so many ways in which through this Committee you can challenge me and challenge us about the work of OFSTED.


  110. Can I follow up on my colleague's question on that. One of your predecessors yesterday said on television that here is a system trying to improve school standards and still one in four children at 11 are illiterate and innumerate. That is a comment on the value of the work of OFSTED, is it not? Is it true that we have still got one in four illiterate and innumerate children, because it has not come out in the figures?
  111. (Mr Bell) The national test results published recently suggest that just under 80 per cent of children had achieved the appropriate level at aged 11. That is what was published at the key stage with national results.

  112. So it is one in five?
  113. (Mr Bell) As David pointed out earlier, the identification of some of the systemic problems to do with the teaching of reading and writing in schools were identified in the first place through the work of inspection. Again, I am not suggesting that inspection has caused or brought about those improvements in schools. It would be arrogant in the extreme to suggest that. That kind of work has been brought about by teachers, headteachers, governors and others in schools. What I would say is that we have identified some of those issues and difficulties. We have cited a number of examples this morning - Connexions, early years, and so on - where we are identifying what is happening and how that then leads to the bringing about of improvement.

  114. But are you not creating the wrong culture? You have just admitted in the last section you seem to be moving to larger groups coming in to do your inspections. They are coming in as hired mercenaries, they go and do an inspection, and one of the greatest criticisms of OFSTED is that you then walk away from a school and do not work with a school to make sure that the improvements that are necessary when you find failures through inspection actually happen. That is the big criticism of OFSTED, is it not?
  115. (Mr Bell) Let me deal with that directly. I think it is very important that we remind ourselves where the responsibility lies for bringing about improvement. That lies with the governors, staff and the wider community associated with an individual school, and I think one of the reasons why it is important to have a separation between inspection and advice is precisely so that we do not confuse lines of accountability. Having said that, I think I would be concerned if schools see inspection as some sort of disembodied experience that does not make any contribution to their improvement. I have said in a number of settings recently that the responsibility for evaluating the work of what goes on in a school is the schools' but external inspection - rigorous, independent inspection to published criteria - can assist the schools' processes of evaluation. That is one justification. Do not forget I believe another important justification of OFSTED's work is public accountability for the education system.

  116. Can we take you through the culture of this. You are a teacher or head in a small school. The way you are going, it seems to me, is in comes a highly efficient team of inspectors from PriceWaterhouse or Capita and they walk in and they do a rigorous evaluation of your school and then they walk away. Psychologically, in terms of any kind of improvement, do you think that kind of big business world coming in, evaluating, and walking away is really helpful or could it totally demoralise the school?
  117. (Mr Bell) I think to some extent that could be seen as a caricature of what actually happens during an inspection process.

  118. We are suggesting in the way you are thinking in terms of the way inspection contracts will go, that is what will happen.
  119. (Mr Bell) To some extent that can happen if the inspector is not very good, whether they are part of a very small team or part of a very large team. This is about bringing about an improvement overall, as we have done in the quality of inspection. I think that good inspection, as I suggested, is independent, rigorous, external, and helping the school to improve its performance. One of the things I would say about this inspection is we are spending 30 billion on education in this country. I would have thought it is entirely legitimate for Parliament (which votes that expenditure) to know what is working and to have objective measures of performance, because I think one of the virtues of this kind of dialogue and debate this morning is that we can talk to you on the basis, not of anecdote, not of what we happen to think should or should not be happening, but on the basis of the evidence that we find, and that can bring about improvements in quality.

  120. Is that not the real heart of the difference between some of us on this Committee and the kind of philosophy you are espousing, the fact that when we were in New Zealand they wanted a better alternative to assess the achievement of their pupils but none of them wanted to go either to the inspection system or to the testing and examining system that we have in this country. It just seems to me sometimes that the view that you have just expressed is constantly pushing our schools to testing and examining at seven, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, where at the end of the day we drive out through inspection on the one hand and exams and testing on the other the ability to allow teachers to teach and children to learn. That is the criticism of part of what OFSTED is achieving.
  121. (Mr Bell) Obviously it is not for me to comment directly on national tests in this conversation.

