4 The quality and consistency of inspectors |
The variability of inspector performance
70. Of the 77 inspectors who responded to the
Committee's questionnaire for this inquiry, almost 60% judged
the performance of their peer inspectors to be variable at best,
although very few thought that the majority of inspection teams
performed poorly, and many inspectors said that inconsistency
was often caused by newly-recruited inspectors finding their way.
Other evidence we have taken agreed with the inspectors' self-verdict
that, in the words of one, "inspection teams often contain
inspectors with little knowledge of the phase or aspects they
are inspecting and often with limited experience of inspection
71. There is little doubt, as the National Association
of Head Teachers told us, that "there are many excellent
inspectors working in the field"
or that, as SCORE (Science Community Representing Education) reported,
"subject inspectors within Ofsted are often hugely knowledgeable".
However, the evidence we have heard also leaves little doubt that
there are, in the words of teacher Dr Steve Austin, "inspectors
who do not have any recent and relevant experience of the kind
of school that they are inspecting."
David Singleton OBE, a former Deputy Director of Education at
Ofsted, is clear that, on the education side of the house, "too
many inspectors have been too long out of schools... Too many
are not fully up to date; they have little notion of the pressures
on modern teachers."
Baroness Perry, a former Chief Inspector, supported this in her
evidence to the Committee, stating categorically that there are
"inspectors who have never taught a day in their lives".
72. The picture does not appear to be vastly
different away from schools inspections. Robert Tapsfield, who
leads the Fostering Network, reported that agencies have been
inspected by people "with very little experience of fostering
and that has caused a problem."
Jonathan Stanley, whose expertise is in children's homes, agreed
that inspection works best when the team has "some knowledge,
skills, expertise and experience of the setting in which you're
working", before adding that this "is clearly not the
case in all residential child care inspections."
The British Association of Social Workers which, as a representative
body, has a national perspective on such issues, reported that
some inspectors "appear to have very little understanding
of the work of the sector they are inspecting."
Special school heads appear to feel "very passionately"
that "inspectors have some experience in the area of special
needs education that they are looking at".
73. Ofsted has acknowledged that secondment out
of the organisation is a "valuable developmental tool"
and that "increasing the proportion of inspectors who have
recent and relevance experience of the schools sector" is
a major benefit of such secondments.
However, of the six outward secondments listed in the Departmental
Report for 2008-09, only one was to the front-line (with a local
authority); the others were to other Governmental or central organisations.
We believe that this lack of recent and relevant experience of
the front-line has contributed to a loss of faith in the inspection
system. As one commentator has written, "inspectors have
to be trusted and recognised as expert" if they are to command
"the respect of the profession [they] seek[s] to regulate".
Urgent reform is needed to ensure that the new Inspectorates of
Education and Children's Care have credibility within their respective
sectors, which will in turn bring the "mutual trust and respect"
on which successful inspections rely.
74. Furthermore, we believe this ties closely
to the Government's desirearticulated in the recent White
Paper The Importance of Teachingto focus inspection
more on observation than on data:
We will ask Ofsted to return to focusing its attention
on the core of teaching and learning ... [allowing] inspectors
to get back to spending more of their observing lessons, giving
a more reliable assessment of the quality of education children
We heard evidence that in some inspections there
is "an over-reliance on data".
Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research found
that "many [schools] would prefer an even greater emphasis
on observations of teaching and learning, and less emphasis on
data and systems."
We will return to the new framework in Chapter 6, but this specific
issue relates directly to our recommendations below concerning
the experience and expertise of inspectors, as more observation
would appear to imply that inspectors need a greater appreciation
of the settings they are visiting.
75. At the same time, a number of inspectors
accepted that the front-line values experience of inspection as
well as experience of the sector. There is a fine balance to be
struck between the two. Inspecting is itself a great skill, and
those with sustained inspection understanding and experience are
as valuable as their colleagues who have been at the front-line
more recently as well. Inspection teams need to achieve this mix
in order to command the respect of teachers and other professionals.
76. There are too many inspectors
lacking recent and relevant experience of the settings they investigate.
The Inspectorate of Education should extend and develop mechanismssuch
as outward secondments to the front linefor ensuring that
its inspectors remain in touch with the system and changes therein.
The Inspectorate of Children's Care, which we envisage would operate
on a more improvement-based model, will need to ensure that alongside
its 'practitioner inspectors' it has inspectors who, by contrast,
have experience of inspection practice over a longer time period.
We feel it is essential that inspectors have regular opportunities
for professional development, most particularly to keep up-to-date
with practice at the front-line.
