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Baroness Blackstone: Here we want to see the best of both worlds brought together. I believe that there is a case for both an observational approach and for some self-evaluation. Self-evaluation obviously is a good motivator for people. At the same time, I entirely accept that some external scrutiny and observation is required. I believe that the two inspectorates will work together. One--Ofsted--obviously will rely rather more on the approach that it has used in sixth forms in the new role that it will play in relation to full-time 16 to 19 year-olds in sixth-form colleges. At the same time, the rather different, work-based environment on which the adult learning inspectorate will focus may need a slightly different approach. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness that the three chief inspectorates are working together to develop this common framework. As I said, there will be an opportunity for further consultation on that issue.

Lord Rix: I warmly welcome the Minister's assurance in the matter of the three inspectorates. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is assured that there will be a specialist approach to Ofsted inspectors, too, in this regard. The assurance from the Dispatch Box is one which certainly I can accept, and I hope that other Members of the Committee can do likewise. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

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Clause 50 [The Inspectorate's remit]:

[Amendment No. 182 not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 183:

    Page 20, line 17, leave out ("for persons") and insert ("provided in the further education sector which is suitable to the requirements of those").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 183, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 184, 185, 194 and 195. The purpose of this set of amendments is to rationalise and simplify the inspection system proposed for post-16 education. As set out in the Bill, the system seems to be extraordinarily complex. As my noble friend Lord Tope said at Second Reading:

    "Why on earth do we have the anomaly of two inspection agencies falling over each other to inspect the provision? Why do we need complex rules about 'joint inspection' and a 'common inspection framework'? The obvious and radical answer is to have a single inspection agency for all post-16 education and training which will see its work in the context of lifelong learning".--[Official Report, 17/1/00; col. 939.]

Essentially, these amendments provide the framework for such an agency. They extend the remit of the adult learning inspectorate to cover post-16 education and training in the further education sector and limit the remit of the Chief Inspector of Schools in England to the schools sector. The Minister responded at Second Reading by saying:

    "No single inspectorate could encompass the enormous scale and variety of post-16 education".--[Official Report, 17/1/00; col. 946.]

Yet, the same might be said of the role of the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, whose remit, I believe, is now extended to cover playgroups and babyminders. In this age when, increasingly, inspection means hiring a team of inspectors with the relevant skills and competencies, I cannot see that that is an obstacle. In both bureaucratic and cost terms, it seems unnecessary to have two teams of inspectors invading one institution simultaneously.

As it is, the proposals before us will mean that in nearly all circumstances there will be joint inspections. Ofsted, seemingly, will be responsible for inspecting the education side of provision and ALI will be responsible for the training side of provision. From these Benches, we fail to understand why the Government have pursued this route and we look forward to hearing the Minister's response. Genuinely, we do not understand the logic behind it. Implicitly, is there a feeling that where learning and skills council money goes, the adult learning inspectorate must go, too? Thus, sixth forms, whose learning and skills money is being routed through the LEAs nevertheless must be inspected by the adult learning inspectorate as well as by Ofsted and, likewise, Ofsted must have entry into the further education sector. I gather, for example, that of the 250 responses in the consultation, only one--from the Further Education Funding Council--supported the idea of joint inspections. Was that because the Further

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Education Funding Council was worried about the issue of accountability? I should be glad if the Minister could elucidate that issue for us.

I believe that we are not alone in worrying that the Ofsted methodology is not appropriate for the mix of experience and learning that takes place in many further education colleges. The CBI expresses doubts as to whether such a methodology can cope adequately with the different circumstances of different institutions and, in particular, the workplace. The British Chambers of Commerce, headed by Chris Humphries, who chairs the Government's National Skills Task Force, goes further and calls the proposal to give Ofsted responsibility for inspecting provision in further education colleges "an inappropriate decision". The evidence continues:

    "The idea that it is either feasible or valuable to inspect young learners' experience separately from that of the majority of adult learners in the same FE college or training provider programme and classroom is unsound and costly".

The factors which shaped the approach, methods and style of Ofsted are not the same as those which have shaped the existing Further Education Funding Council Inspectorate or the Training Standards Council Inspectorate. For example, adult learners bring a much greater diversity of experience of work, civic and domestic responsibility for their learning than do children. Many are most likely to participate in learning on a part-time basis or intermittently for short periods. They are much more likely to be constrained as to where and when they can study. They often contribute to the cost of learning from their own disposable income. Many participate voluntarily, with the exception of some in workplace training. That can mean high levels of motivation, but also a greater likelihood that they will cease to participate if they are unconvinced of the learning's relevance or of value for money. They may be unclear about their learning needs and about whether particular courses of action will help them to meet their desired goals. Usually they have wider-ranging and more complex motivations for studying than do the young. They may have unhappy or negative experiences from the schooling system.

All those are good reasons why Ofsted should not look into the further education sector. Yet, the whole tenor of Clauses 66 to 68 makes the Chief Inspector of Schools in England the senior partner in the proposed joint inspections. The adult learning inspector's junior role immediately places work-based learning and vocational learning in colleges at a disadvantage. In our earlier debates on the Bill, the Government and the Minister said that they did not want to separate education from training. This provision does just that. It puts academic education on a pedestal and vocational education and learning at its feet.