  122. Is there not a danger that what you are obsessed with in OFSTED is measurement - the old management thing if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it? That seems to be what you are espousing today.
  123. (Mr Bell) What I would say - and I think we had a conversation about this the last time I was here - is that one of the virtues of the OFSTED inspection system is that it does not just look at one measure of performance. So when a parent or a teacher picks up an OFSTED inspection report he says, "How well is this school doing against national comparators? How well is this school doing against similar schools? What is the behaviour like in this school? What is the management like in this school? What range of extra curricular activity go on for the pupils in this school? What is the attendance like?" I think that rounded picture of what is going on in a school is very, very important. The other thing I would say - I think this is a really very encouraging statistic - is that we are now pretty well there in terms of the second round of inspections. We will finish the second round of inspections of all schools by next summer. So far nine out of ten schools inspected a second time have shown improvement since the first inspection. I am not claiming credit for inspection, but what I think I can do is report on that improvement. I actually think it is quite a powerful tool for you at a national level to have that evidence, but do not under-estimate how important the individual schools feel about having that.

    (Mr Taylor) Just really to pick up on your use of the word "measurement" and to underline the point that David is making, that in a system where, as I think you rightly say, there is a considerable danger that only that which is quantified and recorded and assessed in a formal statistical way is valued, the importance of having a body which keeps saying, "Yes, but what about quality? What about the quality of the teaching? What about the quality of the leadership? What about the nature of the experience for children? What about the way in which the community is supporting its schools?" is all the more demonstrable because we get in to evaluate the heart of the process in ways that are not subject to those easily tabulated sets of bar graphs. We actually test out whether those mean anything and whether when you look at what is happening to real pupils in real schools, real children in the early years and real students in colleges, what they are getting matches up to these external benchmarks and statistics. That is what we are there for.

  124. Are you saying that loudly and clearly enough? Why did we have to go to New Zealand and as what they were doing in their education system? Why are not some of you people saying we are getting to the stage of over-examining and over-testing and we are doing damage to children's education? I do not hear that from OFSTED.
  125. (Mr Taylor) You have not been reading our reports.

  126. We have, it is buried. I do not hear David Bell going on television and radio and clearly saying there is a great danger if we carry on this path of over-testing and over-examining we will drive out the ability of teachers to teach and children to learn in the classroom. We just do not hear it at the moment.
  127. (Mr Taylor) I will quote one example. Read the main findings of the report on the first year of the new AS arrangements about the dangers of the excessive burden. There are many more examples.

    (Mr Bell) Can I give you one -

  128. You were not expecting to come to this Committee and get an easy time.
  129. (Mr Bell) I had a naive belief once, Chairman. You received as part of your pack of materials a press release relating to our recent report on the curricula in successful primary schools. That is a very good example again of what we are saying. Here are schools that have combined the continuing emphasis on high-quality literacy and numeracy with a broad, balanced and enriched curriculum. We say categorically in that report that this is not beyond the reach of all primary schools in this country. It is another piece of evidence. We are not just saying keep focusing on this, that and the other. We recognise, as David said, the importance of the quality of experience. As I said when I launched that report, this is a good news story about combining high standards with a high quality, enriched curriculum for young children.

  130. What is the strongest thing you have said about the number of tests and exams that children have in the system? What is the strongest thing in any of the publications?
  131. (Mr Bell) Colleagues can come in if they will, given their greater awareness of OFSTED's distinguished history! The point I would make is that decisions regarding assessment at key stage levels - seven, 11, 14 and 16 - are national government decisions, so I do not think it is for me to comment.

  132. You are responsible to this Committee and you do not have to be frightened of the Department for Education and Skills nor the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister believes we are at our best when we are bold. What we are explaining to you is sometimes be bold and say to this Committee that Government policy and the way it is working through is not good for the education of our children.
  133. (Mr Bell) I will be very frank and bold with you. I believe that it is important to have national testing at seven, 11, 14 and 16, and obviously external testing. I will tell you why I think it is important to have that. Again prior to those sorts of arrangements being in place, it was not possible for parents and others to know how we were doing in the education system, not just how we were doing generally but often what progress their children were making. What I would say - and I think this is an issue that is worthy of further examination perhaps by OFSTED and more generally - is that that national testing system, of course, has spawned a whole range of other assessments in schools, and I think there may be a question as to whether that is always sensible. So we have now got tests between key stages, we have now got the tests that secondary schools will often apply when pupils first go into secondary school - and we commented on that in a recent report on the transition from primary to secondary. There is a question there that needs to be looked at. Again picking up what we said in that report about successful primary schools, those headteachers and those teachers in those schools were not complaining and saying, "This is a terrible burden, this is awful, this is dreadful."" What they were saying was, "We can use that information intelligently to find out what our pupils are doing and to devise an appropriate curriculum." There is a question about good schools always being able to use assessment information intelligently. Maybe there is a question about all the other assessments that have been spawned on the back of the national tests.

