House of Commons
|Session 2007 - 08|
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General Committee Debates
Education and Skills Bill
Education and Skills Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Nick Walker, Tom Goldsmith, Chris Shaw, Committee Clerks
attended the Committee
Jonathan Shephard, Chief Executive, Independent Schools Council
Christine Ryan, Chief Inspector, Independent Schools Inspectorate
Miriam Rosen, Director of Education, Office of Standards in Education, Childrens Services and Skills
Roger Shippam, Deputy Director of Education, Office of Standards in Education, Childrens Services and Skills
Public Bill Committee
Thursday 24 January 2008
[Hugh Bayley in the Chair]
Further written evidence to be reported to the House
E&S 07 National Union of Teachers
E&S 08 Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
The Committee deliberated in private.
The Chairman: Before I call in the witnesses and begin the evidence we have a little Committee business to transact in relation to the evidence sessions next Tuesday. I call the Minister to move the amendment to the programme motion.
That the Order of the Committee of 22nd January 2008 be amended as follows:
In the Table
(a) leave out the second entry relating to Tuesday 29th January and insert
(b) leave out the fourth entry relating to that day and insert
The Chairman: We can now turn to the evidence session. I start by welcoming our first witnesses, who are Jonathan Shephard, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, and Christine Ryan, chief inspector of the Independent Schools Inspectorate. We will start our questioning.
Q 191191 Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): Thank you very much for coming to give evidence. Referring to part 4 of the Education and Skills Bill, what is registration and regulation of schools? How does it differ from the inspection role and why are the Independent Schools Inspectorate and the Independent Schools Council unhappy with the proposal to transfer the registration and regulation of independent schools from the Department for Children, Schools and Families to Ofsted?
Jonathan Shephard: Firstly, it is a matter of principle. I think it is desirable for legislation to be done on the basis of facts and not fiction. If you look at the regulatory impact assessment, page 14, under the title Analysis and Evidence, it says,
Independent schools will benefit from only dealing with Ofsted.
But that is untrue in respect of more than 80 per cent of the children in independent education in England who will deal not only with Ofsted but with the ISI.
As a matter of principle, it is very important that inspection and regulation should be separated. Inspections can be wrong. Inspectors can make mistakes. It is important that when they go to a regulator to say that there is a problem with the school, the regulator has the power of decision to say what should be done because that is a necessary check and balance. If the inspector goes to itself, that check and balance is not there.
Conversely, if the regulator is toldby members of the public or others, as does happenthat there are concerns about a school, it is important that the regulator should be able to direct the inspector to go into the school and sort out the problem. If the inspector and the regulator are the same body, that may not happen because the inspector may decide not to direct itself, because it may think there is no problem. So the separation of powers is really important, and the rationale behind the whole of these proposals does not exist, because it is based on a complete misunderstanding of what happens on the ground.
Christine Ryan: It might be helpful if I just make a distinction between the registration function and inspection. Registration occurs when schools want to set up as independent schools. Now, they must be registered with the Department, and that means they apply to be registered as independent schools. They then have an initial inspection to check their suitability to operate as independent schools.
The inspection function is one that occurs routinely on a rolling programme and that inspection function is not carried out by the Department or the regulator. Inspection is carried out either by Ofsted for independent schools, or by ISI for the vast majority of the children in independent schools, or by another approved inspectorate that looks after schools that are members of the Focus Learning TrustI think there are 26 members at the moment. There is a distinction between what happens now with the Department, which is the body by which schools register, the regulator, and the interpreter of the regulations for the inspectorates, and what happens in terms of inspection and ongoing inspectionthe quality assurance side of what happens on a routine basis on the rolling programme for all the schools. Those two things are quite different.
Q 192 Mr. Gibb: But even after these proposals come in, the inspection role will still be separate because you will carry out the inspection of ISC schools, not Ofsted.
Christine Ryan: That is right.
Q 193 Mr. Gibb: Is there really a big difference between registered with the Department and being registered with Ofsted?
Christine Ryan: Well, I think there are two things here. One is that a lot of the thrust of the proposals repeats the desire to create a single unified strand of registration, regulation and inspection. Now of course that will only occurif the proposals are put in placefor independent schools inspected by Ofsted, which have only 20 per cent of the pupils educated in
Why does it matter which body is acting as the regulator? At the moment, of course, as an inspectorate, we liaise with and have very good links with the independent schools team in the Department. One of the very important functions that we carry out is to check on regulatory compliance of independent schools. The regulationsas is the nature of the beastare often open to some interpretation. If a school challenges whether or not regulatory compliance is there or not and we want to be sure, we can go to the Department and we agree a decision on interpretation, say, of regulations on a particular matter.
That link and that contact with the Department works very smoothlyit has a dedicated team who know our system very well. Ofsted is already having to cope with a very large number of changes from the other duties it has taken on. If this transfer happens now, we are concerned about the loss of that communication. We often deal with problems that are happening in real timewhile inspections are going on, perhaps. It is crucial that you are able to liaise properly with the regulator, so that you are giving correct information to schools and that you are supporting inspectors who are out in the field.