When we debated the earlier clauses of the Bill, the Minister claimed that the Government wanted to overcome that binary divide between academic and vocational education and training and to treat education and training holistically. But the sort of thinking set out in the Bill underlies the divide between the adult learning inspectorate and the role of the Chief Inspector of Schools.

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The FE21 group of colleges put it rather well in its evidence when it said:

    "We believe that the implication of Ofsted taking the lead in the inspection process is that providers, especially colleges, will be compelled into following the existing 16-19 model by the achievement oriented ethos of this inspection regime. This will be to the detriment of encouraging non-traditional learners into education because it does not appreciate the differences between the strategies for adult and young learners".

It adds that in any case, the majority of learners in colleges are over the age of 19.

We support the Government in their emphasis on providing high quality education and training for our young people and for the continuing education needs of our nation. We acknowledge the role that inspection plays in maintaining and raising the quality of such provision. But these proposals, as they stand, are a mess. The further education sector has developed a range of quality control mechanisms. They are already subject to inspections from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, from the Audit Commission and from the further education and funding inspectors who would, we assume, form the core of the adult learning inspectorate.

But now, in addition to that, it is proposed to add Ofsted to the further education sector and to make it the senior partner, even though it has no experience of that field. Surely it is better to do as we suggest: to make a clean break between schools and the further education sector; leave Ofsted where it is, in the schools sector; and give ALI the prime responsibility for inspection in further education. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: It falls to me to resort to colloquial language to describe this part of the Bill. It really is a dog's breakfast. There is no other description for it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has been more elegant but equal in her criticism of the provisions in the Bill. Although the Association of Teachers and Lecturers welcomes some of the measures in the Bill, it is really welcoming the cultural approach which I described earlier of the FEFC inspections; namely, a process of self-evaluation. I believe that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers hopes that the ALI will subsume that approach to inspections and that the ALI will be given the responsibility for sixth-form inspections. There are so many options which one could go for if one is dismissing the proposals set out in the Bill.

The provisions are extremely complex. They will cause great confusion. A school will be visited by Ofsted for the purposes of inspecting a school for 11 to 18 year-olds but it will be inspecting only the 11 to 16 age group part of the school. There will be a separate and distinct approach to inspecting the sixth forms in that school. Then arrangements will be made for inspecting 16 year-olds in the workplace. Different arrangements will apply to 16 to 19 year-olds in further education. The Bill proposes that the adult learning inspectorate will work together with Ofsted, with Ofsted in the lead. As I say, Ofsted has a very clear observational role.

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In her response to the previous amendment the noble Baroness attempted to explain how the joint system would work. She said that all the bodies would work happily together; that it would be extremely effective; that there would be no confusion whatever; and that it would all be very meaningful. But the noble Baroness did not say whether the observational approach of Ofsted will have to change and whether the ALI will either subsume the evaluative approach or whether the ALI, which will be subservient to Ofsted in joint inspections, will absorb the observational role. I believe it was hinted that there would be a bit of each. Ofsted does not take that approach at the moment so it would have to change quite dramatically the way it approaches an inspection.

What does that mean for a school catering for 11 to 18 year-olds? The same inspectorate will inspect the school in the way in which it has traditionally inspected it until now, but then it will inspect the sixth form on a very different basis. It is a kind of mix and match of the two cultures. That simply is not good enough.

I have not studied sufficiently carefully the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who is trying to bring some clarity to the way in which the inspections will take place. There is an argument for all education and training which takes place either in further education and/or at the workplace to be inspected by one inspectorate and in one way using one methodology. School-based inspections should be carried out as they have been hitherto.

Certainly, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers would be making the case that there is an argument for adopting the approach which the FEFC has operated and which it assumes and believes that the ALI will adopt. If it would prefer an evaluative approach, that is a different argument. That argument needs to be put to government so that a judgment is made on it. I suspect that some research has been done which indicates which process of inspection is the most effective. Would schools benefit from a self-evaluative approach? I do not know. But the argument is not that we should have this mish-mash of inspections, with 16 year-olds, depending on where they are being educated, being inspected differently. Rather it is that there should be a change of culture in school inspections. It would be worth hearing a case for that. If there is a good case for it, what would be the Government's plans to change it?

This is a complete mess. When I talk to people in the adult education world and in the 16-plus world in the school sector, they say that they would like some clarity. They, too, would like to see less confusion than there is set out in the Bill. As I said, some bodies, like the ATL, welcome an evaluative approach but that is not what is provided in this Bill because the Bill provides a mix of the two.

It is incumbent on the Government, and certainly on the Minister, when she replies, to try to bring some clarity to this issue. That would mean changing the Bill as it stands. However, the Government seem to be

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reluctant to change any dot or comma in the Bill, so I am not hopeful that that will be the case. I believe that we are adopting a seriously messy approach to the inspection of 16-plus education. The rationale of the Bill is to bring coherence to 16-plus education. That will not be achieved by this method of inspection.

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