    Paul Holmes

  134. I am interested in exploring a bit more how you measure the success of the improving schools. You were saying that as OFSTED approaches its second complete round of inspecting schools, you have got a lot of evidence that a lot of schools have improved since the first round and you were saying that 30 per cent of teachers were unsatisfactory when OFSTED first went to schools and now the figure has dropped dramatically. How much is it that schools have simply learned how to press buttons and jump through the hoops that you want them to? Is that the same as saying schools are dramatically improving or are they simply achieving what you want?
  135. (Mr Bell) I think that is a serious and important question but in the end I would have thought that headteachers, teachers and governors would recognise that that is not particular sensible and valuable. The other thing that I would say is that although an inspection is a process that takes place over a few days in a week, one of the things that inspectors are very careful to do is to look at evidence that demonstrates what is going on over the rest of the school year. For example, we look at samples of children's work to see what has been happening. The questionnaire to parents gives you a flavour of what is going on when inspectors are not there. It is an important point that we must continue to use inspection as a focus but also to make sure we have a bigger picture of what is going on in schools. When you talk to headteachers and teachers, nobody is pretending inspection is not a pressure, of course it is a pressure for all sorts of reasons, but I think often schools will comment that it is useful to have that external check on what is going on. The best value for inspection is derived in schools where teachers and headteachers and governors see it as part of their continuing process of evaluating how well they are doing.

  136. Can we go to the specific example where 30 per cent of teachers were unsatisfactory and now it has dropped to -
  137. (Mr Bell) --- Five per cent unsatisfactory.

  138. The NASUWT, of which I am a member (to declare an interest) have said in their evidence: "The conduct of inspection is overly dependent on the use of unreliable subjective perceptions sourced from the practice of classroom observation." Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon has been very critical of the unreliable nature of classroom observations. In the first round of OFSTED inspections a lot of teachers said - and I was subjected to the first round of OFSTED inspections as a teacher - "We are not jumping through hoops for these people. We have got all our normal work to do. We have got exams, we have got reports, we have got coursework, we have got exam boards." In the second round of inspections they jumped through hoops. An average teacher does three lessons in the week that OFSTED is there. Do you really think that the three lessons your inspectors see that week are the same for the next four years until you come again?
  139. (Mr Bell) Let me just comment on one part of what you said. I think if you asked teachers and headteachers up and down the country whether the OFSTED criteria for what constitutes good teaching is right, most people will say, "Yes, that gives you a good flavour of what it is to teach effectively." I think that has been an important lever. You might say that is just doing what OFSTED expect, but of course, that criteria did not just emerge out of the ether. That was a judgment about what really did make effective teaching, so if teachers are looking at their performance critically against the characteristics of what makes good teaching, forget the OFSTED dimension of this, and improving their practice, surely, that is a good thing. I think that is an important point to make and that is not quite the same as jumping through hoops. As far as what you see when you observe and is that typical - it is back to the point I would make that it is quite important that inspectors do not rely simply on an observation once, twice, three or however many times but actually look at the wider evidence that gives you an insight into the quality of teaching. For example, what does pupils' work demonstrate? Is it good quality? Is it well marked? Does it cover the curriculum range?

    (Miss Passmore) As David said, the criteria we have developed and are continuing to refine (and will have further refinements in the framework that will start next September) have come through working with a very large number of people in schools along the way. I think the purpose of teaching is quite clear to everybody, that it is to help youngsters to learn, and if jumping through a hoop means you do something that helps youngsters learn, then that must be a movement in the right direction. We have seen over the years while we have been present in classrooms some very poor practice where nobody was learning anything. There is a great deal more practice where youngsters are making progress. We do still from time to time hear anecdotes about people being parachuted in for the week and extra preparation. We keep saying, "Please do what you do normally do", because when you look at the work and when you talk to the pupils, it is not in anybody's interest to do something different just for that week. We are concerned that we do not know -the time we have often cited - what happens on a wet Friday afternoon. We have to assume that what we see is the very best that is going on. We have done some paired working to go on to whether it is valid or not. We have had two inspectors in a room (with the agreement of the school concerned, because obviously if you have got two inspectors rather than one that of itself could add to stress) and we have found very, very similar correlations between both inspectors. We are working at the moment on doing further work to try and improve so that we get even less discrepency where people might make different judgments about the same lesson.