The Chairman: May I remind colleagues and witnesses that, unfortunately, we only have 40 minutes for this session, with quite a lot of Members who would like to ask questions?
Q 194 Mr. Gibb: Were you consulted by the Government on these proposals before they were firmed up? Are you happy with your relationship with officials at the Department for Children, Schools and Families? Would you be able, if it were thought desirable, to inspect all the independent schools other than the Focus Learning Trust schools, as a way of unifying the process?
Jonathan Shephard: If I may, I will answer the first question, on consultation. It is quite clear that the consultation did not follow Cabinet office guidelines in that ISI, an important stakeholder, was not consulted as it should have been, in advance of the consultation going out. It is also fairly clear that almost immediately after the consultation ended, the Bill came to the Commons. In my view, it was not genuine and transparent consultation.
Christine Ryan: The simple answer to your first question about whether we were consulted prior to the formal consultation is, no.
We are very happy with our liaison with the Department. We find it to be excellent in its dealings with us.
In answer to your third question about whether we would be able to inspect all independent schools, we have the capability to inspect all types of independent
Q 195 Mr. David Laws (Yeovil) (LD): In some of your written evidence, there is a suggestion that some of the concerns about Ofsteds greater involvement are down to what is described as a one-size-fits-all approach that might not be suitable for independent schools. Could you say a little more about those concerns and how they might impact on the ground in terms of their effect on the schools?
Jonathan Shephard: Christine is the expert on this, so I shall give a very brief answer. There is a concern about creeping regulation and Ofsted-isation. The management standard, which came completely out of the blue, is particularly worrying because, if you have Ofsted imposing a management standard on all independent schools, then the way in which the schools are run will tend to conform with that standard. You may or may not like independent schoolsthere are perfectly valid views held on either sidebut they do educate children at all levels of ability in a very good, effective and workmanlike way. They do that because they are able to be flexible and responsive and they have to answer to three demanding constituencies: parents, children and universities. If you get a one-size-fits-all, increasingly prescriptive manner from Ofsted, which is beginning to set criteria for qualifications of staff, you may lose that flexibility and independence and that is a very serious worry.
Christine Ryan: In terms of the one-size-fits-all approach, it is important that people are aware of the difference between the two approaches to inspection. Ofsteds remit on inspection has changed over the years as schools have matured in the inspection process, and as Ofsted has taken on different roles. Whereas Ofsted and ISI inspections were at one time very similar in what they did, they are now quite different. Ofsted has transferred a lot of the things that used to happen on inspection out to other bodies, such as local authorities, regional inspection service providers and so on. ISI still has an inspection set-up where school improvement is an integral part of the inspection process.
Both Ofsted and ISI carry out checks for regulatory compliancewe check schools compliance with the independent schools standards, so we both do the regulatory bit. Ofsted does not do a great deal beyond the regulatory sections because they are dealing with a whole range of schools, not just those in the independent sector. However, our inspections are specifically tailored to the very varied set-ups that we find in the independent group. The starting point, for example, for an ISI inspection is the particular aims of the school, so one of the things that we judge schools against are their own aimswhat it is that they claim to do. Judgments will be made in the report, so that parents can see whether the school is fulfilling what it claims to offering.
Q 196 Mr. Laws: So, you see the change as, in some sense, running the risk of compromising the independence of the sector. Is that right?
Jonathan Shephard: I think that that is exactly right. Parents are entitled as a human right to educate their children out of the control of the state. You are getting towards a difficult line that might be crossed in the future.
Q 197 Mr. Laws: Can I ask one final question? There is a section in the Bill dealing with the removal of the section 347 approval mechanism. That sounds like an unusualin the perception of Opposition partiesGovernment move to pass downwards from central Government to local authorities to give them the power of judging which special schools are the right setting for individual youngsters. When I read that I thought that it must be a good thing, but you are concerned about it. Why are you worried about that change?
Jonathan Shephard: It puts a huge burden on every individual local authority to have the ability to judge the level and quality of provision in schools against a whole range of special educational needs.
Christine Ryan: From an inspectorate point of view, my main concern is a procedural one. At the moment, it is very clear that if independent schoolseven if they are members of the ISC, which would normally fall under our remithave approved status, they are by definition inspected by Ofsted. It is very straightforward: even if they are ISC schools, if they have approved status, they are inspected by Ofsted. We all know where we are with that. Once the approved status is removed, my concern, from an inspection point of view, is that there may be schools in that category where it is not clear who should be their inspectorate. For my part, I would say that it needs to be clearly defined.
The Bill talks about schools that have children who are statemented, but it needs to be very specific about where the trigger point iswhen the school becomes one that needs to be inspected by Ofsted because it is like the former approved-status schools, or when it becomes a school that needs to be inspected by the ISI.
