2 The role and remit of Ofsted |
The breadth of Ofsted's remit
11. Ofsted has been described as "the mergers
and acquisitions giant of the education sector", and it is
difficult to argue with that verdict.
Originally designed in the early 1990s as an inspectorate of schools
and colleges, Ofsted has grown extensively and its remit now extends
to inspection or regulation of, inter alia, childminders,
children's services and social care, children's centres, adoption
and fostering agencies, the Children and Family Court Advisory
and Support Service (CAFCASS), further education, initial teacher
training, adult skills, and prison learning.
That the current Chief Inspector's very job title has four more
words in it than her original predecessor's once did is evidence
in itself of the organisation's growth.
12. By Ofsted's own reckoning, this means that
the inspectorate's work "touches the lives of millions of
people in England every day."
In 2009-10, Ofsted conducted over 31,500 inspections, including
of over 6,000 maintained schools, 2,000 children's homes, and
20,000 childcare and early years providers.
13. The previous Government set great store by
the theory and practice of 'joined-up services', particularly
with regard to young people, and Ofsted's expanded remit is one
visible manifestation of that policy. It is clear to us that there
are significant advantages of a single inspectorate, not least
that Central Government then reflects front-line practice, as
the Local Government Group told us:
We believe [a single inspectorate] is important because,
on the ground, front-line services for children and young people
are required to act in concert to ensure effective provision and
14. Other witnesses argued that a single inspectorate
across education and children's services can "ensure consistent
standards and approaches to an issue"
and, at a less localised level, share "broadly similar aims".
Several organisations, particularly from the non-schools areas
of Ofsted's remit, told us that they value the new, larger inspectorate.
Kidsunlimited, for example, argued that Ofsted "has been
a far more effective instrument for promoting improvement in Early
Years and Childcare" than under previous arrangements.
Ofsted's own Trade Union Side acknowledged that "there have
undoubtedly been problems in creating 'one Ofsted'" but that
"the potential benefits to be had from sharing cross-remit
expertise are apparent if not yet realised."
However, we also heard significant evidence that Ofsted is still
seen as an inspectorate of education alone. Kate Groucutt, Policy
Director at the Daycare Trust, said in oral evidence that "awareness
that Ofsted inspects and regulates child care is very low",
and Robert TapsfieldChief Executive of the Fostering Networkagreed
that "in the public's eye, I'm sure [Ofsted is] seen as a
15. Maurice Smith CB, a former Chief Inspector
at Ofsted, rightly pointed out to the Committee that the arguments
for or against Ofsted's remit depend on whether you "look
at it through institutional eyes [or] through the child's eyes"
because "the child doesn't just go to school; it goes to
the doctor's, and it may end up in the social care system."
Whilst that argument is convincing, Lord Sutherland's rejoinder
is perhaps more sothat "the things that affect a child's
life are the whole context of the society in which they live...
and you're into everything the minute you move from the institution."
16. Other witnesses argued, again with good reason,
that structure is far less important than sound practice within
the structure. For example, the General Teaching Council for England
explained that "whether there ought to be one or more inspectorates
of children's services is... of lesser order than the credibility
and expertise of inspection teams in every kind of setting"a
valuable and vital point to which we shall returnand one
with which Lord Hill of Oareford, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Schools, appeared to agree. He argued that "the
key question is whether the right people are performing the different
bits of inspection... provided things are being done properly,
I personally would not be too fussed about whether they sit in
one big entity".
The Fostering Network drew attention to the frequent changes of
inspectorate for that sector, and pointed out that such "turnover
is in itself a problemeach inspection body requires time
to settle down."
17. Despite these arguments, the Committee was
struck, in oral evidence especially, by the number of experts
who consider Ofsted's remit to have grown too large to make as
profound a positive difference to the sector as smaller organisations
might. Many witnesses argued that Ofsted did not have the sufficient
expertise at senior levels, as Lord Sutherland explained:
I am disappointed that these additional responsibilities
have been given to Ofsted for the purely practical reason that
if you are in the seat at the top... it is rather a lot to ask
and to find one individual, be it the person who chairs the board
or the chief inspector, who carries the can ultimately and who
will have expertise in all those areas... it is really a very
wide, broad remit to take home to one individual.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children (NSPCC) emphasised that Ofsted "did not appoint
anyone in a senior position with a social care background until
Other witnesses drew attention to the lack of non-education expertise
at all levels within Ofsted. For example, Sensethe national
charity for deafblind peopletold us that "different
parts of the sector could be better served by either smaller
inspectorates with a stronger individual focus... or the enhancement
of specialist teams working within the current single inspectorate
Others still have argued that the joined-up approach has not,
in practice, worked; Baroness Perry, a former Chief Inspector
of Schools, told the inquiry that "some of the dreadful cases
we have had... have demonstrated that there need to be more communications,
but that of Baby P demonstrated that even after you have merged,
you do not get any better service."
