Memorandum submitted by CfBT, Tribal and
Ofsted has operated an outsourced inspection model
successfully for seventeen years. The current Education, Learning
and Skills inspection contracts commenced in September 2009, following
a rigorous procurement process that delivered substantial savings
to Ofsted. Of the three successful bidders, two were incumbent
providers (CfBT and Tribal) and one (SERCO) was new. The contracts
cover inspection not only of maintained and independent schools
but also learning and skills (L&S), including FE colleges
and work-based learning, and initial teacher education (ITE).
This paper is a joint submission from those three
Inspection Service Providers (ISPs). The sections completed are
those which focus on the delivery of the contract and where there
is unanimity of view.
What the purposes of inspection should be (relating
not only to schools but to all organisations, settings and services
under Ofsted's remit)
1. We believe inspection needs to:
(a) Contribute to school, organisational, setting
or service improvement and pupil or student achievement through
clear identification of poor performance and how to put it right
and through the sharing and best use of good practice.
(b) Provide public accountability (ie assurance
to Ministers and the public including parents, employers and other
stakeholders) and report in public in ways that are useful to
(c) Generate information and intelligence for
decision-makers (eg for Ministers).
(d) Be demonstrably independent of those institutions
that teach children and young people or, like local authorities
and other bodies, support and challenge those institutions.
(e) Stimulate schools and service providers to
deliver good value and ensure that inspection itself provides
good value for money.
The impact of the inspection process on school
2. The inspection and regulatory regime has become
increasingly complex and extensive. In so doing, the focus has
broadened and its impact and cost effectiveness become harder
to measure. In some cases, this has led to duplication of quality
assurance functions (eg the range of audits, awarding body verifications
and inspection in FE) and, in others may have led to a reduction
in provider numbers (eg in childcare). The relationship and accountabilities
between the organisations and individuals with roles in school
improvement (eg SIPs, local authorities, accredited providers
and schools and other education providers such as FE Colleges)
is not always clear - and, therefore, nor is the route from inspection
3. Ofsted has already initiated a move towards
a more proportionate approach to inspection. In the new policy
climate, with greater institutional autonomy, there is scope to
increase this markedly. A move to a lighter-touch regime for schools
graded "good" and minimal involvement for schools graded
"outstanding" creates new opportunities to increase
the impact of inspection on raising standards in those schools
that have stubbornly remained satisfactory year on year. However
unless deeper, fuller inspections and post-inspection support
to schools graded "satisfactory" or lower is specifically
pursued, the opportunity to raise standards in these schools through
inspection will be lost. We would also recommend a firmer judgement
on the school's capacity to improve. A failing school is expected
to make progress within 12 months - there is no such time pressure
on schools that have remained grindingly satisfactory year on
year and there should be.
4. As Ofsted's inspection partners, ISPs believe
there is potential to increase the impact of inspection on improvement
by engaging differently with stakeholders and school managers,
following through more fully with weaker schools, better exploiting
the information on good practice available from inspections, equipping
more headteachers with inspection skills and reporting more fluidly
post inspection with more focused and different reports for the
main target recipients of school and parents.
5. Where governors, the leadership team, teachers
and parents have a more in-depth understanding of the basis for
the judgements about the school they are more likely to be committed
to ensuring improvements are made. Involvement in school inspections
could include extending the inclusion of an institutional nominee
to the inspection team (with due care to maintain the independence
of the inspection process). They are already used to good effect
in college inspections. A greater focus on the extent to which
governing bodies are effective in challenging the leadership team
would help drive the impetus for change in poorer performing schools.
6. The current level of engagement of parents
is low. This is particularly significant in the poorly-performing
institutions. It is generally accepted that parental involvement
and pressure is a significant driver of improvement and greater
depth of inspection in satisfactory and inadequate settings would
allow for more opportunities to meet parents and others during
inspection. A parent report which helps set a local agenda for
them to consider would be of more assistance than the present
7. Similarly, research
as well as experience indicates the value of tailored feedback
- with more attention and greater prescription in the case of
weaker schools. This would be helpful in re-setting parental
expectations where, even in schools performing badly many parents
profess themselves to be satisfied with the school.
8. In an environment which places increasing
trust in competent institutions to manage themselves, post-inspection
support needs to be differentiated appropriately. It is clear
that academies such as Mossbourne and chains such as those led
by Ark and Haberdashers are raising standards in the deprived
areas. At the same time, there is little evidence that School
Improvement Partners have had a rapid or sustained impact on school
improvement. There is evidence that Grade 3 visits to some schools
deemed inadequate have generated significant gains. For example
in one region, G3 schools which had an interim monitoring visit
increased their capacity to improve judgement to good or better
from 13% at first inspection to 54% at subsequent inspection.
