The role and performance of Ofsted - Education Committee Contents


Letter from Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Ofsted, dated 27 February 2011

I was pleased to have the opportunity to appear before Members recently to give evidence as part of the inquiry into our role and performance. The Committee's scrutiny is a key accountability mechanism for Ofsted, and I welcome the chance to respond to questions and present our view.

During the proceedings, you asked various questions about quality assurance and the processes Ofsted has in place with the inspection service providers, as well as details of performance. I hope you find the information in this letter useful.

BACKGROUND

Inspection service providers are contracted by Ofsted to administer and carry out inspections of schools and learning and skills providers (CfBT, Serco and Tribal) and the inspection of early years providers (Prospect and Tribal). Ofsted's social care inspections are administered and carried out by inspectors employed directly by Ofsted. All these arrangements are subject to stringent monitoring, which includes a range of checks and measures to assure the quality of inspectors, inspections and inspection reports.

To ensure good quality, inspection service providers select and train their additional inspectors carefully[33] and follow this up with regular visits to inspections, the scrutiny of reports, and the issue of regular updates to inspectors. Feedback from schools and other providers about the quality of inspection is gathered together into monthly reports, which are considered about each inspection service provider in (a) monthly contract programme board meetings with Ofsted and (b) quarterly National Programme Board meetings.

Ofsted carries out a range of quality assurance activities for inspections. The latter are led by additional inspectors from the inspection service providers, by Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) and by regulatory inspectors who are employed directly by Ofsted. Ofsted's current national quality assurance team was set up in September 2009. It comprises administrators, full-time early years quality managers, regulatory inspectors and specialist, experienced HMI and regulatory inspectors from across all remits. These undertake the core quality assurance work.

HMI and the other inspectors who carry out quality assurance work for Ofsted are specialists in their field. They make on-site visits to assure the quality of inspections and the work of inspectors (approximately 5% of all inspections); undertake in-depth evidence reviews of a proportion of all inspections and all those judged to be inadequate (approximately 6% of all inspections); sign-off all school and children's social care reports and a proportion of all other reports; return reports to the inspection service providers where these require further work and raise any concerns as needed. They also provide a help-line for inspectors to advise on judgements.

If a report does not meet the standard for publication, it is returned to the inspection service provider or inspector before it is sent to the school/provider or published. It may be returned for a variety of reasons: a discrepancy between the judgement grades and the supporting text; a discrepancy between judgements; an omission of key points which must be covered within an aspect of the report; a lack of precision in recommendations or actions for further improvement and excessive errors in the text.

If any school, learning and skills or early years report is deemed unfit for publication by the Ofsted quality assurance team, it is referred to the inspection service provider. If this occurs, it appears as an exception on a monthly contract report, which has an adverse effect on key performance indicators. Social care reports are referred back to the inspector and the line manager.

INSPECTORS' PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

Ofsted has high expectations of HMI and all other inspectors who carry out work on its behalf. As a matter of course, inspectors are held to account for the quality of their work, including the inspections they lead, and this is reinforced through established and rigorous performance management systems. Feedback about HMI and regulatory inspectors' performance is used in performance reviews. Performance reviews draw on evidence from quality assurance visits, review of inspection evidence bases, any complaints or commendatory letters received, specific visits to inspections for performance management purposes that are undertaken by both Ofsted's quality assurance team and by senior inspectors, and school and other provider responses to post-inspection questionnaires. Similar arrangements apply to additional inspectors and are a contractual requirement.

IMPROVING INSPECTION THROUGH QUALITY ASSURANCE

All quality assurance activities result in written evaluations of the quality of the inspection and/or of the work of the inspector. This is shared with individual inspectors and their managers in line with our expectation that all inspectors should constantly strive to improve the quality of their work.

Regular updates about the quality of inspection are provided to policy colleagues in Ofsted's Development Directorate to ensure that inspection guidance, revisions to frameworks, and future inspector training take full account of trends and lessons learned.

PERFORMANCE OF INSPECTION SERVICE PROVIDERS

Each inspection service provider meets regularly with senior Ofsted managers to review performance. Each quarter, a performance report is produced and presented at what is called the National Programme Board. The following extract is taken from the summary section of the most recently approved national report for education and learning and skills inspection remits.

For the period July-September 2010, the performance of ISPs continues to improve and build on the significant improvements achieved in previous quarterly reports. The concerted efforts of inspection service providers and Ofsted staff to resolve data flow difficulties have resulted in nearly all key performance indicators having data to indicate performance levels. It is now unusual for key performance targets not to be met. Efforts to meet the challenging target for inspection service providers to increase the deployment of inspectors from minority ethnic backgrounds appears to be progressing well.