18. One convincing argument for the creation
of a single inspectorate looking at education for young people
and adults, children's services, and children's social care, was
that it presented significant savings. However, as Lord Sutherland
emphasised to us, back office functions could be shared by a greater
number of smaller inspectorates which retained elements of specialism:
If you're looking for savings, look for savings in
an accounting context rather than in terms of perhaps reducing
the quality of the operation.
Maurice Smith agreed that that was a "perfectly
acceptable" value for money argument
and certainly it seems that there is no reason why two inspectorates,
with the exception of an additional Chief Inspector's salary,
should prove substantially more expensive than one.
19. Perhaps the most convincing evidence provided,
though, was that during the inquiry it became very obvious that
education and care are, in fact, different beasts which accordingly
need to be treated differently. Nowhere was this distinction between
the two sides of the remit more apparent than in the evidence
given by the two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State from
the Department for Education, where they described different inspection
systems for the education and non-education sides of Ofsted's
remit. These differing purposes of inspectionwhich are
discussed in more detail in the next section are in themselves
strong evidence for the division of Ofsted and its duties. In
the words of one inspector who wrote to us, "Education and
social care are not easy bedmates."
20. We believe that having a
single children's inspectorate has not worked well enough to merit
its continuation. The
expanded Ofsted has lost the elements of specialism associated
with its predecessor bodies, at senior and operational levels.
Ofsted has not adequately communicated its non-schools remit and,
as such, is still seen by the public as an education-focussed
organisation. Moreover, different inspection regimes are needed
for the very different sectors Ofsted deals with. In order to
focus greater attention on children's services and care, and to
ensure inspection is respected by its customers, we recommend
that the Government splits Ofsted into two inspectorates.
21. The Inspectorate for Education
should hold responsibility for the inspection of education and
skills, including nurseries, schools and colleges, adult education,
secure estate education, and teacher training, and local authority
commissioning of schools. The Inspectorate for Children's Care
should focus entirely on children's services and care, including
children's homes, adoption services, childminders and CAFCASS.
The two inspectorates should, for the sake of financial efficiency,
consider how best to share administrative functions, and should
of course work closely togethermost particularly in conducting
joint inspections of nurseries and children's centresbut
should retain different elements of expertise and separate Chief
Inspectors. The Chief Inspectors should demonstrate, in their
annual reports, how the two inspectorates are working together.
We are convinced that this division will not only raise the quality
of inspection experience, but also the profile of what is currently
Ofsted's non-education remit. With the recent formation of the
Coalition Government, and a new direction of policy concerning
young people, as well as the impending retirement of the incumbent
Chief Inspector, now is a good time to begin this move.
22. For the remainder of this report, we will
refer to two separate organisations, as our recommendations are
sometimes specific to one rather than both of the proposed new
inspectorates. Where we refer to 'Ofsted', this indicates the
23. As suggested above, Ofsted has been hampered
by its perception as a schools inspectorate. The new Education
Inspectorate must ensure that the breadth of its remit is understood
from the start, and the current Ofsted and any future inspectorates
need to ensure they communicate better than is currently the case.
This is discussed further below, and in Chapter 3.
The definition of inspection
24. One clear disadvantage of a single inspectorate,
which reared its head throughout the inquiry, is that its purpose
has become increasingly blurred. There is clearly significant
confusion amongst parents, front-line professionals and, perhaps
most worrying, Ofsted's own workforce, as to what the purpose
of inspection actually is.
25. The debate lies fundamentally in the balance
between inspection for the sake of service improvement, and inspection
purely as regulation and judgment. Headteacher Lynn Jackson, whose
school in Newcastle-under-Lyme is one of the most improved in
the country, made it clear that "when somebody comes in we
want them to come in to help us to improve",
and David Sherlock CBEformerly Chief Inspector of Adult
Learning before that inspectorate's merger with Ofstedagreed
that inspection "is an improvement tool... it should be a
developmental process, and if it is, it is welcomed by providers."
This view was shared by several inspectors in their questionnaire
responses to the Committee: one said that direct improvement work
is the part of inspection "most valued by schools".
