- Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-379)


6 MAY 2009

  Q360  Mr Heppell: School report cards seem to be aimed at lots of people—parents, carers, schools, government and Ofsted, all with a different requirement. What is actually the purpose? Who is the school report card for? Is it for people to judge the schools? Give us your view of who it is aimed at.

  Christine Gilbert: I do not see it as aimed at Ofsted. I see it as primarily aimed—a number of people would use it—at parents, the public and pupils themselves. I see it as something that more clearly tells you about the key things that are important to the school. The debate, of course, is about what those things are: is there agreement on what those key things are on the report card?

  Q361  Mr Heppell: Every time we talk about this we have some people who say, "What we want is something that's quite simple, that parents can look at, where they can see everything." Then you get someone else who talks about how you need more detail about this and that. Someone suggested there should be a web page with a simple bit and something you could click on to get more detailed stuff. Where do you stand? How do you see it? Do you see it as a really detailed statement of the school or something where the school would be wrapped in a number, and that would be about it?

  Christine Gilbert: It is important, whether you can dig deep or not, that at first glance it has a real sharpness and clarity and conveys a picture of the school simply and effectively. I think that that is important. In terms of the grade issue, on balance, we think that a single grade might be helpful—that is what Ofsted does now; there are a number of grades in the report, but an overall grade is given as well. One of the things that I would hope for is some simplicity. I think I have said in a previous meeting that one of the things that parents have said to us is that they are completely lost now, when they look at the achievement and attainment tables, and don't follow what is going on. Even people who are really quite engaged in the educational debate cannot get a grip on what it all means. So I think it is really important that it is simple and clear, but I also think that it might well be used for other purposes. I have used the name "health check" and we cannot find an alternative—we hope to find one by September. We would not use our health check if that were to be available to parents, so it could be used for additional purposes.

  Q362  Mr Heppell: The Government have suggested that it could be used by Ofsted to decide where it is going to do inspections. That seems fair enough. What about if Ofsted then goes in and it comes up with a completely different view of the school from the one set out in, if you like, the mark or grade, or the way the report card is set out describing the school? Where do we go from there?

  Christine Gilbert: I think that that would be inevitable in some instances, because the Ofsted inspection is real time, as it were—you go in and you capture a picture of a school. The data presented in the card is looking backwards and might well be more out of date than the inspection. But the inspections also look at different things.

  Q363  Chairman: Are you being asked to help design or inform the school report card?

  Christine Gilbert: As I said earlier, Miriam is an assessor on the group, so we will contribute to the design.

  Q364  Chairman: So which people are working on the school report card?

  Miriam Rosen: Can I just say that there are people from within Ofsted who have been working with the Department to look at what the report card should look like. The Department is in the lead, but we will definitely comment on it.

  Q365  Chairman: So the Department has been drawing on your expertise?

  Miriam Rosen: Yes.

  Q366  Chairman: Who else has it been drawing on? Who else is there?

  Miriam Rosen: We have been talking to them bilaterally.

  Q367  Chairman: You have not been to a meeting with our friends in CfBT and Capita?

  Miriam Rosen: We have been having meetings with the specific people who are working on report cards.

  Q368  Chairman: Right, but is there a working group in the Department?

  Miriam Rosen: There is a group of people in the Department whose responsibility it is.

  Q369  Chairman: But you have not met them?

  Miriam Rosen: Yes. I have met them.

  Q370  Chairman: So how many did you meet?

  Miriam Rosen: The main people we met were the other two or three people.

  Q371  Chairman: And they were civil servants in the Department?

  Miriam Rosen: Yes.

  Q372  Chairman: But you didn't meet anyone else they were consulting with?

  Miriam Rosen: When we meet them, we meet them by ourselves. I am not totally aware of who else they are meeting with. But they have drawn on our expertise.

  Q373  Chairman: So you are the key people personally, Miriam. Who will write the school report card on the school?

  Miriam Rosen: It will be done—I can't tell you the answer to that question.

  Q374  Chairman: It's quite important, isn't it? The Chief Inspector has, under John's questioning, said, "You might get an Ofsted report that says this, and a school report that says that." So who is producing the school report card if it is not Ofsted?

  Christine Gilbert: I assumed that it was the DCSF, but I have no idea—now you have asked the question, I assume that.

  Q375  Chairman: So you think that the DCSF will do it nationally. In the Department, the people will write a school report card on the little primary school in my constituency?

  Christine Gilbert: Whether they do it themselves or commission it, I am not sure—

  Chairman: Ah, they are going to commission it.

  Christine Gilbert: The lead would be from them. I don't think it's being discussed that it would be Ofsted.

  Q376  Chairman: Will the local authority be the appropriate people to do it? We are off to have a look at school report cards. This is quite important information, but you don't know.

  Christine Gilbert: I just haven't been involved in that discussion. But the Ofsted inspection grade, we think, should be a part of the school report card.

  Chairman: Sorry, John. I cut across your questioning.

  Q377  Mr Heppell: Just one thing to lead on from that: where do parents fit into this? Have the parents been asked? Is it clear to parents what the school is like, to enable them to assess whether the school is run to the benefit of their child in the first place, or to be able to follow progress, if you like? Have parents, and teachers actually, been involved in the discussions about how the report card should look?

  Miriam Rosen: The Department has been talking to a group of stakeholders called the "New Relationship with Schools" group. Teachers are represented at that point, as are parents and governors associations. That is where that discussion has been taking place.

  Christine Gilbert: But there is a formal consultation, I think.

  Miriam Rosen: There has already been one consultation, and there will be, I think, another one.

  Q378  Mr Chaytor: Can I come back to the point about who signs off the report card, particularly if there is a single grade. This brings us back to where we started, because if the Department has the responsibility for allocating the grade, it presumably completely undermines the point about independence from government, which was the first question that I asked in the session. Doesn't this completely sabotage Ofsted's role?

  Miriam Rosen: The Government will not be signing off the Ofsted grade—I can assure you of that.

  Q379  Mr Chaytor: No, but there is then the possibility of a conflict between the Ofsted grade and the Department's grade. So what does that say?

  Chairman: Or you could get rid of Ofsted, David—it would be much cheaper. We would have the report card.

  Mr Chaytor: It is hard to understand that there has not been some major debate between Ofsted and the Department on this question of who allocates the final grade on the report card.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 7 January 2010