Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)|
CBE, VANESSA HOWLISON,
9 FEBRUARY 2009
Q400 Fiona Mactaggart: How far
back in history does that go?
Miriam Rosen: We would look at
the current issues, so if there had been a case, for example,
10 years ago, we would not necessarily know about that.
Q401 Fiona Mactaggart: That is
10 years ago. What about five?
Miriam Rosen: I do not think that
we would necessarily know about that, either.
Q402 Fiona Mactaggart: Do you
not think that that might concern parents? It is an incident,
which, five years ago, probably affected children who are currently
in the school.
Miriam Rosen: If there were an
issue that was of concern to parents and children currently in
the school, I think that that would be brought to our attention,
because we talk to children in many different situations. We also
have a parents' questionnaire, so they tell us what their concerns
are. If there was anything that affected children currently in
the school, I think that we would pick it up.
Q403 Fiona Mactaggart: If it were
brought to your attention, would it be reflected in the report?
Miriam Rosen: It depends on what
we find at the end of the inspection, but I think that if the
issue were affecting children currently in the school, then we
would be told about it by the parents or the children.
Chairman: A quick question on value for
money of children's services from Graham, and then we will finish
the session on schools.
Q404 Mr Stuart: How do you reconcile
the real needs in children's services, where there are serious
problems for improvement, with your year-on-year cost reductions
Christine Gilbert: We built the
approach that we have adopted to value for money into the way
that we think and plan for the organisationthat goes back
to the point that I made earlier to the Chairman. If we think
that an area of our current work is at risk, we identify it, and
say that we cannot do it without dropping something else. We cannot
take anything on additionally without some recognition being given
for that to be done. I think that we are at the point of having
done all the things that we think that we can donot that
we have done them; we might have identified them, and might be
on a journey, but we just cannot keep taking on additional things
without it impacting on the work that we are doing.
Q405 Mr Stuart: You have got the
lighter touch CAA and the issue that came out with Haringey about
your desk-based research. When that research came out and you
gave it the thumbs up, you made it clear that it was purely desk
based. Those things will feed into concern that if 42% is pared
down from your big expenditure, you are often not going to have
the resources to be able to respond to additional need and send
in another team to look at something and bring it forward. It
is all very well in theory, but the truth is it will have to have
a big flashing light on it before you are going to be able to
sort it out.
Christine Gilbert: That is an
issue because we will have to keep a close eye on it. We have
factored in a number of what we are calling triggered inspectionswhere
something has arisen and we need to go in to look at it through
the CAA process. However, we have not made any reductions in that
area or in the inspection of children's social careabsolutely
none. For instance, if the contract that we are looking to finalise
in the next week or so comes in at a figure higher than anticipated,
we are in trouble. We hope that we have made wise estimates in
relation to a number of things such as that, but until they have
come to fruition we are not sure.
Chairman: I think we will have to leave
it there. Paul and Derek have been very patient, as have David
and Fiona who are behind them. Would you like to mention school
Q406 Paul Holmes: A regular issue,
about which we have talked before, is that people, such as those
involved with the National Association of Head Teachers, often
say that there is great fear that Ofstedespecially in relation
to more short inspectionsuses test results almost to the
exclusion of anything else, and that it comes in with a pre-conceived
idea based on the stats of test or exam results. Such people have,
for example, observed that lead inspectors will say to the school
leadership team, "If your standardsin other words
your resultsare only satisfactory, we can't give you a
good award for leadership or management." That might be the
case, even though the school has only got to satisfactory because
of outstanding leadership and management. Do you have any further
observations on that?
Christine Gilbert: That has been
said to me too, but it is completely untrue. We could evidence
that it is untrue by looking at a number of schools. In the first
year of the new school section 5 inspections, I think that there
were quite a lot of complaintsMiriam would have been around,
but I was not in those daysabout the use of and reliance
on data. However, that has actually reduced significantly. Although
there has been considerable talk about that from the NAHT in particular,
it is not evidenced in the complaints that we get about inspection
or in the dialogue that I now have with head teachers about inspection.
We rely on and use data, but the key, overriding thingI
cannot stress this enoughis the inspector's judgment of
what she or he is seeing in that school having analysed the data.
The data help you with the lines of inquiry that you are going
to pursue, if you like, but it is what you are seeing in a schoolthe
other evidence that the school presents to you and so onthat
allows the inspectors to reach a judgment on the school.
Q407 Paul Holmes: So, lead inspectors
have never said to a school leadership team, "We can't give
you a good rating, because your results are merely satisfactory."?
Christine Gilbert: I cannot say
that they have never said it. What I can say to you is that it
is not true and if you look at the guidance that we give inspectors,
it is pretty clear that it is absolutely not true. It is also
not true if you look at the results. You will remember the furore
about the schools in National Challenge. I think that 17 of those
had an outstanding Ofsted categorisation.
Q408 Paul Holmes: You mentioned
the guidance given to inspectors. In issue 8 of January 2009so,
just four weeks agothe guidance states, "There are
cases where the description of the school being inspected places
undue emphasis upon the characteristics of other schools in the
locality." It states that, for example, it is preferable
for inspectors to use a quote such as, "`this is a non-selective
school in a selective area'" rather than comments such as,
"`this school is surrounded by a number of grammar schools'"
or "`the presence of grammar schools in the area has an impact
on the number of higher attaining students at the school'."
Why do you feel it necessary to circumscribe in that way the language
that inspectors can use?
Christine Gilbert: I will have
to pass that one to Miriam. I am not familiar with that example.
Miriam Rosen: The idea is simply
to give an accurate description of the context of the school,
which is actually about the school itself and the pupils it takes
in rather than the surrounding schools, because they may or may
not have influenced the children that that particular school has.