It is questionable whether local authorities will have the capacity
to carry out a school improvement role that can stimulate such
9. Inspectors are already trained, understand
school improvement and could provide greater professional input
where there is poor performance, moving on from making judgements
to working in partnership with schools to enable them to plan
effectively and signposting them to sector-led support. We propose
that schools graded 3 be required to follow-up their inspections
by participating in "Capacity to Improve Workshops"
led by inspectors. These would build on feedback and the inspection
report to help groups of schools (represented by the head and
governor representative) develop sharply focused, measurable action
plans. ISPs would be well-placed to monitor the implementation
of school action plans and update their assessments cost-effectively,
since they would already know the settings.
10. The plans could include identification of
sources of further advice and support with an emphasis on what
works. The plan should also set a target of moving from satisfactory
to good in targeted steps over a maximum period of three years.
There is potential for making the way in which inspection links
with improvement more sophisticated yet cost-effective. Data gathered
via inspection represents a rich seam of good practice which,
if signposted effectively, could be used to support school-wide
and school-led improvement, directing schools towards others who
have handled similar challenges successfully. A further source
will be of individual schools and groups of schools who are prepared
to make their expertise available. It may also be appropriate
to review the current HMI link role with local authorities to
assess whether this can be delivered in a different way as part
of a restructured set of services.
11. We know from monitoring our serving practitioner
inspectors (mainly headteachers) that inspection expertise carries
real benefits to their own schools. The most significant impact
is very clearly school improvement. This is evident in leadership
and management, teaching and learning and the curriculum. A common
theme among the responses to a study of these practitioner inspectors
by one ISP was that their training and inspection work had sharpened
their school's self review abilities, making their own improvement
planning sharper and of greater impact.
12. We have demonstrable success in training
large numbers of inspectors to high standards, using a cost-effective
mix of IT-based distance learning and practical training. We could
easily provide training for school leaders in the broad framework
of inspection evaluation criteria, lesson observation and self-evaluation.
This would increase the capacity of schools to bring about their
own improvement. One ISP currently has around 1000 practitioners
awaiting just such training.
13. While the drive to simplify inspection reports
is understandable, we believe there is a need to review the inspection
report format to ensure feedback and reporting better meet the
needs of the main recipients:
(a) Providers require a more detailed educational
analysis than currently given. Their report needs to offer a clear
diagnosis of areas for improvement, together with guidance on
actions required to address the deficits. If the discussions have
been sufficiently comprehensive during the inspection, it would
be reasonable to set targets for improvement, laying a firmer
foundation for subsequent monitoring. (Evidence suggests that
a more directive approach is required for weaker institutions.)
This report should be publicly available.
(b) Parents may want little more than a report
card incorporating clear statements and grades against key elements
but where a poor performing school is required to improve within
a specified timescale parents should have a copy of the school's
action plan to achieve that and termly reports on progress from
the governing body. (Bearing in mind the fuller report would
(c) We question the value of a separate letter
The consistency and quality of inspection teams
in the Ofsted inspection process
14. ISPs provide approximately 60% of the lead
inspectors for all school inspections and 75% of total inspection
days. HMI currently lead all L&S and ITE inspections and
75% of secondary school inspections. An analysis of data by Ofsted
and by the ISPs shows little discernible difference in quality
and performance between the Ofsted and ISP inspection workforces,
with School Inspection Survey return data for 2009-10 showing
similar satisfaction rates, in excess of 90% for AI and HMI led
inspections. The performance management regime for the contracts,
which includes financial penalties for under-performance, requires
that ISPs achieve 100% performance against a range of measures
relating to the quality and efficiency of processes and judgements.
15. A number of other mechanisms are in place
to assist in the achievement of consistent inspector performance.
For example, each of the ISPs operates rigorous performance management
arrangements based on collation of evidence collected from inspections,
inspectors and the inspected. Joint working groups are established
in which HMI and ISP quality assurance personnel work together
and from which advice to all inspectors is derived. Together with
the contract management measures, such activities underpin a high
level of consistency and quality.
16. However that is not to say there is no scope
for further improvement or greater efficiency. There is, for example,
duplication of activity between HMI and ISP quality assurance
inspectors in monitoring inspections and managing reports to publication.
Ofsted has successfully operated a partially outsourced inspection
model for 17 years with successive competitive re-procurements
driving down costs as workforce issues, processes and technology
are refined and improved. This has been achieved in tandem with
improvements in quality. We believe value for money and consistency
in inspection delivery would be further increased by moving to
a more fully outsourced model with ISPs taking responsibility
for contracting and signing off inspectors, delivering inspections
and quality assuring output.