Inspectors' broad overview of the system is part of the reason
for this, as another inspector explained:
When Ofsted inspectors... lead training or advice
sessions for schools, local authorities and subject associations,
their views are greatly valued, because those views are informed
by such broad and detailed experience.
The National Association of Head Teachers, which
represents 28,000 leaders in education, also argued for Ofsted's
"focus being much more on a supportive process that is about
school improvement and driving that forward."
26. Some evidence, however, suggests thatdespite
this preference by some school leaders and certain inspectors
for a developmental, supportive improvement-based inspection modelOfsted's
impact on school improvement is limited at best and negative at
worst. Research from Keele University has suggested that "Ofsted
visits seem to have adverse effects on the standards of exam performance
achieved by schools in the year of the Ofsted inspection."
More recent research by the Institute of Education and Bristol
University argues that, whilst inspection can trigger immediate
improvement in failing schools, it is short-lived:
[T]here is a positive causal effect of failing an
Ofsted inspection on the school's subsequent GCSE performance.
This effect is statistically and substantively significant, but
it appears to be transient. It peaks at two years after the inspection
but has disappeared by four years after.
27. Teachers did not generally concur that Ofsted
causes direct improvement in schools, despite recommendations
in reports which are intended to lead remedial action. 84% of
over 1,500 respondents to a National Association of Head Teachers
poll were clear that inspection did not accelerate improvement,
and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' survey provided
a still-high 69%.
28. Sir Mike Tomlinson, who was Chief Inspector
at Ofsted from 2000-06, is adamant that for Ofsted to drive improvement
directly would represent a conflict of interest, telling the Committee
that "inspecting your own advice is not a particularly objective
is a view shared by inspectors at various levels within Ofsted.
One questionnaire response told us that if Ofsted "were to
get more involved in the improvement process then it would lose
its objectivity and some credibility as it would be inspecting
itself"; another argued that inspection should "provide
an organisation with the information it needs to improve"
but that it "is the job of other bodies to support these
organisations". The current Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert,
has written that inspectors "do not want to replicate the
role of the school improvement partner, nor would it be right
for inspectors to advocate particular commercial improvement tools".
29. David Bella successor to Sir Mike
as Chief Inspector, and now Permanent Secretary at the Department
for Educationfelt that the argument was insoluble:
To say inspection causes improvement is fundamentally
unprovable. I think there are examples of where you have greater
evidence of improvement being brought about by inspection, but
again it's still not quite the same as saying it causes it. For
example, [Ofsted's] monitoring of schools with special measures
is not causing improvement but most head teachers say... that
the process of professional debate and discussion with HMI [Her
Majesty's Inspectors] brings some real bite to the improvement
That view chimes with the oft-quoted inspectors'
mantra of "doing good as you go", and indeed one inspector
told the Committee that inspectors "are very conscious of
not telling providers how to improve but can be very clear on
what needs to improve". That distinction is important, and
begins to address the confusion surrounding Ofsted's current role
in the settings it visits. As Christine Gilbert emphasised in
the Times Educational Supplement last year, Ofsted does share
the best practice it collects, not least through its publications,
and through the dialogue between inspectors and teachers, and
therefore plays an important improvement role without directly
driving change in schools.
30. Tim Loughton MP, responsible for children
and families policy at the Department for Education, said care
inspection was not about "the fact that [social workers]
followed all the procedures, which might result in the child still
being harmed", and agreed that this was more improvement-focussed
than the school inspection system. Mr Loughton said
the "improvement advisory role" offered by the old Commission
for Social Care Inspection "could be a useful role"
for the inspectorate, as did several written memoranda submitted
to us. 
We believe there is an important role for peer review to play
in inspections, which is discussed in Chapter 4.
31. By contrast, Lord Hillwho oversees
the schools side of Ofsted's workportrayed a different
ideal system, which is "primarily inspection and seeing what's
going on". He acknowledged that "the direction of travel
on school improvement more generally is to try and encourage local
approaches... and to try to encourage schools to work together
and learn from best practice."
Such an improvement model is markedly different from the care
side of Ofsted's remit, where many inspected settings are in fact
individuals or organisations which, for a variety of reasons,
cannot form partnerships in the way schools can for improvement
purposes, or do not benefit from the same kind of local authority
support. We therefore agree with Mr Loughton that social care
needs a more improvement-focussed model, whilst continuing to
regulate against certain statutory procedures as well.