    Paul Holmes: If you think that what you see in that week in a school of an average teacher is what goes on for the best part of the next four years, I think you are being misled.

    Mr Chaytor

  140. You made the point about the importance of the bigger picture and the range of indicators for a school. Does it follow that you think that the league tables should be broadened rather than focusing on single score examination results? If so, have you advised the Government to that effect?
  141. (Mr Bell) I have two things to say about that. First of all, of course the league tables/performance tables are going to be enhanced from this year with the addition of value added data, which will be extended to all primary schools next year. So that gives you an enhancement.

  142. It still focuses on academic achievement, not the broader range?
  143. (Mr Bell) I think that is one kind of performance inspection. I actually believe that another kind of performance information is what an OFSTED report gives you. As I suggested earlier, you are getting that broader range. We know that the majority of people, when they are looking at schools, will look at performance tables, and as we know from the hits on our web site people will come and look at OFSTED reports. Of course people do what they should do; they go and visit the schools themselves. They talk to the headteacher and teachers, they walk round and see what is going on. I would have thought most people use a variety of indicators and measures to give them a flavour of what is going on. We believe we make one important contribution to that by publishing a report that covers a range of indicators of what the school is doing.

  144. Do you think league tables should evolve beyond the introduction of the value-added element?
  145. (Mr Bell) No is the straight answer to that because I believe that with the OFSTED data you have then got that broader picture of what a school is doing.

    Jonathan Shaw

  146. I have a couple of questions on the Race Relations Amendment Act. The Act requires you to take account and promote the issue of race equality within public bodies and it includes yourself and schools. You have published your Race Equality Scheme. Can you tell what your inspectors now do differently and how you monitor that? Could you also comment on the fact that there has been criticism that there is not always a focus on promoting a positive agenda on race relations in all schools which have a completely white intake.
  147. (Mr Bell) Can I make two very quick general points. First of all, just to emphasis again, a point I made earlier about our guidance to inspectors. It is a condition of continuing registration to evaluate education that provision is made for this. The second general point it is an area that OFSTED more generally has reported on because, of course, recently we produced a report on the performance of black Afro-Caribbean youngsters in both primary and secondary schools. We do take these issues seriously. Turning to the specifics I will ask Elizabeth to answer.

    (Miss Passmore) We produced our Race Equality Scheme, as you said, and published it by 31 May as required and undertook, when we received the final statutory guidance, which came the next day 1 June, that we would look again at our scheme as and when appropriate. We will do that by 31 March next year. We have in our Race Equality Scheme to take account of our duties as a public body as they apply to us. We also have the duty to promote race equality through our work as an inspectorate. In that area, we have looked at the framework for schools, for colleges and so on, and as it becomes time for reviewing them, we are making revisions to those frameworks so there are provisions in hand for the framework that will emerge for next September.

  148. But what is happening in schools? There has been criticism that little is done to promote inclusion and the positive nature of living in a multi-cultural world in schools that do not have an ethnic composition.
  149. (Miss Passmore) Schools similarly had to have a policy in place by 31 May and we are at the moment inspecting for the first term or so with that new requirement being in place. We have not at the moment asked for separate paragraphs to be pulled out because, as David said, we feel this is something that should pervade what is going on in the school.

  150. We do not want bolt on; we want it to be part of.
  151. (Miss Passmore) That is what we are asking inspectors to do. We have started looking again at reporting to see whether there is better reporting and that is now beginning to come through. We are not giving up at this point. We will be issuing further guidance to make the reporting even stronger as we issue further guidance in updates later this term.

  152. You would expect to see schools which have all-white populations promoting race relations?
  153. (Miss Passmore) It is a duty that they must.

  154. There is a further criticism about the inspection of initial teacher training which was published in June 2002 and the criticism is that it does not make explicit reference to the positive duties under the Act. Professor Osler has given evidence to us and she is saying that it should be explicit within the framework. What is your comment? If something is not explicit in the framework of teaching, what is going to happen further down the field? What is your response to those criticisms?
  155. (Miss Passmore) The framework obviously was produced at a particular time when it was difficult to know what the final requirements were going to be, and we have had to look at what it is in our duty to require of initial teacher training organisations and higher education and what it is they need to be checking for themselves. We are conscious of these concerns and are looking further at what we need to do to strengthen this.