17. Performance data show that new contracts
have bedded in and are building securely on the contract management
arrangements in force since 2005. Consequently we believe it would
be possible to set a performance threshold for ISPs, within the
current key performance indicators, which would enable Ofsted
to withdraw from detailed management of outsourced inspections
once the delivery threshold had been reached by each ISP. A fully-contracted
model would produce savings by eliminating duplication of activities
as described above. It would enable clear delineation between
the roles of HMI and ISP inspectors, with a small, expert HMI
team ensuring performance of the contract. With ISP inspectors
leading more inspections, less time spent in direct inspection
delivery by HMI would enable them to focus on key national roles
including operating as a source of up-to-date professional expertise
drawing on knowledge of practice and cutting-edge, international
research (eg in relation to changes in the curriculum); analysis
and interpretation of national data; and evaluation of policy
initiatives (including value for money) through targeted, specialist
18. Finally, there is no external evidence that
we are aware of to support assertions either of inconsistencies
between teams or the three ISPs or between HMI and AI led teams.
Complaints are running at very low levels and none, so far as
we know, have raised either of these concerns
The weight given to different factors within the
19. ISPs support fully the policy to focus future
inspections on the quality of teaching and learning; the effectiveness
of the leadership team; pupils' behaviour and safety and pupils'
achievement. This precision will enable investment of more inspector
time in driving school improvement. For example, the narrower
focus will permit sharper diagnosis (eg more time for lesson observation
to uncover weaknesses in teaching and its effect on learners)
and more extensive opportunities for dialogue with school leaders
and governors (eg to identify barriers to improvement). Additionally,
we would suggest that for all schools currently graded satisfactory
the inspection team should, through dialogue with the school,
form a view on the efficacy of the support and challenge provided
by the local authority and its SIPs. Some schools that have been
Grade 3 for years have also for years been in receipt of additional
support from their local authority without significant discernible
improvement in the quality of the education provision.
20. The current emphasis on exploring the SEF
view can be replaced by genuine pursuit of key evidence of strengths
and weaknesses, within the context of the school's self evaluation
processes and outcomes.
21. Appropriate data, used effectively, can already
enable inspectors to focus on the right lines of enquiry and use
their time effectively. However, there is scope for greater trust
in the professionalism and experience of inspectors. This would
give them the flexibility to redirect their activities once an
inspection was under way, enabling them to tailor their work to
the emerging evidence and achieve greater impact while managing
risk. It would allow - for instance - inspectors to respond directly
to issues raised by employers, parents, pupils or teachers.
22. A further area for re-establishing inspectors'
professional judgement relates to the "limiting judgements"
in the current schools framework. Where this occurs, one judgement
limits another. Given the widely differing circumstances within
individual schools, rigid application of this principle becomes
problematic. In our view, inspectors should be free to make their
judgements based on the evidence before them.
Whether the organisation of all organisations,
settings and services to support children's learning and welfare
is best conducted by a single inspectorate
Ofsted's role in providing an accountability mechanism
for schools operating with greater autonomy
23. We recognise that data should not have primacy
over professional judgements. There are, however, rich data sources
available. ISPs have considerable experience of carrying out pre-inspection
risk assessments. Consequently, they are well-placed to work with
government to develop cost-effective, desk-based monitoring and
accountability processes for use in reviewing schools judged "outstanding".
24. We do not believe that schools rated as "outstanding"
or those operating with greater autonomy by way of their status
should be entirely exempted from the inspection regime. However
we agree that they should not normally be subject to full inspection,
allowing resources to be focused on lower performing schools.
Evidence tells us, however, that "outstanding" schools
can experience a rapid decline in both provision and standards
in certain circumstances. We thus support a model by which Ofsted
and its ISP partners risk assess outstanding schools on the basis
of an annual on-line return of information which should be routinely
held by them. We propose the following indicators:-
- Decline in overall standards, English and mathematics,
particularly literacy and numeracy, evidenced by pupil performance
data from RAISEonline.
- Decline in standards in specific subjects (secondary
schools) evidenced by pupil performance data from RAISEonline.
- Decline in overall standards relative to other
similar institutions evidenced by pupil performance data from
- Change in headteacher.
- Change in status or character.
- High staff turnover.
- Significant change in pupil numbers.
- Increased number of parental complaints.
- Concerns expressed by local authority.
- Decline in attendance.
Possible additional indicators
- Significant budget deficit at year end or evidence
of any financial irregularity.
- Significant increase in exclusions.
- Inadequate judgements in other provision inspected
by Ofsted and managed by the Governing Body.
Where the outcome of the assessment finds there is
evidence of significant risk to pupils' future achievement or
safety, we would propose a one day visit by a single inspector
to assess the need for further intervention by inspectors.
25. For those schools whose autonomy is vested
in their status, a similar regime might be applied with appropriate
metrics. An initial assessment of readiness is desirable,
as currently the case with "academy pre-registration visits".
Thereafter, as a minimum, an annual desk based risk assessment,
triggering more in depth inspection if appropriate, would serve
the public interest.
31 Ehren and Visscher: 2006: Towards a Theory on
the Impact of School Inspections.