First, can you tell me what proportion if independent schools are affiliated to the ISC? Your evidence gives numbers of pupils, but not the proportion of independent schools. In the past, say, five years, how many institutions have been set up, registered and immediately affiliated to the ISC through its various member organizations?
Jonathan Shephard: The definition of independent school is any independent institution educating five or more children or any one child with special educational needs, so there is a large number of schools that would not be recognised by a member of the public as being a school, but could be quite a large school under that term. We have in our membership schools in England that educate north of 80 per cent. of the pupils, so we cover the great majority.
Christine Ryan: May I help? The Department for Children, Schools and Families have very helpfully produced some fresh figures this week. They cite that there are 1,123 independent schools inspected by Ofsted, 1,153 by ISI, and 26 are inspected for the Focus Learning Trust by the School Inspection Service.
Jonathan Shephard: The answer to the second part of your question on whether schools can be set up and immediately come into ISC membership is no. I am not aware of any example where that has happened.
Christine Ryan: No, it is quite a lengthy process by which they need to be first accepted for inspection by an association, and only when they successfully meet the inspection standards are they admitted into membership of the association.
Q 198 Jim Knight: Obviously you have procedures in place to ensure that your members are of a high quality and that is very important. I am interested in why you have concerns about a registration process going to Ofsted which does not really affect your members. Your members are registered and operating as independent schools for some time before they then become members of the ISC and become inspected by ISI.
Christine Ryan: It is really the same point as we made at the beginning on registration and regulation. Regulation is the thing that concerns me from an inspection point of viewbeing able to have a smooth, transparent system, good communications, proper liaison, and proper support of the inspectorates work, with that separation of the body that will ultimately sit in judgment on the quality of the inspections taking advice from Ofsted. I am concerned about all of that being rolled into one body.
Q 199 Jim Knight: Do you currently have a relationship with Ofsted as an inspectorate? Do they quality assure you at the moment?
Christine Ryan: Yes. We have a standing agreement with the Secretary of State, through the Department. Ofsted has a requirement on it to monitor the quality of our inspections and our reports, as to whether or not they comply with that agreement.
Q 200 Jim Knight: Exactly how will that change under this legislation? What clauses will change that relationship around the quality assurance of your inspectorate?
Christine Ryan: The agreement is itself set up between the inspectorate and the Department. The Department sets the terms of the agreement, because it is the regulator, and we are judged against compliance with that agreement with the Department. If you have a situation where Ofsted is the regulator, Ofsted will set the terms of the agreement; it will also be monitoring our compliance with that agreement. Suddenly you are not dealing in the independent way you were previously. At the moment, Ofsted monitors on behalf of the Department, and publishes a report. Any debate or dispute there might be about Ofsteds findings on its judgments of ISI will ultimately go to the Department, and the Department will resolve those disputes. There is no obvious proposal on how that will change in the future.
Q 201 Jim Knight: Can I just ask one final question? Mr. Shephard, you said you had concerns about consultation, do you recall a DCSF official, Penny Jones, writing to you on May 9 2006 about the transfer
Jonathan Shephard: I have spoken to Penny and I do know there were discussions. The body that should have been consulted was ISI, and that did not happen.
Jonathan Shephard: They are separate corporate bodies. We do consult. What you are saying to me in effect is that we were told about all this and we were properly consulted. I have enormous respect for Penny Jones and we have a very good working relationship. However, I am afraid it did not get through. Maybe it did not get through to my thick head, in which case I am sorry, but it did not get through. We did not recognise the seriousness of what was being proposed.
Q 203 Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): May I declare an interest? I am a former Estyn inspector, Estyn being the Ofsted-equivalent in Wales.
I am somewhat concerned at the negative tone of your comments about Ofsted. It almost suggests that you have something to hide. I would have thought you would be proud to take part in the same inspection regime as other schools and bodies across the UK, and I wonder what advantage you see in remaining separate.
Christine Ryan: There is not a negative agenda regarding Ofsted as far as I am concerned. I am a former Ofsted inspector myself, so there is no agenda of that type at all. I have given responses to a consultation document and I can only give truthful responses to the things laid out in that consultation. The fact that there are things in there that are factually incorrect is not something that that I can fail to do anything about: I must respond to those things, and I must respond to them properly.
As for our relationship with Ofsted, we have quite a good working relationship with it on many levels and that goes back to ISIs creation. We discuss with it issues that it finds when it monitors our schools. Those things are not part of the formal reporting, but I am always happy to hear about them. There is no issue with Ofsted per se; the difficulties are with the consultation document, its layout and the premise on which it is based, given our recent experience of having to deal and liaise with Ofsted on other matters such as the transfer of boarding welfare. In reality, the experience of late has not been great, and it is acknowledged by both Ofsted and the Department that such communications have not been of the quality that they would have liked.
Christine Ryan: We are doing so. We have now established more regular meetings, and are trying to establish points of contact with Ofsted. However, it is in a state of flux so officials are doing what they can at the moment.