  156. It was published in 2002 and the Act has been around since 2000.
  157. (Miss Passmore) This was the revised framework -

  158. When did you have the revised framework?
  159. (Miss Passmore) It was published earlier this year. They were all published at exactly the same sort of time.

  160. You will be looking at that to revise that?
  161. (Miss Passmore) Yes.

    Chairman: We want to look at the structure of the school year. This Committee also feels it has a distinguished history and one of the Chairmen of this Committee, Christopher Price, was extremely interested in this and wherever he is in the world I hope he takes an interest in David Chaytor's set of questions.

    Mr Chaytor

  162. Do you support the LGA's proposals that there should be a six-term year?
  163. (Mr Bell) The first thing to say is it is not an issue we look at because, as I have explained in evidence, we accept the world as it is in reporting. I have mixed feelings about it. I can see the benefits of moving to that system but, like many changes that are proposed, sometimes they are over-hyped that this is going to be the panacea to all the problems that we are facing in terms of the structure of the school year, so I am agnostic, to be frank with you.

  164. So your reports have not identified any problems in schools as a result of the existing structure?
  165. (Mr Taylor) On the general issue about whether the current shape of the year sometimes produces problems such as pressures on pupils and teachers as a result of very long terms, particularly in the summer , our evidence supports the general picture. Our evidence is evidence which relates to what real teachers and pupils tell us. That does not necessarily lead us to saying we would put our hands up and say that we support the five or six term model as an alternative. We would say where there are pressures on teachers observable through inspection we do hope to report those.


  166. Give us your addresses and we will send Chris Price round to see you.
  167. (Mr Taylor) We have written to him in response to a letter he wrote.

    Mr Chaytor

  168. Have either of the (?) gone for the conventional term year?
  169. (Miss Passmore) I am not sure. I believe there are one or two schools in the country. I recall one in the Humberside area that has gone for it, but it is very, very rare across the country.

    Mr Turner

  170. In your report on LEAs, paragraphs 170 and 171, you talk about the time it has taken to arrange intervention in the case of failed LEAs. The NAO reports that one of the problems with the Capita contract for ILAs was the withdrawal of all but one or two, depending how you interpret it of the prospective bidders for reasons of aggressive and unrealistic timescales. How do you square this problem?
  171. (Mr Bell) The specific point we were making in that report was that there was a period of drift that seemed to follow the decision to intervene and I think specifically we were concerned about the engagement of consultants and others who to a large extent would say, "OFSTED have said ..." and to a certain extent you were not taken that much further forward by it. We also have some evidence from inspection reports that far from standing still and nothing happening, things have actually got worse by a failure to respond quickly to the concerns identified in the OFSTED report. However, I suspect on this one there is no exact science and you cannot say there is a period of three months and two days or whatever. I think there is a danger of just allowing the system to drift when nothing happens. Maybe there is an interesting parallel over some of our concerns with schools in serious weaknesses. One of the reasons we have moved more quickly there is precisely because there is a sense of drift after the first judgment was made.

    (Miss Passmore) Our evidence from working with schools requiring special measures reached a point where we said it was very important to take action sooner rather than later and the first six months was very critical. That is what has informed what we are doing with schools with serious weaknesses which did indeed feel there was a period in which they did not have to do anything. What we are seeing with local education authorities is because it was a much more complicated system to set up, the intervention arrangements did take longer and there were pauses or even going backwards for a while was considerable improvement in the poorest performing local authorities where we have gone back again. We are just saying perhaps we might have seen more improvement sooner had there been a slightly shorter timescale before the intervention took place.

  172. You comment on the lack of capacity and diversion of effort into writing specifications for tendering and contracting. What about monitoring, because it is the failing authority in many cases that is having to monitor the contract?
  173. (Miss Passmore) The arrangements are now changing to try and improve that further. We have introduced what has become called the "frequent monitoring" programme. That was not the same arrangement for local authorities as there had been for schools in terms of the monitoring of poor performance where it was left until the next inspection, which might be a year or two years later. In work, therefore, where there has been a little bit of slippage, one might say, in the progress being made, I hope we shall see that that does not happen in the future.