Secondments into the inspectorate
77. Broadly, then, we agree with the inspector
who told us (and the many others who agreed) that a sizeable percentage
of the inspectorate workforce "should be experts drawn from
their fields." However, we acknowledge that there are many
barriers to that, which Janet Tomlinson, Managing Director of
Inspections at Tribal Group, outlined for us:
For very small schools, it can be difficult to release
people. Also, we find that serving practitioners, particularly
from smaller schools, are reluctant to leave their schools too
often in a year. Maybe they only want to leave to do one or two
inspections, and then it's hard for them to keep up to speed with
what's going on in the inspection world. It's harder for them
to write the reports quicklyto do whatever they need to
do quicklybecause they are not accustomed to doing it that
78. We also acknowledge that the Regional Inspection
Service Providers (RISPs)CfBT, Serco and Tribalare
currently making concerted efforts to increase the numbers of
serving practitioners who are also inspectors, although they are
doing so from very low baselines. All three told us that currently
10% of their schools workforce is serving practitioners, and they
are aiming to increase that to 20-30% over the next three years;
in learning and skills, the increase will be to a far more impressive
50% (from a baseline of 40%). However, as Janet Tomlinson explained,
"With learning and skills, it's easier, because you've got
colleges that are so much larger that it's easier for staff to
be released to go on inspections."
79. We were pleased to hear the methods outlined
by all three RISPs for increasing those figures, including training
programmes, conferences, taster courses and peer support.
We agree with the inspector who suggested that "secondments
directly to Ofsted or to the contractor could ensure more practitioners
for a longer time", and are pleased that Ofsted already encourages
Schooling, Director of Children's Services for Islington, argued
thatfor this to become more normal practiceit would
"need to be part of my job and of my job description that
there is an expectation that I would go to do peer review and
sector-led support for other local authorities",
which might be one way of addressing the barriers outlined above.
80. Furthermore, we are convinced not only that
inspectors have more credibility when they are serving practitioners,
but also that there are benefits to be gained for the inspection
service itself as well as for the settings inspected. Christine
Ryan, Chief Inspector at the Independent Schools Inspectorate,
told us what those are:
Within our system, the team inspectors are themselves
current, serving practitioners. We deploy around a thousand of
these a year to go into and inspect other schools. The exchange
of information and the opportunity to see the most effective practice
and to take it back into their own institutions... is phenomenal.
The inspectors themselves frequently comment that it is the best
professional development that they get, as well as the benefit
to the sector as a whole.
Professor Nick Frost, whose expertise is in the social
care side of Ofsted's remit, agreed that peer review would help
to "spread good practice and good practice models."
81. The Inspectorates of Education
and Children's Care which we propose, working with the Department
for Education, need to develop ways to increase dramatically the
percentage of inspectors who are serving senior practitioners
on secondment from the front-line. The targets currently set by
the Regional Inspection Service Providers for schools are too
low, and we believe a greater proportion would aid the credibility
and quality of inspection teams. We suggest that such secondments
could be built into job descriptions for practitioners, and would
encourage Government, centrally and locally, to consider how that
might work. Consideration
should continue to be given to other ways to ensure that practitioners
are encouraged to become inspectors.
The training and role of Additional
82. A very common theme in evidence from education
institutions was the huge difference in opinion as to whether
Her Majesty's Inspectors offer a better service to schools than
their Additional Inspector colleagues. There is a stark contrast
in the evidence submitted by the teacher unions with that of Ofsted
83. Teacher unions have been calling for some
time for all inspections to be led by Her Majesty's Inspectors,
who are the full-time workforce employed directly by Ofsted. In
an article in the Times Education Supplement in March 2010, the
National Association of Head Teachers explained its rationale:
The thing about HMIs is there is the quality assurance
in terms of training and standards which we don't necessarily
believe is there with other inspectors, although there are some
very good teams out there.
In its evidence to this inquiry, the NAHT maintained
its position, arguing that "we receive very few complaints
about HMI" and that the "overwhelming majority of the
'problem' inspectors" are Additional Inspectors.
The National Union of Teachers also raised concerns "about
the performance and behaviour of inspectors employed by inspection
service providers", although "approval ratings of HMI...
have consistently been relatively high."
For the Association of School and College Leaders this is because
"there is a clear rigorous assessment process on appointment
of HMIs" which is lacking for Additional Inspectors.
84. By contrast, Ofsted's own evidence suggests
that there are "more complaints about HMI-led inspections
of schools than [there are about] additional inspector-led ones."
Janet Tomlinson of Tribal offered an explanation of this contrast
One of the things that our inspectors find, in schools
particularly, is that schools are not really aware of who are
HMIs and who are additional inspectorsthey get very confused.