Q 205 Nia Griffith: What impression of transparency does it give the general public if you are trying to avoid interaction with Ofsted?
Christine Ryan: I do not see how we are in any way trying to avoid interaction with Ofsted, which monitors a high proportion of our inspections, reports on all of them and publishes an annual report that is open and easily accessed by any member of the public. We work with Ofsted, and we have joint working agreements and so on with it, so there is no reluctance or lack of transparency in what we do. Our framework for inspection is also a public document, as are all the guidance notes. There is nothing hidden.
Jonathan Shephard: Can I just come in quickly here? Quite recently, in the last few weeks, there was a very useful meeting with Ofsted. I was there, so was Christine and, importantly, so was DCSF. It is very important and healthy to have DCSF in the room, as it were, as a referee. We would like to continue that.
The Chairman: Before I turn to Oliver Heald, may I tell colleagues that although we want this discussion to range as widely as necessary to inform later discussion of the Bill, the questions and answers ought to focus on provisions in the Bill.
Q 206 Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Under clause 89, there is a power to deregister an independent school that makes an unapproved material change in its provision. That would probably follow some form of inspection or peer review of what had been the opinion of the Independent Schools Inspectorate when looking at that school. Is that your concern? Ofsteds role is to review what the ISI doesto inspect and, in a sense, to investigateand it is quite right for Ofsted then to produce a report setting out its views. For probably 99 per cent. of the time, you would have no disagreement, yet there will be genuine disagreement in a tiny proportion of casesperhaps 1 per cent. or less. Is it right in those circumstances for Ofsted to be the judge of those matters?
Jonathan Shephard: I think it is exactly right that the proportion of disagreements will be small. We have a lot of respect for Ofsted, which monitors ISI inspections, but in the end we would like DCSF to be the referee and Ofsted not to be judge and jury.
Q 207 Mr. Heald: Is it an important matter to you because of the ultimate consequences of the decisions that Ofsted could take in those circumstances?
Jonathan Shephard: Indeed.
Q 208 Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): Mr. Shephard, you said earlier that you were concerned about Ofsted taking that position, because it had a lot of responsibilities and was over-egging the puddingI think Christine Ryan assented to thatand that might create the impression of Government interference in the independent sector. Is that an accurate summary of what you said?
Jonathan Shephard: Pretty much. We have absolutely no problem with our schools complying with regulations on safety and so on. We are looking for independence of management within a regulatory standard.
Q 209 Mr. Marsden: I just wanted to get that on the record. Commenting on the Ofsted proposals to the Children, Schools, and Families Committee, Ofsteds director of education, Miriam Rosen, said:
We do not see this as a very big addition to our workload.
That would seem, would it not, to rule out, or at least to question, your concerns that Ofsted is going to be overloaded in this process?
Jonathan Shephard: Ofsted is, at the moment, having trouble with its workload and the Select Committee that preceded the Children, Schools and Families Committee made such a comment when looking at Ofsted.
Jonathan Shephard: Yes, although that is a second-order issue. The major point is one of principle: you should not combine regulation and inspection in the same person.
Christine Ryan: I do not think that this is always going to be a problem. All I can talk about is our recent experience to date. We have, in particular, experienced difficulties over the transfer of boarding welfare and what has happened in terms of agreements not being adhered to or even recognised. We have had difficulty with communications, too.
Q 211 Mr. Marsden: The clauses on which the Minister has just commented on, do not, as far as I can see, give Ofsted any new powers in terms of interference, recommending improvement or making the sorts of comments that they make on schools in the state sector. They merely establish a base line for schools to be examined. Is that not the case?
Christine Ryan: It partly depends on what base line is being used. May I give you an example of what happens at the moment? There are different sets of regulations that affect independent schools. There are three sets of different standards: regulations; independent schools standards regulations; and the standards relating to boarding welfare and so on. The way in which those regulations are interpreted on the ground in inspection is slightly different depending on whether you are looking at it from a boarding welfare inspection point of view or an education inspection point of view. At the moment, you can have two different teams in the same school, one inspecting boarding welfare and one inspecting education. Each team is looking at different sets of regulations and coming to different conclusions about the same sort of provision. That cannot be a good idea.
If the regulator who sets those regulations is the body that does one side of the inspection and not another, that raises questions in your mind about which decision and view needs to be interpreted and take precedence. At the moment, the Department sorts those things out. From an inspectorate point of view, I would want it to be very clear where things were and how things happened.
Q 212 Mr. Marsden: Okay, but in principle, if that clarity were obtained that would be something you could live with, would it not?
Jonathan Shephard: The management standard that is being proposed is quite a serious concern. There is a real example of Ofsted specifying qualifications for early-years settings, which is causing trouble.