    (Mr Bell) Mr Turner had a slightly separate point about the monitoring internally of the contract. Can I pick that up because in one LEA report we produced last term we made the point that there was considerable confusion on the role as between the client side, if one puts it that way, of the local authority, and the contractor on the other side, and a tendency to duplicate responsibilities. We were really quite critical of that kind of arrangement. Having said that, to be fair, in other reports where there is a client/contractor split, if I can use that terminology, it is working well. That is an important issue for us in our intervention reports to make sure that we do look at the way that these are working. Broadly one has to comment that in a number of inspection reports - and there must be about half a dozen now - looking at interventions, we do make the point we are going back quite soon after a contract has been signed and we can often only comment on early signals.

  174. These have been six very different patterns of outsourcing, have they not?
  175. (Mr Bell) Yes.

  176. Are you going to report in more detail on how these different procedures compare and the benefits of them?
  177. (Mr Bell) I am not sure we have got that in the programme.

    (Miss Passmore) It is not in the programme to do so at the moment.


  178. I hope you will look at the New Zealand experience as we have and reflect on some of their experience. One almost got the impression in New Zealand that they would like to get back to something like a local education authority to get systemic change. I may be wrong in that because I just notice some New Zealand parliamentarians come in!
  179. (Mr Bell) Chairman, if I get criticised in the press for jetting off to New Zealand I will say I am doing it under the express instruction of the Chairman of the Education Committee!

    Chairman: Absolutely, and I will come with you!

    Jonathan Shaw

  180. Will you be looking at local education authorities' ability to manage PFI contracts? It seems increasingly that if PFI contracts are the only game in town, as it seems, for large capital expenditure, and it does require the local education authority (which becomes a client) to bring together a whole host of different schools with different agendas, and in order for that PFI contract to work well there does need to be a clear framework, the schools need to be clear about what they are going to do in terms of facilities' management. Who is going to manage those schools? What is going to happen after the initial expression of interest. There is a lot of concern amongst governing bodies, "What the hell are we getting ourselves into?" If those arrangements are not made you then see later down the line the experience of Harringay and Sheffield who now say that there are difficulties. What is your view on that?
  181. (Mr Bell) I know from personal experience in Newcastle where I was involved in the early days of the PFI, that it is very complex.

  182. You say that and then people think, "I do not want to know" almost like they do with computers. It is the only game in town. You cannot just say it is complex because that turns people off.
  183. (Mr Bell) It is complex but what I was going to go on to say is that it really does force governing bodies to think about what their role is going to be in this. It is hard work and it is, frankly, time-consuming but many schools now benefiting from new buildings would say it is perhaps better in the long run. In terms of reporting, I am not sure if it is out yet but certainly the Audit Commission reported on PFI in education. It may be that is a subject to pursue with the Audit Commission. We would probably only comment insofar as an LEA inspection report is concerned to say a PFI deal is in place to do this, that and the other, and presumably we would only comment further if very significant issues had been raised either by schools or the LEA itself.

  184. You do not think it is your role to comment on the expertise of the local education authority as the client in supporting schools to ensure that huge public projects are managed successfully?
  185. (Mr Bell) I do not want to speak out of turn but I think that is an issue the Audit Commission have touched on in their report looking at the capacity of LEAs to manage projects.

  186. If it is the only game in town for getting cash for schools, this is going to be increasingly an LEA responsibility and you inspect LEAs -
  187. (Mr Bell) That is a reasonable point. I guess you would also expect me to say that in this work that has been done in some detail by the Audit Commission, we would have to be absolutely sure that we are adding any more value, but you are right.

    Jonathan Shaw: They are not looking at every LEA in the way that you are.


  188. Can I ask you to give us a reasoned response to that. I think Jonathan makes a very strong point. In my own local authority in Kirklees, where there is a major PFI contract, you can see physically the change in the management of that school and it must be of some interest to OFSTED?
  189. (Mr Bell) Absolutely. We will come back to you with more.

    Mr Pollard

  190. In your report in Annex A my local authority, Hertfordshire, appears regularly as purveyors of good practice, in fact miles more than any other authority and yet there are distinct gaps where it does not appear, although I am not saying it is not good in those areas. Is there a bit of hoop-jumping here, as Elizabeth was talking about earlier, and people saying, "We do not jump through hoops and, even if we do, we jump through hoops for a purpose." Secondly somebody on the panel said earlier on that it is the governors and staff who drive up standards. Should not greater emphasis be given on those aspects of supporting governors and staff rather than being one of a whole range of things? If they are the key determinants in driving up standards we should be putting some wellie into that.
  191. (Mr Bell) Absolutely. As far as the first point is concerned, we made the conscious decision to report in that annex on areas where particular authorities were doing particular things very well. Interestingly, that has been very well received.

