63. Memorandum from the Office
for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
Thank you for your letter of 21 March and for
including OFSTED in your inquiry into whether there is a need
for a Human Rights Commission for the United Kingdom.
I have examined the seven questions posed on
the second page of your letter and have corresponded with Divisional
Managers within OFSTED to assist in formulating this response.
OFSTED is, as you say, a body with responsibilities
for inspecting, auditing and monitoring the performance of public
authorities. These would include maintained schools, non-maintained
and independent schools with pupils funded by public authorities,
nurseries with pupils funded by public authorities, local education
authorities, colleges, teacher training organisations and any
organisations of a public nature to whom we subcontract, for example,
LEA school inspection units.
In answer to your specific questions I would
answer as follows:
Compliance with human rights does not currently
form one of the criteria by which OFSTED assesses the performance
of the public authorities with which it deals. The criteria by
which we assess performance of schools, LEAs, etc derive from
HMCI's statutory remit. Our remit for school inspections, for
example, is set out by Section 2(1) of the School Inspections
Act 1996. Inspectors' comments on performance against the criteria
ought to pick up on any relevant human rights issues. Inspectors
also comment on the way bodies fulfil their own statutory duties.
The Framework for LEA inspections, for example, draws attention
to the need to inspect whether an LEA is complying with its equal
opportunities obligations. LEAs would, of course, be expected
to be human rights compliant, as would other public authorities
whom we inspect.
The establishment of a culture of human rights
does not currently form one of the criteria by which OFSTED
assesses the performance of the public authorities with which
it deals (see response to question 1).
We cannot answer this question in the light
of responses given to questions 1 and 2.
Because we do not inspect against these as specific
criteria, we do not maintain records of performance against them.
We do not offer advice and assistance to bodies
we inspect. We do, however, publish overarching reports on our
inspection findings and they will often contain examples of good
practice. We do highlight key issues in individual inspection
reports and there are statutory requirements for schools, for
example, to produce action plans. Schools that need assistance
to improve can seek advice from their local education authority.
Whilst we would not describe this as "advice",
we do follow up where schools become subject to special measures,
or are designated as having serious weaknesses or are underachieving.
OFSTED's School Improvement Division (SID) schedule regular visits
by Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI), senior professional school
inspectors employed by OFSTED. The focus of these visits is on
the quality of education provided, in particular the quality of
teaching and learning, the effectiveness of leadership and management
and the pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development,
reflected in their attitudes, behaviour and attendance. A second
focus of SID's visits is the progress being made in implementing
the school's action plans and addressing the key issues from the
We have no plans currently to use human rights
as an assessment criterion, though we would be willing to look
at any specific suggestions for strengthening the human rights
dimension in any of our existing inspection Frameworks.
30 April 2002