Q 213 Mr. Marsden: One final point for you, Mr. Shephard. You have made very specific points, but in previous comments, not least to my colleague, Nia Griffith, you have taken a rather broad brush approach andI would agree with my colleaguea rather negative view of the proposals are in the Bill. Is it not somewhat unfortunate that this comes at a time when you are also being extremely negative about the Charity Commissions proposals on independent schools? Does not create the impression that you are intending to avoid and want to evade any responsibility
Q 214 Mr. Marsden: They are relevant, Mr. Bayley, in the sense that Mr. Shephard has expressed concerns across the whole spectrum of the Governments attitude, so I am praying the proposals in aid as an example.
Jonathan Shephard: We issued a press release only last week welcoming the Charity Commissions new guidance on public benefit, saying that the organisation has engaged in genuine consultation and so on. We have a very good and constructive dialogue with the Charity Commission and there is a lot of mutual respect.
We are not negative at all; we have gone out of our way to say that we want schools to deliver public benefit and so on. I also do not think that it is negative to say that proposed legislation should be based on fact rather than fiction.
Q 215 Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Two mercifully brief questions. No sensible Minister or reasonable Government would have made these proposals without evidence that the current system is not working. What is the evidenceideally independent evidencethat the current arrangements are failing?
Jonathan Shephard: None at all, I think.
Christine Ryan: In terms of the inspections of ISC schools by the ISI, the last annual report indicated that all our inspections were of good quality. None of the schools that we inspected were found to have unsatisfactory leadership and management. There are always areas in which we can suggest improvement.
Independent school inspectors already inspect and report on governance, leadership and management; that is an integral part of our inspection. Of the schools we have inspected, none in the past two years under the current cycle of inspection have had unsatisfactory management and leadership.
Q 216 Mr. Hayes: You have spoken very positively about the relationship with Ofsted and the Department and, indeed, you have answered questions in a positive way. Are you really saying that there is no empirical, evidential base for this proposalthat the current arrangements work, and that you do not understand why this is being suggested?
Christine Ryan: From our point of view as an inspectorate, the current arrangements work very well. The schools that we inspect are generally of a good standard. We have rigorous systems in place to pick out any weaknesses in those schools and systems in place to address those weaknessesincluding weaknesses of governance and management.
Q 217 Mr. Gibb: People are allowed to criticise Government proposals, however unfortunate some Labour MPs think criticism is. But may I just ask who registers and monitors the maintained sector at the moment?
Christine Ryan: The DCSF.
Christine Ryan: Well, unless the position is to move that as well.
Q 219 Mr. Gibb: We can question Ministers about that later. May I just ask about some incorrect facts in the consultation document? In the first consultation document that came out in July 2007, it says
The recent transfer of welfare inspection from the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) to Ofsted has brought registration and inspection of boarding welfare into Ofsted, to support the unified arrangements for early years provision.
Is it correct that this brought in the inspection and registration of boarding welfare?
Christine Ryan: Of boarding welfare? No, it did not. It just brought in the inspection of boarding welfare. The regulatory impact assessment also says registration and regulation was transferred, and it was not. Only the inspection of boarding welfare was transferred from CFCI to Ofsted. Registration and regulation remain with the Department.
Q 220 Jim Knight: I do not disagree with the high quality of the membership of the ISC and those inspected by the ISI, but you said earlier that you inspect about half of independent schools. Are you aware of any quality issues that these measures might address in the rest of the independent sector, that you do not inspect yourselves?
Christine Ryan: Only anecdotally. I do not have any facts or figures. I have it only anecdotally that a very small number of non-association independent schools are difficult in that, because there is not a management regulation, there is difficulty in tackling some of the long-standing problems. But as I say, the anecdotal evidence to me is that this is a very tiny number of schools.
The Chairman: I would like to thank both of our witnesses for attending and giving evidence. We are grateful to you.
Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. If it is right that there is a mistake in the regulatory impact assessmentand given that a lot of people who are not in this room are obviously following our proceedingsshould the Government not issue an amending document? Even if it is only a short oneit can be released and put on the website and so onit will make people aware that there is an error.
The Chairman: The question of whether there is a factual inaccuracy in the regulatory impact assessment is a matter for debate. I am sure colleagues will debate it during the passage of the Bill, but it is not a matter for the Chair to rule.
Mr. Heald: Further to that point of order, Mr. Bayley. If the Minister is saying that there is not a mistake, I fully accept that he would not wish to issue a memorandum. However, I cannot think that an experienced Minister would not wish to put out a memorandum correcting something that is wrong. It would be interesting to know what the Ministers position is.
The Chairman: No, I do not think I am going to take any more on that. What I have heard so far makes it perfectly clear that this is a matter for debate rather than for the Chair, and I do not want to eat into the time of our second set of witnesses.
May I welcome Miriam Rosen, the Director of Education in the Office for Standards in Education, Childrens Services and Skills, and Roger Shippam, the Deputy Director? I turn first to Mr. Gibb to ask a question.
Q 221 Mr. Gibb: Thank you for coming in to give evidence. Can I ask who currently registers and monitors maintained schools in this country?
