Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
CBE, JOHN GOLDUP
22 MARCH 2010
Q140 Ms Buck: I would certainly
find it very interesting to know whether it also includes School
Action Plus, English as an additional language and so on, if that's
possible to know.
Christine Gilbert: What people
did, too, was confuse what we would call attainment and achievement,
and achievement is the thing that's the limiting grade. Achievement
involves attainmentraw scores, to put it crudelybut
also learning and progress. That's the keythe difference
that the school is making. That's what we're really looking at
in terms of achievement.
Q141 Derek Twigg: In those 8%
of schools, what was the actual attainment in terms of 5 GCSE
passes at A to C?
Christine Gilbert: I don't know
without checking, but I can check and get back to you on that.
Q142 Derek Twigg: That would be
useful, because I want to explore the issue, again, about attainment,
achievement and what is outstanding. I would argue that a school
gaining around 20% in GCSE passes cannot ever be termed outstanding.
What's your view on that?
Christine Gilbert: It honestly
does depend on the intake of the school. For instance, you might
get a special school
Q143 Derek Twigg: Let's take an
average deprived area in terms of the statistics. Halton is the
21st most deprived authority in the country, but with a 70% attainment
level at GCSE. Let's just take, for want of a better phrase, the
average sort of deprived population that a school might have in
certain areas like that.
Christine Gilbert: If the attainment
was that low, the inspectors would look at those results and attainment
more generally in the school, but they would also look to see
what the school was doing. It could be on a strong upward move;
for example, if it had been 3% the year before, it might be. But
I would think it would be very difficult indeed to get "outstanding"
in that situation.
Q144 Derek Twigg: Some people
will argue that, because they have put in all that effort into
getting the school on an upward trajectory, it justifies it being
"outstanding". I put it to youyou sort of answered
it, but I want to make surethat attainment is also a pretty
important part of a school's performance.
Christine Gilbert: I have said
countless times that you can't go to interview with your value-added
score. You've absolutely got to get the results.
Q145 Derek Twigg: Would you argueagain,
it is put by certain peoplethat the fact that the school
is in a deprived area is somehow an excuse for low attainment?
Christine Gilbert: That was said
to me quite a lot, and that was the trigger for the three publications
that we produced on outstanding schools. The first publication
was on outstanding secondary schools in disadvantaged areas, where
there had been a number of things over time; but the schools were
all performing very well. The attainment was good or better in
all those schools and they were all doing very well by their pupils,
in acutely disadvantaged areas.
Q146 Derek Twigg: There are a
lot of good examples. I want to explore another issue briefly
with you. I know it's early days in terms of the inspection regime,
but generally is there any excuse for a local authority not knowing
if one of its schools is inadequate?
Christine Gilbert: No; I think
a good authority should know its schools well enough to know how
each of them is performing.
Q147 Derek Twigg: So it should
never come as a surprise to a local authority that one of its
schools is inadequate, as deemed by yourselves?
Christine Gilbert: In my view,
it shouldn't come as a surprise.
Q148 Derek Twigg: Have you come
across many authorities that found it a surprise?
Christine Gilbert: None has talked
to me about it, but whether they have talked to other people about
it I don't know.
Miriam Rosen: Especially now that
the school improvement partners are in the schools, they should
know if the school is inadequate and they should be informing
the local authority.
Q149 Derek Twigg: That leads to
the question why a school should be inadequate if the local authority
knows about it. What has it not done that it could have done?
Christine Gilbert: Sometimes,
the local authority knows that it is unable to shift the school.
Derek Twigg: That's the point. What is
it that the authority is not doing that it should be doing?
Christine Gilbert: There are various
things; it could issue a warning notice and so on, but I think
that would be a last resort. Most local authorities would want
to work with their schools to effect change.
Q150 Derek Twigg: Just to press
you on the last question, what is it specifically that a local
authority could do basically to assure you that it can prevent
a school becoming inadequate in the first place? What is it not
doing that it should be doing? You don't want to get to the stage
of issuing a notice, as you rightly say. We're into prevention,
surely; what is it in your experience that local authorities are
not doing that would prevent a school becoming inadequate?