32. The Committee is clear,
from the evidence it has taken, that different models of inspection
are needed for different settings, which is reflected in our desire
for Ofsted to be split. The role of the Education Inspectorate
should be, firstly, to inspect institutions and to provide judgments
and recommendations which can drive better outcomes for individual
children, young people and learners; and, secondly, to provide
an overview of the education system as a whole. It should not
aim to be an improvement agency, although inspection should of
course hold up a mirror to an institution's failings and recommend
areas for improvement without dictating how that improvement should
come about. Similarly, it should continue Ofsted's work disseminating
best practice, not just through inspections but through its website
and publications as well. We do not envisage
the Inspectorate being the sole repository of best practice, as
the new 'Teaching Schools' and others will also have a role to
33. The Children's Care Inspectorate
should more actively support service improvement, including a
focus on the quality of practice and the effectiveness of help.
This is largely because many of the remits it will inspectsuch
as childminders and adoption agenciesmay not have easy
access to the partnership-based improvement model which applies
to schools, not least because of the size and scope of their activities.
The Children's Care Inspectorate should ensure that its workforce
has experienced practitioners who command the respect of social
workers and childcare professionals, and who can promote and support
improvement as well as regulating for statutory purposes. Inspectors
should, for example, sit in on case conferences and attend visits
to observe practice.
34. It is all very well for those at the top
of an organisation to understand its role, but it is equally important
for those throughout the organisation and, in the case of a public
body, members of the public, to understand what that role is.
During the seminar and questionnaires we arranged, it became apparent
to the Committee that not all inspectors are signed up to the
same mission statement, and that this worrying confusion is transmitting
itself to parents and professionals in the settings Ofsted visits.
The negative views of Ofsted put forward by the school leader
unions may, in part, be due to their members having very differing
understandings of what the inspectorate does. Whilst Ofsted does
have, on its website and in its publications clear, easily accessible
'mission statements' of its role, there is little clarity offered
about precisely what constitutes inspection.
35. Evidence from a variety of other sources
concurs with that of the seminar and questionnaires. Christine
Ryan, Chief Inspector of the Independent Schools Inspectorate,
told us that there
...needs to be clarity about what you are asking
Ofsted to do, and I don't think there is that clarity anymore.
For any organisation to be successful, it needs to know what its
purpose is and have very clear aims and objectives. I think those
aren't clear at the moment."
On the non-education side of Ofsted's remit, the
Daycare Trust agreed that "there are clearly issues there
36. Both the Education and Children's
Care Inspectorates need clearly-articulated mission statements
easily available to parents, professionals and the wider public,
as well as to their own staff, along the lines established above.
These should also explain how the two organisations work together,
and where. At present, inspection's role in improvement is not
clear, leading to a variety of views within and without Ofsted's
own walls, and thence to inconsistent experiences and expectations
37. It is worthy of note that the recommendations
concerning school inspection in this chapter are broadly in line
with those of our predecessor committee and its report on School
Accountability. In particular, we agree with that report that
Ofsted does not have an active role to play in school improvement
(as did the Government response), and that its role therein needs
clarification for the benefit of the whole system. We also note
that report's recommendation that "Government should be alert
to any sign that the growth of Ofsted's responsibilities is causing
it to become an unwieldy and unco-ordinated body"and
the then Government's response that it would "continue to
draw on the evidence from the Committee's work in considering
The evidence we have received suggests that Ofsted is moving
in that unwieldy and unco-ordinated direction, which supports
our call for two new Inspectorates to replace the existing one.
The case for abolition
38. Some evidence called for the complete abolition
of schools inspection. Professor Michael Bassey believes that
Ofsted has played a useful role but that that role has now largely
[Ofsted] has certainly raised awareness of the need
for schools to [raise standards]. Now that schools are gaining
greater autonomy, Ofsted inspections should be replaced by the
more effective local accountability of schools self-evaluation
supported by partner schools and governing bodies. Ofsted is a
quango that has served its purpose. It can go.
Professor Nick Foskett, a former teacher and lecturer,
and now Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, similarly told the
Committee to "question whether resources channelled into
Ofsted might be resources that would be better channelled directly
into the education service itself to raise standards in schools
39. Professor Bassey is supported by the evidence
the Committee saw during its trip to Finland, which has no school
inspection at all. Substantial autonomy for teachers and school
principals, and significant trust placed in them by central Government,
means that there is no call for formal intervention or regulation
of any kind. Finland's education system is deemed one of the world's
finest, consistently ranked higher than the United Kingdom in
international league tables, and one from which the Government
has expressed a desire to learn.