Miriam Rosen: The register of maintained schools is held by the Department. The inspection of maintained schools is conducted by Ofsted.
Q 222 Mr. Gibb: Yes, it is the registration and monitoring that I am concerned about, because that is the issue in the Bill. Do you know why there are proposals to transfer only the ISC schools registration monitoring to Ofsted? Did you ask for this proposal?
Miriam Rosen: We did not ask for it. The Department asked us if we would take on the registration of independent schools and we agreed to do so. You may be aware that we are already the regulator for the early years sectorwe inspect and regulate it. That has worked very well so it seemed to us that it fitted well with other work that we do. We also felt that there would be efficiency gains, because at the moment, in the registration process for independent schools, the Department always relies on our advice through inspection as to whether or not we should register. So, if we were giving ourselves the advice, as it were, that would cut out some paperwork and bureaucracy. We saw it as efficiency in deregulatory work.
Q 223 Mr. Gibb: So you think that there are going to be efficiency gains. I therefore take it, since you have made that statement to the Committee, that you have done an estimate of what it will cost you in terms of staff to run the registration monitoring of the ISC schools?
Miriam Rosen: Can I just point out that the registration would be of all independent schools, and not just the ISC schools? The idea is to transfer all the registration across to us. We are still discussing costs with the Department, but at the moment, if the school applies to be registered to the Department and it asks us to inspect, then we go and inspect prior to that registration taking place.
Q 224 Mr. Gibb: Yes, but you just said to me, and to the Committee, that this would deliver efficiency savings by transferring the registration and monitoring of independent schools to Ofsted. I just asked you whether you have done a cost analysis of that and you said, no you have not, you are still working on it. On what basis have you made the assertion that this is going to be more efficient?
Miriam Rosen: Because we would not have to talk to the Department. The Department would not have to ask us to make the registration visit and we would not have to go back to itit would be in one place.
Q 225 Mr. Gibb: How many members of staff would you need to run the registration and monitoring of the independent sector?
Miriam Rosen: We are still working on the exact numbers. I am not quite sure exactly what numbers we will need to transfer to us, to do that work. We think it will be about 10. Do you have further information on that Roger?
Roger Shippam: We are working on a presumption of somewhere between seven and 12. In terms of the efficiencies, Ofsted already does a number of the sorts of functions we are talking about in relation to early years child careas Miriam has already said. We are therefore confident that there will be economies of scale in that we will be taking on some additional work that will add to that work.
Q 226 Mr. Gibb: So are you happy for me to table PQs in a years time, and then a year after that, asking what staff levels you are using to perform this function? Can we back up your word, that you are giving to us now, perhaps with a National Audit Office inquiry, or perhaps some PQs asking what this level of staffing will be?
Miriam Rosen: We would be happy to look again at staffing. We did not request to take on this work, but we were asked to do so and we could see that it made sense.
Q 227 Mr. Laws: May I start by asking you whether you think the existing system of regulation and inspection of independent schools is deficient in any way?
Miriam Rosen: No, we consider that it works satisfactorily at the moment.
Q 228 Mr. Laws: Thank you, that is very clear. On the point that Mr Gibb was asking you about, the whole costs and the net value of all these changes, there are some figures that the Government has produced which appear to imply a net cost from these changes. Taking the impact on your own costs, the independent sector and the other affected bodies, such as local authorities, are you confident that this will save money, or will it, as implied, have a modest net cost?
Miriam Rosen: I cannot answer that question, I am afraid. I do not know the exact costs because we are still working on them with the Department.
Miriam Rosen: I doubt that it would have a net cost in totality. When we agreed to take on the work, we did say that as it was extra work we would clearly need to be funded for it, and that was agreed. We are still discussing with the Department exactly what funds we need for it.
Q 230 Mr. Laws: In the regulatory impact assessment, when it lists the benefits of all these changes, it says that:
one of the benefits would be improved standards for pupils in independent schools.
Is there, in your view, any evidence for that statement?
Miriam Rosen: We are content with the inspection arrangements that go on at the moment for independent schools.
Roger Shippam: Perhaps I might reflect that Ofsteds strategic policy actually specifies that we intend to bring about improvements in all sectors that we work in and therefore I think that statement is saying that that would be our intention, to secure improvement in any aspect of the work we do, including this piece of work.
Q 232 Jim Knight: So drawing on your experience of work in independent schoolsand clearly you do not inspect all independent schools, because some have their own inspectorateswill you tell the Committee what type of independent schools need the most scrutiny?
Miriam Rosen: Those independent schools that need the most scrutiny are those which do not belong to one of the affiliated associations such as the Independent Schools Council. They are often very small ones, ones which have difficulty in meeting all the regulations. A particular type of independent provision that sometimes has difficulty are childrens homes that provide education as well as care. Some of them are catering for children with special educational needs. These are the sorts of schools that have most problems. Last year we had only 6 per cent. of the schools that we inspect that did not meet quite a proportion of the standards, but obviously, we are concerned about that 6 per cent.