Q409 Paul Holmes: It is not may
or may not, because you also say in the extract here, "Descriptions
should only be used if they are directly relevant and make a significant
contribution to explaining the inspection outcomes." That
is what you have just said. Surely, if a school is a secondary
modernwhether you call it a comprehensive, community or
specialist schoolit is basically a secondary modern, if
it is surrounded by grammar schools. That is going to make a significant
contribution to explaining the inspection outcome.
Miriam Rosen: The inspection outcome
could be outstanding for the school. It does not matter what the
intake of the pupils is. What matters is what the school does
with those pupils, how well it educates them and how well they
then do compared with their starting points. What we were trying
to say in that guidance was to be accurate in the description
rather than try to describe it in terms of the surrounding schools.
Q410 Paul Holmes: Your inspection
team, which has been on the ground and into a lot of schools,
might feel that the nature of the surrounding schools is relevant.
In the infamous case of The Ridings School, for example, it was
surrounded by schools that in one form or another selected their
intake. It was taking the children who were at the bottom of that
system. An inspection team might feel that that was relevant for
the report on the school, but you are saying that it should not
use those terms.
Miriam Rosen: It can still describe
the intake. The really important thing we look at when we go into
a school is its effectivenesshow effectively the school
educates and cares for its pupils.
Q411 Paul Holmes: If there are
harsh, abrupt judgmentspartly from the Government and partly
from yourselvesthat the school is not getting X% five grade
A to C, it could be relevant that the school is at the bottom
of the pecking order in terms of intake.
Miriam Rosen: One of the most
important things we look at is the progress that pupils make depending
on their starting points. They can make very good progress if
they have low attainment on entry, or they can make very good
progress starting from higher attainment. Progress is a very important
judgment that we make. It is true that the overall attainment
pupils reach is also important, because they want to go into the
outside world and get jobs or continue into higher education,
perhaps. But progress is one of the most important judgments that
we make and children from any starting point can make good progress,
if they are being given a good education.
Q412 Paul Holmes: As a final example,
if a school is suffering in terms of its intake because of the
nature of the surrounding schools, it becomes more difficult to
recruit staff and there are more supply teachers. It is the same
as happened in Haringey in a sensea high number of social
workers on short-term contracts passing through, so you did not
have the long-term stability of professional staff. If all that
is built into a relevant picture of why a school has fewer pupils
with five grade A to C, surely the inspectors should have the
right to make that clear in their report. You seem to be saying
to them that they have got to play that down.
Miriam Rosen: Our evidence is
that some schools in that situation do extremely well and some
do not. We want all schools to do as well as they can with the
pupils that they have.
Q413 Paul Holmes: Some of them
do extremely well, but the common feature among the bottom 200
schools in the league tables is that they serve very deprived
Miriam Rosen: Yes and, as Christine
has just said, some of the schools in the National Challenge are
judged by us to be outstanding. It is possible to break the mould
and to do it. In fact, we are soon to publish a report which looks
at 12 outstanding secondary schools, all of which are in deprived
areas and do not have particularly advantaged intakes, yet have
broken the mould and done exceptionally well. Other schools may
learn from that.
Q414 Derek Twigg: Chief Inspector,
how many struggling schools have you identified so far?
Christine Gilbert: My annual report
identified around about 5% inadequate schools from inspections
in 2007-08, 9% of which are secondary.
We are still finding that there are a greater proportion of struggling
schools in the secondary sector than the primary sector.
Q415 Derek Twigg: What will you
be doing differently to identify struggling schools more quickly?
Christine Gilbert: The new proposals
keep the work that we have done on schools in a categoryeither
special measures or notice to improvemuch as now. We found
that it works well and as schools come out of special measures
or notice to improve, they are very positive about it. The difference
in the new approach is that we will be looking more closely at
satisfactory schools. At the moment, we look at about 5% of those.
In future we will look at the progress of satisfactory schools.
If it looks from a set of data as though the school is slipping
or not making the progress that we want it to, we will go in for
a monitoring visit. So that is a feature of the new inspection
regime planned for September.
Q416 Derek Twigg: How many schools
are satisfactory at the moment?
Christine Gilbert: In the secondary
sector it must be about 30%
Q417 Derek Twigg: So that is quite
a large proportion. You intend to inspect all those as part of
this quicker regime?
Christine Gilbert: All of them
will be inspected once in three years, but annually we will look
at the performance of those schools according to things such as
their assessment results, attendance, exclusions, and parental
satisfaction to assess the risk of leaving the school without
an inspection for some time.
Q418 Derek Twigg: So once a school
is identified as struggling, it will not just be identified more
quickly but will be more frequently inspected. Are you talking
about an annual inspection?
Christine Gilbert: No. We are
saying that we will inspect all schools and this has yet to be
agreed because we have asked the DCSF to consider five years rather
than six years. The initial proposals were for six years. The
idea is that good or outstanding schools would be inspected at
least once during that time frame of five or six years. To reassure
parents, we would look annually at the data for each of those
schools to see whether the picture presented suggested some problem
emerging there. So we might go back to one of those more rapidly.
But if a school is satisfactory, it would be inspected within
three years. That happens now, but we will be doing more frequent
monitoring of those schools and monitoring visits to some of those
schools to help prevent them from them going into special measures.
Q419 Derek Twigg: You said that
you would inspect those schools that are either good or excellent
every five to six years.
Christine Gilbert: The initial
proposals were for six years. Parents were very concerned that
generally that meant that a child could go through the school
without having an Ofsted inspection. So we asked the DCSF to see
whether it would find additional funding for five years. Although
it has been positive about that, we have not had a yes yet. It
will be five or six years, because we do not think that we can
do five years unless we get secure additional funding.
5 Note by witness: The 9% is a proportion of
all secondary schools rather than as a proportion of 5% of inadequate