40. Indeed, our visit has persuaded us that there
are important lessons to be learnt from the Finnish system, including
with regard to inspection. For example, a lack of inspection means
a lack of the stress associated with it (see Chapter 3 below),
and this in turn can mean that schools have productive and amiable
relations with central and local Government, of which we saw evidence
in Finland. Similarly, the autonomy given not only to heads but
classroom teachers as well, when they are free from any form of
external scrutiny, is a probable factor in the popularity of teaching
among Finnish graduates.
However, despite these lessons and others, there are major differences
between our education system and Finland's which do support the
retention of school inspection in this country. Perhaps foremost
amongst these is that there is the variations in school performance
and the extent to which socio-economic background is responsible
for that, as the 2009 PISA results explain:
In Finland [and other countries], differences in
the socio-economic background of schools account for less than
30% of the already-small performance differences between schools.
In the United Kingdom [and others], the between-school performance
variance explained by the socio-economic intake of schools is
larger than 70%...
As inspection measures progression as well as attainmentwhich
we consider in further detail in Chapter 6we believe external
evaluation therefore remains important in this country.
we fully agree that local partnership and self-evaluation are
important mechanisms for school accountability and improvement,
and support increased autonomy for heads and schools, we do not
accept the case for the complete abolition of school inspection
at this point. However, we support the principle of proportionate
inspection and more focus on lower-performing schools. The Education
Inspectorate should see as part of its mission a role to support
the development of robust self and peer evaluation through appropriate
partnerships. The expectation would be that over time the role
of the Education Inspectorate would reduce, as a mature model
of self-improvement based on trust becomes embedded.
12 Baker, M., 'Ofsted-big, bland and bureaucratic?',
BBC News, 28th November 2009 (at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8383408.stm) Back
See full list at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/About-us/Services-we-inspect-or-regulate Back
Stewart Sutherland, now Lord Sutherland of Houndwood KT, was the
inaugural head of Ofsted: Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.
Christine Gilbert CBE, who has led Ofsted since 2006, is Her Majesty's
Chief Inspector of Education, Skills and Children's Services Back
Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's
Services and Skills 2009-10, p. 7 Back
Ev 155 Back
Ev w99 Back
Ev w75 Back
Ev w48 Back
Ev w69 Back
Q 297 Back
Q 331 Back
Q 70 Back
Q 71 Back
Ev w193 Back
Q 455 Back
Ev 147 Back
Q 2 Back
Ev w102. The Chief Inspector, in her evidence, noted that "things
are very different from when that comment was made", but
the NSPCC submitted its evidence in late 2010, specifically for
this inquiry. At the time of this report's publication, only one
Development Director at Ofsted-John Goldup, the Director of Development
for Social Care-has a background outside education Back
Ev w63 Back
Q 95 Back
Q 69 Back
Q 70 Back
Q 78 Back
Q 7 Back
Q 122 Back
Rosenthal, L., 'The cost of regulation in education: do school
inspections improve school quality?' (Department of Economics,
University of Keele, 2001), quoted in MacBeath, J., 'A New Relationship
with Schools?', in de Waal., A. (ed.), Inspecting the Inspectorate
(Civitas, 2008) Back
Ev w93 Back
Ev 111 Back
See Ev w221 Back
Q 28 Back
Writing in 'We strive to do better, too', The Times Educational
Supplement, 19 February 2010 Back
MacBeath, J., School Inspection and Self-evaluation (Routledge,
2006), quoted in MacBeath, J., 'A New Relationship with Schools?',
in de Waal., A. (ed.), Inspecting the Inspectorate (Civitas,
See 'We strive to do better, too', The Times Educational Supplement,
19 February 2010 Back
See Q 453 and Q 454 Back
Q 453 Back
Q 207 Back
Q 297 Back
School Accountability: First Report from the Children,
Schools and Families Committee, Session 2009-10, HC 88-I, para
20 (and see other recommendations) Back
School Accountability: Responses from the Government and Ofsted
to the First Report of the Committee, Session 2009-10: Third
Special Report from the Children, Schools and Families Committee,
Session 2009-10, HC 486, p. 10 Back
Ev w32 Back
Q 167 Back
See The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
p. 3 Back
Figures supplied to the Committee by the Finnish National Board
of Education show that, in 2010, there were almost 7,000 applicants
for admission into class teacher education in Finland, of which
around12% were admitted to training. Back
PISA 2009: Overcoming Social Background (OECD, 2010), Volume
II, p. 86 Back
A note of the Committee's visit to Finland can be found at Annex