Q 233 Jim Knight: In the long term, if these measures go through, do you think you will be able to integrate boarding, education and child care registration and inspection better for those institutions that have two or more different types of provision?
Miriam Rosen: Certainly we think we can do that. For the institutions that do not belong to the Independent Schools Council, they would have one inspection body looking at child care, education and welfare. Obviously we are harmonising those inspections at the moment because the boarding inspections only came over to us in April. Those that the ISI inspects, we are also working with them to make sure that, for example, boarding and education inspections could go on perhaps at the same time. So we are trying to harmonise all our arrangements.
Q 234 Jim Knight: Obviously a lot of the debate around these sections is informed by the concerns we have just heard from the ISI and the ISC. How do you see your relationship changing with the independent inspectorates and the large organisations such as the ISC?
Miriam Rosen: We do not think that it would change very much at all. When we brought the inspection of welfare over from CSCI, we started to have more frequent meetingswe needed toand that will continue. We have a good relationship and we do not see big changes there.
Q 235 Mr. Heald: Obviously, most of the time you see eye to eye with the ISI and there is no problem. In a case where you do disagree about an issue, should you be the judge of it? Should you be the final arbiter in Ofsted, or should it continue to go to the Department, so that there is some independent mechanism for resolving it? Obviously, it will not happen very often, but it did strike me that it does not seem fair that on occasions where you two have a disagreement about something you should decide it. It seems unfair.
Miriam Rosen: We have not had instances of disagreement that we can remember. Should one come about, we have a complaints procedure and there would be an appeal procedure.
Roger Shippam: We are talking to the Department about extending the remit of the Independent Complaints Adjudicator for Ofsted, who is appointed by the Department, not by Ofsted. Currently, their remit does not extend to that type of complaint, but we see it as a logical extension.
Roger Shippam: Yes.
Q 238 Jim Knight: In your last answer to me we talked a little about how your relationship with the larger, more established independent schools affiliated through the ISC would not largely change. What about the smaller non-affiliated independent schools? Do you see any changes for them as a result of the measures?
Miriam Rosen: There would be changes for them, because they would not need to deal with both the Department and Ofsted as they do at the moment. They would just be dealing with Ofsted, which would conduct the registration visits.
Miriam Rosen: We always hope to drive up quality. At the moment, if an institution does not meet the standards, we would go back in and monitor to bring about improvements in quality. That is the whole point in it. If institutions cannot make the improvements, they are eventually de-registered. So, yes, we would hope to see improvements in quality.
Q 240 Jim Knight: Finallyunless there is more time later on, because I can carry on for a while if you like, Mr. Bayleybecause there is concern around the independent inspectorates, can you outline for us what your current role is in quality assurance and whether there is anything in the Bill that would change the nature of that quality assurance?
Miriam Rosen: Currently, we quality assure in a proportionate way: for example, we only monitor a small proportion of the ISI inspections; it is a well-established inspectorate. Last year, that was 10 per cent. of inspections and about 15 per cent. of reports. We also looked at some of their quality assurance mechanisms. Our report was based on that. We monitored more of the inspections of the Schools Inspection Service, which inspects for the Focus Learning Trust. We made sure that we monitored all of its lead inspectors, for example, because they were a new inspectorate. So we take, and will continue to take, a proportionate approach. As I understand it, the point of the Bill is to give public assurance that any inspectorate set up to inspect independent schools is providing a good service and is inspecting at the required standard. We would provide that by our monitoring.
Q 241 Mr. Gibb: The regulatory impact assessment referred to by Mr. Laws says that independent schools will benefit from only dealing with Ofsted. Presumably, that is not true, is it? Independent schools will also continue to deal with the ISI.
Miriam Rosen: But that would be true for those schools that are not affiliated to one of the associations.
Miriam Rosen: It is correct for the schools that are not affiliated, but schools affiliated to the ISC would continue to work with it as well.
Q 243 Mr. Gibb: So the whole process seems to be riddled with errors. Does it not concern you that we are basing our proposal on untrue facts?
Miriam Rosen: It is unfortunate that some errors are in there. I do not think that the whole thing is based on errors.
Q 244 Mr. Gibb: Okay. In terms of boarding provision, that is currently inspected by CSCI, but that provision is coming over to you. Where does CSCI get its inspectors and expertise from to take the boarding provision inspections?
Miriam Rosen: May I point out that it already came over in April?
Miriam Rosen: So, the welfare inspectors are with us now.
Miriam Rosen: Well, they are now inspectors of welfare and care within Ofsted.
Jim Knight: On measures in the Bill, I have no more questions. There is clearly much debate that we could have on things outside the Bill; incidentally, while I have the opportunity, if there are factual errors in the RIA, I would obviously seek to correct them for the Committee.
