Select Committee on Education and Skills Sixth Report


Continuing scrutiny of Ofsted
1.We recommend that the scrutiny work that this Committee has carried out on Ofsted is continued by successor committees. (Paragraph 7)
The New Ofsted
2.This is a time of great change for Ofsted and whilst we are sensitive to the challenges that this brings we are still concerned at the complex set of objectives and sectors that Ofsted now spans and its capacity to fulfil its core mission. (Paragraph 13)
3.We welcome the potential for the new Ofsted to take a more comprehensive and strategic view of the issues affecting children, young people and adult learners but we are concerned at the increasing complexity of this large bureaucracy and the ability of its new non-executive board to rapidly grasp this complexity. (Paragraph 20)
4.However, a number of sectors which are now under the remit of Ofsted had expressed concern about the effect that the creation of the new Ofsted would have on them. It is clear that some of these reservations are still present. Ofsted have already expressed a desire to engage service users and providers from all of the sectors they are responsible for. This is essential if Ofsted is to fulfil its potential and we encourage Ofsted to intensify their work in this area. (Paragraph 21)
5.The new Ofsted has been operating only since April 2007. We will be interested to see what will be achieved in the first twelve months of the new Ofsted and what value has been added by its creation. We cannot disguise our concern as to the fitness for purpose of the organisation at the present moment. We will return to this issue in future meetings with HMCI. (Paragraph 22)
The Strategic Plan 2007-2010 and the work ahead
6.We welcome the work that Ofsted is doing to ensure that the targets it will be judged against are appropriate and await those targets with interest. Consultation on the Strategic Plan is an excellent opportunity for Ofsted to hear and act on the concerns of service users and service providers. We urge Ofsted to use the information gathered from the consultation to identify areas of good practice within the organisation and also identify areas that need improvement. (Paragraph 27)
7.We will return to this issue in future meetings with HMCI to see both the progress that Ofsted is making towards the targets and priorities and also how successful the non-executive Board has been. (Paragraph 27)
Inspection and Reporting
8.We welcome moves that reduce the burden of inspection on service providers but changes to the inspection system must ensure that a rigorous inspection framework that can identify under-performing schools is maintained. We recognise that self-evaluative work can be beneficial for schools, highlighting areas for improvement but we urge Ofsted to ensure that self-evaluations are of sufficient quality and accuracy to be relied on as part of an inspection. (Paragraph 42)
9.We are concerned that some schools could be eligible for reduced tariff inspections without undergoing a full Section 5 inspection. Ofsted should clarify whether schools are identified as 'high performing' on the basis of previous inspection, data such as exam results or a combination of the two. We urge Ofsted to monitor how successful reduced-tariff inspections are at identifying falling standards in schools. It is important that previously good schools which are either coasting or no longer performing at such a high level are identified early. (Paragraph 46)
10.We fully support HMCI's view that satisfactory schools should be encouraged to improve and that a good school is preferable to a satisfactory one. However, statements suggesting that a satisfactory grading is in some way a failure are unhelpful. We urge Ofsted to ensure that they are clear that satisfactory schools are not failing. Care needs to be taken that the discussion on the quality of provision is constructive rather than accusatory. (Paragraph 49)
11.We are concerned that, while thematic subject reports may identify general issues in subjects they will not provide a reliable picture of the standard of teaching in that subject. We are also concerned that the lack of subject focus in school inspections will lead some schools to neglect non-core subjects in order to improve their grading. We urge Ofsted to review the size of the sample used to produce subject reviews. We also urge Ofsted to ensure that some observation of non-core subjects is included in all inspections. (Paragraph 53)
12.We urge Ofsted, when looking at the operation of the new, larger organisation, to explore ways to strengthen their monitoring of the five Every Child Matters outcomes. (Paragraph 58)
Inspection and improvement
13.While schools, in general, seem satisfied with the Ofsted's role—assessing quality but not working with schools on the improvement process—other sectors are used to an inspection service that also does active improvement work. It is important that Ofsted clearly communicates to all service users what it does and does not do. It is also vital that Ofsted continues to pass examples of good practice to improvement agencies to ensure that they provide the best help possible for service providers. (Paragraph 63)
14.  It still appears that Ofsted has no capacity to give advice when a cluster of local schools suffer from systemic underperformance. This continues to be a weakness in the inspection system. (Paragraph 64)

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