  192. Certainly in my authority.
  193. (Mr Bell) Not just by those who are mentioned in despatches but by those who perhaps have got weaknesses in some areas, who will say, "That is good, we can go and talk to Hertfordshire and Birmingham or whatever." I think it is good that is there. I am sure that Hertfordshire and other authorities that are mentioned a number of times would probably also say to you they are not good at everything and they will look at what other authorities are good at and perhaps they can learn. As far as governors are concerned, yes, what support the LEA gives to governors is an important part of the LEA inspection process. The support governors are given is something we look at more generally in OFSTED. I and a number of colleagues have addressed governors' conferences. That is terribly, terribly important because sometimes there is a tendency for important performance information within a school to reside with the headteacher and properly that should be the responsibility of the governors to look at the data and then to hold the school to account. We are all for pushing that. As you know, we look after that nearly extinct beast, the PANDA, within OFSTED, which is the performance and management information sent out to every school each autumn. We send a copy of that to the chair of governors and we just recently strengthened the advice in the accompanying letter to say it is really important that this is discussed by the whole governing body. I think OFSTED is making a contribution to encouraging governors to take their responsibilities for governance and leadership very seriously.

    Jonathan Shaw: Are any of the staff here from OFSTED also school governors?


  194. Robert Green is.
  195. (Mr Green) I resigned as vice chair of a board of governors of a comprehensive school on taking up my post in OFSTED, so I have recent experience.

  196. So none of your senior management are on a board of governors?
  197. (Mr Bell) There is a restriction on being governors. As I think you can understand, there may be a concern about OFSTED there.

    Chairman: You have been very courageous sitting there taking all this fire but we have got one more item we want to cover and that is reducing the burden of inspection. David, would you like to lead on that?

    Mr Chaytor

  198. What steps have you taken in the last 12 months to continue the reduction of this great burden of bureaucracy that teachers always complain about?
  199. (Mr Bell) Is this the steps we have taken?

  200. The steps you have taken to simplify the information process.
  201. (Mr Bell) I can highlight a couple of issues. First of all, as a general principle, the inspection arrangements that are going to come into play next year build further on the principle of inspection in proportion to risk, in other words, not inspecting too regularly those institutions. That is a principle that began in 2000 and will be enhanced. That is the general approach but I will ask Elizabeth to highlight some of the very specific actions that we have taken.

    (Miss Passmore) The first thing obviously I think you would expect us to say is schools are now only being inspected normally between every four to six years. We feel that as we have tried to smooth out the timescale, that of itself has been an important step. We said that we would move to having forms being able to be completed electronically. We piloted that first because some of these things sound good but do not always work so well. We conducted a pilot where we received very positive feedback, and forms are now available if schools wish to complete them electronically in a much more simple form than was ever possible before. We are moving to pre-entering data. It sounded like a panacea at one point but we are concerned that if we did not enter up-to-date and accurate data we would be in danger of giving schools more work rather than less when they checked it. That is progressing not quite as fast as we initially hoped. We have reduced the amount of information that we require from schools. We have written and pleaded with them not to undertake extra preparation and do things differently for the period that inspectors are present. We have specifically said to inspectors that they must not ask schools to fill in forms in a particular way that the inspectors would wish. The inspectors must take and use material from schools in a form in which it should be available. We have given further guidance to inspectors in general on what is required and, again, asked them not to ask schools for things that they should not be asking for. We are continuing to review our procedures to try and ensure that schools do not receive visits other than Section 10, visits from the HMI survey for example, within a specified period of having had a Section 10 inspection. We are looking to make sure that the different bits of OFSTED therefore are not placing undue demands on school.

    Mr Chaytor

  202. Will that process continue or do you think you have now reached perfection?
  203. (Miss Passmore) No, I do not think we have reached perfection. We have made a good effort but we shall continue to -


  204. A distinguished history but not yet perfection.
  205. (Mr Taylor) Could I make the obvious point that bureaucracy is about attitude as well as activity. One of the things which a lot of us who go round the country and meet teachers and heads hear is people saying to us that the attitude of inspectors is one of the things that is most important in reducing the sense that inspection is a bureaucratic process done to them rather than one which is genuinely aiming to work with the grain. I believe it is very important the message we have given increasingly over the last couple of years that inspectors are there to work with schools and colleges to bring about improvement. They are not there to be interfere or be punitive; they are there to support and encourage good practice. All of those are anti-bureaucratic not because they reduce particular amounts of paper work but because they help prevent the impression that we are a bureaucracy with Byzantine methods of working.