We findsometimes to our embarrassment, sometimes to Ofsted's
- that schools get confused between what is Ofsted and what is
Tribal. As far as they are concerned, they are having an inspection;
they do not always mind or care who is doing it, as long as those
people are doing it well.
85. This issue was tackled by our predecessors
on the Children, Schools and Families Committee, which recommended
in its 2010 report on School Accountability that:
We believe that Ofsted should aspire to have HMIs
lead all inspections. Schools causing concern should always be
inspected by a team headed by an HMI.
That recommendation was not accepted by either Government
or Ofsted, with the former arguing that there "are many effective
and highly qualified additional inspectors who have delivered
very good inspections and reports"
and the latter agreeing that there would not "be any great
advantage to having all inspections led by HMIespecially
if this diminished their critical role in quality assurance."
86. That final point does raise concerns about
the principle of HMIs leading all inspections. As a smaller, full-time
and more costly workforce than their Additional Inspector colleagues,
HMIs have an important role in overseeing the training of Additional
Inspectors, and we are convinced by Ofsted's evidence that this
is a better deployment of their expertise than having them lead
every inspection. However, we also agree with Janet Tomlinson
that transparency around the provenance and experience of inspectors
may be partly responsible for the wildly different evidence submitted
by Ofsted and the unions.
87. On the subject of training, we also acknowledge
the evidence submitted to us by the NASUWT union:
For all inspectors, effective training and development
remain key concerns. It is for this reason that the NASUWT remains
concerned that the nature, scope and quality of Ofsted's training
programmes are not open to independent scrutiny.
88. We are not convinced that
there is a definite or systemic difference in quality between
Her Majesty's and Additional Inspectors, and are inclined to agree
with the inspector who told us that "HMI are not universally
better than AI and many AI are certainly better than HMI."
We are therefore disinclined to recommend that all inspections
are led by HMIs. We do agree, however, that HMIswho have
considerable experience of inspection practiceshould continue
to be well-utilised in the training of other inspectors.
89. In line with our earlier
recommendation concerning performance-related transparency, we
believe that the new Inspectorates should prioritise transparency
over the provenance of their inspection teams, including providing
fuller biographies and curricula vitae to settings in advance
of inspections. This would increase all inspectors' credibilitywhether
Her Majesty's or Additionalas well as support professional
dialogue with settings. Greater transparency over the training
of inspectors would also be welcome.
96 The questionnaire asked "In your experience
of working as an inspector, are inspection teams uniformly high
quality?" as part of an open-text question. Of those who
directly responded to that question (74 out of 77 responses),
41% said that teams were broadly or consistently high quality;
54% said quality was variable; and 5% said that generally the
quality was low Back
Ev 111 Back
Ev w125 Back
Ev w3 Back
Ev w12 Back
Q 92 Back
Q 327 Back
Q 307 Back
Ev 148 Back
National Association of Head Teachers, Q 141 Back
Ofsted Departmental Report 2008-09, p. 55 Back
See list, ibid. Back
Kelly, G., 'Woodhead wants Ofsted closed down...', The Times
Educational Supplement, 12 February 2010 Back
Association of School and College Leaders, Q 141 Back
The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
paras 6.17 and 6.19 Back
Ev 154 Back
Ev w108 Back
Q 358 Back
Q 358 Back
See Q 360 Back
See Ofsted Departmental Report 2008-09, p. 55 Back
Q 266 Back
The Committee's attention has been drawn to the Australian practice
of 'Long Service Leave' where employees are entitled to additional,
accumulated leave based on their length of service. Some Australian
citizens choose to spend this additional leave on secondment to
other organisations or visiting similar workplaces abroad. The
entitlement is nationwide, but administered regionally; more information
on the system in Victoria, for example, can be found at http://www.business.vic.gov.au/BUSVIC/STANDARD/PC_63017.html.
Such a model might provide an interesting starting point for any
Governmental consideration of how a "secondments entitlement"
might work in this country Back
Q 209 Back
Q 274 Back
'Heads' union demands that all inspections are HMI-led', The
Times Educational Supplement, 19 March 2010 Back
Ev 111 Back
Ev w155 Back
'Heads' union demands that all inspections are HMI-led', The
Times Education Supplement, 19 March 2010 Back
Q 426 Back
Q 361 Back
School Accountability: First Report of the Children, Schools
and Families Committee, Session 2009-10, HC 88-I, para 21 Back
School Accountability: Responses from the Government and Ofsted
to the First Report of the Committee, Session 2009-10: Third
Special Report of the Children, Schools and Families Committee,
Session 2009-10, HC 486, p. 10 Back
Idem., p. 26 Back
Ev w199 Back