The school inspection remit has seen further improvements and it is rare for the exacting standards expected not to be achieved. The level of satisfaction with inspection experienced by headteachers continues to exceed the performance target. The only area where performance continues to be below the expected standard is in the return rate for post inspection questionnaires.

The strong improvement in performance in the independent school inspection remit, identified in the previous reporting period, has been maintained and in some areas improved further. Intervention by Ofsted to secure inspection quality is rare. A small number of reporting deadlines have, however, been missed. The return rate for post inspection questionnaires continues to be low and remains a concern.

The performance of inspection service providers in the learning and skills inspection remit continues to improve. Inspection service providers have performed very well in terms of the timeliness in notifying providers and ensuring the necessary documents are available for inspectors. The successful submission of datasets identified as a major strength in the previous report continues overall.

Performance for initial teacher education inspections is good and all performance indicators have been met apart from the unsuccessful submission of one dataset in July. The process for completing and processing the inspections has been very effective.

POST INSPECTION QUESTIONNAIRES

The following extract is taken from the most recently approved national report on the performance of education and learning and skills inspection remits.

Maintained schools

The level of satisfaction with the inspection experienced by headteachers continues to exceed the performance target. Over the last three reporting periods the level of satisfaction has remained high and above 90%. This performance indicates that maintained schools continue to be satisfied with their inspections. The only area where performance continues to be below the expected standard is in the return rate for post inspection questionnaires. This is an area of concern identified in the previous national reports.

SINCE SEPTEMBER 2009
KPI 1.8.2

% of responses received about the inspection process that are positive

ISP 1

End of Aug

90%

ISP 2

End of Aug

94%

ISP 3

End of Aug

90%

All inspection service providers are maintaining consistently strong performance above the expected target for this key performance indicator. Provisional figures to be shared with inspection service providers shortly indicate that satisfaction rates are continuing to rise. The provisional figure for the contract period is 93% overall.

SINCE APRIL 2010
KPI 1.8.2

% of responses received about the inspection process that are positive

ISP 1

End of Aug

89%

ISP 2

End of Aug

96%

ISP 3

End of Aug

93%

All inspection service providers are maintaining consistently strong performance above the expected target for this key performance indicator. Provisional figures for the end of September indicate that 95% of responses overall are positive.

SINCE SEPTEMBER 2009

KPI 1.9.2

% of responses received satisfied with the clarity of the inspection report

ISP 1

End of Aug

95%

ISP 2

End of Aug

97%

ISP 3

End of Aug

95%

SINCE APRIL 2010

KPI 1.9.2

% of responses received satisfied with the clarity of the inspection report

ISP 1

End of Aug

97%

ISP 2

End of Aug

98%

ISP 3

End of Aug

97%

This key performance indicator is being reported for the first time in the national report. All inspection service providers are achieving very good performance that is above the expected target.

Learning and skills

Feedback from provider surveys

Analysis of responses received by 30 September 2010 show that the national overall response rate was 49% for IE1 (Post Inspection Evaluation) and 25% for IE2 (Post Inspection Report Evaluation). Responses to key questions show that:

  • 99% agreed or strongly agreed that the inspection process was led and managed well by the Lead Inspector.
  • 95% agreed or strongly agreed that the judgements in the report overall were fair and accurate.

Time that has elapsed since additional inspectors worked in schools, for example, as teachers or senior leaders

Finally, an analysis of additional inspectors contracted with Serco, Tribal and CfBT, based on a sample of 1,104 additional inspectors, indicates that over half (57%) are current practitioners or worked in schools less than five years ago. A further 19% worked in schools between five and 10 years ago. Only one in five additional inspectors worked in schools 10 or more years ago. A very small minority (2%) of additional inspectors has no teaching experience.


33   Schedule 12 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires that an additional inspector must be supervised by an HMI when conducting a school inspection, or to have previously conducted a section 5 inspection under the supervision, and to the satisfaction of, an HMI, as follows:
11 (4) The Chief Inspector may not authorise an additional inspector to conduct an inspection of a school under section 5 of EA 2005 unless-(a) the inspection is to be supervised by an HMI, or (b) the additional inspector has previously conducted an inspection under that section under the supervision of an HMI to the satisfaction of the HMI. 
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Prepared 17 April 2011