  206. Have any of your inspectors objected to this reduction? Have they found it has caused problems for them?
  207. (Miss Passmore) I have not had very direct feedback on that.

    Paul Holmes

  208. The Association of Lay Inspectors submitted evidence both to you and the Committee which is very critical saying their morale is low, they are overworked and underpaid and the shift from requiring paperwork submissions from schools has meant that they have to do more work and they are not getting the time or money. They sound very, very critical and uncertain about what the future holds from their point of view. Have you got any comments on that?
  209. (Miss Passmore) When we launched the consultation a year ago about changing the arrangements to Section 10 and we raised questions about looking at how long might a lay inspector be considered to be a lay inspector, it did, unsurprisingly, raise some concerns. We have moved on a great deal from that and in discussions with the Association of Lay Inspectors we have termly meetings to which representatives come. We have had separate, specific meetings to talk about the draft framework. We have provided some training specifically for these inspectors earlier this year, which was well received. At their conference on Saturday of last week one of my colleagues went to talk about the training for new lay inspectors because it is the one group of inspectors where we have had no new recruits in the last ten years and we do not think that can be right. We are looking to advertise very shortly for some new lay inspectors but we are including the existing lay inspectors in devising the training and bringing on stream some new lay inspectors in a very controlled manner. So there were some concerns. I hope that we have been sensitive to responding to them and we will continue to work with that Association as with other inspectors' associations.

  210. What about specific examples because schools now are required to provide less up-front paperwork? That means the inspectors have to do a lot more work and yet they are only being remunerated within the same financial basis as before.
  211. (Miss Passmore) Direct remuneration is a matter between the contractor and the inspectors. As far as paperwork is concerned, we now do require evidence to be collected on evidence forms which are different from the original ones. In total it should not amount to a great deal more and it is a rather better organised way of collecting evidence which may not have been collected quite so carefully in the past.

    Paul Holmes: But they say categorically it is more and also, for example, there are 40 per cent more scoring categories than there used to be.


  212. Can we have a written response to that?
  213. (Miss Passmore) Yes.

    Jonathan Shaw

  214. One of the new requirements under the Act, I understand, is that you are going to look at schools' ability to consult their pupils by setting up school councils. Is that going to be a problem for schools, do you think?
  215. (Mr Bell) As a requirement of the Act it is something we consulted on last year, building on the principle -

  216. I thought there was statutory guidance that schools had to consult.
  217. (Mr Bell) You are talking about what schools themselves do.

  218. Yes, and you inspect on that.
  219. (Mr Bell) It is an interesting issue. Do not forget, again back to the bit about the range of things covered within OFSTED, we do look at ways in which pupils are involved and engaged in schools. We do not have a specific requirement to report on school councils but in lots of ways we do report on the involvement and engagement of schools by pupils.

  220. My understanding was that you would have a duty to report on schools' ability to consult under statutory guidance. Certainly that is what the Minister said in his letter to me.
  221. (Mr Bell) Chairman, new tasks are being sent our way every day.


  222. As your inspectors go into schools, not just the bureaucracy that people think is associated with the OFSTED inspection but this whole red tape bureaucracy is a bit of a political football, as you know. What is your impression from your inspections about the level of bureaucracy and red tape? Is this an urban myth or a rural myth or is it a very real problem getting in the way of teachers teaching in the classrooms?
  223. (Mr Bell) We are just analysing all of the inspection data and that is something we will report on. If I might plead your indulgence and ask that I might not report on that until we have finished it. It is something we will comment on in the Annual Report.

  224. Can I say that this has been a very good session, as far as we are concerned, and a robust session, as ever. I hope you are going to have a glance through OECD Education Report of March 2002 and let us know what think. We also look forward to your Annual Report in February 2003 on standards and equality and we will be inviting interested parties to comment on it before you come back here to account to the Committee on 5 March 2003. We may also be seeing you before that in terms of our inquiry into secondary education.
  225. (Mr Bell) I am happy to do that, Chairman.

  226. When we meet informally, as we do on certain occasions, we will give you further information on the Committee's activities in New Zealand!

(Mr Bell) Thank you very much.