Q 246 Mr. Laws: May I ask one final question? At the beginning, I was asking whether there was anything wrong with the existing system, and you were not very critical of it. Would there be savings? We were not really clear about that. Would it definitely drive up standards? That was ambiguous. All that did not seem to make a strong case for this change. If this part of the Bill did not actually go through, would you be terribly worried about the implications for the standards and inspection of the independent sector?
Miriam Rosen: There are no changes with regard to the inspection of the independent sector. The changes regard registration and, as we have said, it is working satisfactorily at present. We can see that working perfectly well if the changes went through as well. At the moment, the Department has to ask us to do a lot of registration visits; this would mean that those would not have to take place.
Q 247 Mr. Laws: But you could live with it either way? It does not sound like you are passionately in favour of or against it.
Miriam Rosen: We could live with it either way, but we are perfectly happy to take it on.
Q 248 Mr. Hayes: By way of respite, I am going to change the subject to another part of the Bill. You report that only 45 per cent. of pupils are gaining five or more GCSEs at A to C grade, including English and Maths. What implications does that have for their readiness to begin apprenticeships?
Miriam Rosen: I am not sure that I see your point.
Q 249 Mr. Hayes: Then let me remind you: in your evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which looks at these matters, Ofsted said that there are
in total probably in the region of 300,000 16-19 year olds not really ready to start apprenticeships.
Do you stand by that?
Miriam Rosen: That is not really within the education directorates brief. I am sure that we would stand by that if we said it, but we came today to answer on part 4 of the Bill.
Q 250 Mr. Hayes: My point is that if a 16-year-old has not gained sufficient core skills, it is unlikely that they would be able to start an apprenticeship, which is precisely what you said to the House of Lords Committee that was looking at those matters.
Miriam Rosen: In that case, we stand by it. I am sorry, but I have not read through all that evidence before coming here.
Q 251 Mr. Hayes: Well then, moving on to something entirely different, when did you last inspect Connexions?
Miriam Rosen: That would be a few years ago.
Miriam Rosen: I am sorry, I do not know exactly.
Mr. Hayes: Well, according again to the evidence that you gave the Select Committee, you have not inspected Connexions since 2004there has been no proper oversight of Connexions since then.
Jim Knight: On a point of order, Mr. Bayley. I seek your guidance. On what basis were the witnesses invited to come and give evidence to the Committee? If it was made clear to them that they would give evidence on one part of the Bill, is it reasonable to question them on parts for which they have not prepared?
The Chairman: It is reasonable to question witnesses on any part of the Bill, but it is also perfectly reasonable for them to say that they do not work in that area and that they are unable to comment.
Q 253 Mr. Hayes: In essence, when you gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, you said that there
has been no proper oversight of Connexions...since 2004.
How can we have any confidence in the Connexions service when it has not been inspected since 2004?
Miriam Rosen: Again, this is not the bit that we came prepared to answer. If we were asked to inspect Connexions, we could obviously consider doing that.
Q 254 Mr. Gibb: Can we just go back to part 4 of the Bill and the independent education institutions about which you have concerns? My understanding is that there are concerns about just four settings. In a parliamentary question that I asked the Minister, I said that those four unregistered settings were:
a small tuition group which...operates for five hours a day for up to 20 children; a support centre for home educators...an establishment providing 161/2 hours of education from Monday to Friday for three to six-year-olds
a centre educating both pupils placed by local authorities and others. [Official Report, 16 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 1269W.]
Are those institutions that you have inspected?
Miriam Rosen: No, they are not. The point is that they are not registered as independent schools, because they do not satisfy the criteria for independent schools at the moment.
Miriam Rosen: That is right. They are not inspected under any regime at the moment.
Q 256 Mr. Gibb: Could we not have found a way around this problem without the whole paraphernalia of the provisions in part 4 of the Bill?
Miriam Rosen: We have no locus to inspect them.
Q 257 Mr. Gibb: No, but could we not find a way that did not involve transferring the registration of 50.1 per cent. of independent schools and 80 per cent. of the pupils educated in the independent sector?
Miriam Rosen: I think they are unrelated points. The whole point is that these institutions are not registered, so the transfer of the registration has nothing to do with thatit is about the definition of an independent school.
Miriam Rosen: We could tackle them only if they were registered as independent schools. If they were
Miriam Rosen: We cannot at the moment.
Roger Shippam: May I just clarify that? We cannot inspect them under the section 162 inspection regime, which is the regime that we apply to those independent schools that we inspect. However, we have right of entry to independent schools or any schools that appear on our radar. We can go in to make initial visitsagain, in liaison with the Departmentbut we do not produce a formal report in the sense that we do as part of a 162A, which I think my colleagues is referring to. So we do not inspect those institutions in that sense.
Roger Shippam: We will have been, I thinkyes. I do not know them personally, but once we are aware that any school has set itself up to operate, either registered or unregistered, we will liaise with the Department to make a visit to that school.
Further consideration adjourned.[Mr. Michael Foster.]
Adjourned accordingly at four minutes past Ten oclock till this day at One oclock.
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