Select Committee on Education and Skills Sixth Report


1. The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) was established in 1992 as a non-ministerial Government department. Since then it has been given a number of additional responsibilities. In September 2001 the responsibility for regulating day-care was transferred from local authorities to Ofsted as a result of the Care Standards Act 2000. The Education and Inspection Act 2006 merged a number of other bodies with Ofsted, which became The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills from 1st April 2007. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI) reports to the Secretary of State for Education and is formally accountable to Parliament, principally through scrutiny by this Committee.

2. The Committee last reported on the work of Ofsted in 2003. Since then, as indicated above, Ofsted has become responsible for a number of additional areas. Ofsted also introduced new inspection arrangements in September 2005.

3. There have been a number of staff and structural changes since 2003. Christine Gilbert was appointed as HMCI in September 2006. Dorian Bradley stepped down as Director of Children's Services in June 2007. A new directorate for learning and skills has been established and Melanie Hunt was appointed as the Director of Learning and Skills in May 2007.

4. A non-executive board for Ofsted was also created in April 2007. The board is made up of Zenna Atkins, Chairman; Christine Gilbert, HMCI and eight non-executive directors with experience from across the public, private and voluntary sectors; Dame Enid Bibby, Sharon Collins, David MacLeod, Dame Jane Roberts, John Roberts CBE, Beryl Seaman CBE JP, Museji Takolia and Christopher Trinick.

5. Ofsted has recently published its strategic plan for 2007-2010 and the yearly Ofsted Departmental Report. The strategic plan sets out the priorities for Ofsted over the next three years. The strategic priorities are: Better outcomes; Better inspection and regulation; Better communication; Better Consultation; Better value; and Better ways of working. The Departmental Report is a review of the work Ofsted has done in the previous year. In addition to these documents the Ofsted Annual Report was published in November 2006. This is the first to be published since Ms Gilbert took up her appointment as HMCI.

6. The Committee takes evidence from Ofsted twice a year. This year those meetings have coincided with the publication of the Annual Report in November and the publication of the Strategic Plan and the creation of the new Ofsted in May. Inevitably, only a small proportion of the work of Ofsted and the issues dealt with in HMCI's Annual Report and the Ofsted Strategic Plan 2007-2010 could be covered in the oral evidence taken by the Committee. The issues addressed in this report reflect the themes raised in oral evidence, those brought up in written evidence and matters of public concern or discussion.

7. The dissolution of the DfES and the creation of two new departments, announced on 28 June 2007, will have an impact on Ofsted. Ofsted's remit covers areas in both the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. We recommend that the scrutiny work that this Committee has carried out is continued by successor committees.

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Prepared 12 July 2007