Christine Gilbert: I think it's
related to where you started the line of questioning. I think
it's when they don't know their schools well enoughthey
don't have systems in place to know their schools well enough,
and to have a dialogue with the head of the school and the governing
body about what is going on in the school.
Derek Twigg: On that basis, no local
authority gets deemed by you to be "outstanding" or
"good" or has ever been in that situation.
Christine Gilbert: We now look,
in a way that we hadn't until the new system, at the aggregated
results of school inspections. One might not do it, it would depend,
but it would be very unusual to get three schools going into special
measures, and that not being flagged up as a real issue for us
as to whether it would impact on the outstanding judgment.
Q151 Derek Twigg: Just to be clear,
in the future no local authority should be deemed "outstanding"
or "good" and subsequently a school is found to be inadequate?
Christine Gilbert: It would depend
on the circumstances for that particular school and on the circumstances
for that local authority, but we now look at what is happening
in that authority. For instance, say an authority had three schools
in special measures two years or 18 months ago and it is showing
on the profile that those schools were inadequate. That might
not stop the authority being deemed "good" or "outstanding"
if no schools had gone into special measures since then and if
we felt that progress in those schoolswith the authority
working with those schoolswas sufficient. So there are
issues of judgment.
Q152 Derek Twigg: Today, you go
into one local authority and you say, "We have done our inspection
and that local authority is good or outstanding". You would
absolutely not expect any school in that local authority in the
next 12 months, 18 months or two years to be deemed as inadequate.
Otherwise, there is something wrong with the inspection, isn't
Miriam Rosen: I don't think that
that will necessarily be the case, because there are instances
when the local authority knows that a school is in trouble but
it is actually having difficulty shifting it on. So there may
be instances where that is the case and there may also be instances
where there is a sudden decline. So I think that it would be difficult
to have a blanket rule like that.
Q153 Chair: I just want to touch
on something that Karen brought up. The previous report said that
we were unhappy about the kind of bluntness of using free school
meals as a sensitive or accurate indicator of deprivation. I know
that we've all been in the business of trying to refine that method.
You seemed a bit vague about whether there was a more refined
way of dealing with an index of deprivation.
Christine Gilbert: We have not
found one and the free school meal is a crude proxy, as we know,
because it is really known free school mealsit is not necessarily
an entitlement to them, or anything else. But we are looking at
the area of value for money and the differences in schools. That
issue will come up again with those considerations and we will
come back to you on it.
Q154 Chair: Are you doing that
on your own, or with the Department? How are you doing it?
Christine Gilbert: We have been
charged with doing it on our own, but we have also been talking
to the Audit Commission about what we are doing. We have also
been talking to a number of heads who have got some interesting
Q155 Chair: It is the sort of
thing that you might commission the Institute of Education or
the London School of Economics to do some research on, surely.
Christine Gilbert: It might well
Q156 Ms Buck: That is a very interesting
point that you just made. When we ask a parliamentary question
about free school dinners, the replies always come back that it
is impossible to give the precise data and that the figures are
always ranked by estimated entitlement. And yet you are saying
that you think that you don't know who is entitled to free school
Christine Gilbert: I had this
debate with somebody last week. It was about a special measures
report, where there had been a phrase about the pupils' entitlement
to school meals and I said, "How would they know? Is something
different from when I was either in schools or in a local authority?"
I thought that there might have been something else. In the end,
the system relies on the parents alerting the school that the
child is entitled to free school meals. If the child doesn't want
a meal in that school, the parents wouldn't necessarily need to
tell the school.
Q157 Ms Buck: With secondary schools
in particular, you would get a very skewed picture as a consequence
of that, wouldn't you?
Christine Gilbert: There were
also some schools where a hot meal was not necessarily provided,
so that parents didn't think that it was worth having the meal
at all and therefore the "entitlement" would be lower
in that school than would be expected.
Q158 Chair: Would you agreein
the past, I think that we have agreed on this issue, but let's
see whether we can update our agreementthat the closest
relationship between good quality learning and anything else is
highly qualified and trained professionals in the classroom?
Christine Gilbert: We do agree
on that. Well, we agree that teaching is the most important impact
on learning, yes.
Q159 Chair: Teaching is related
to the skills, isn't it?
Christine Gilbert: It is, absolutely.
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