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("(3A) A draft of a statutory rule to be made under section 46(3) or 52 shall be laid before Parliament in like manner as a draft of a statutory instrument and section 6 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 shall apply accordingly.").

The noble Baroness said: Earlier in today's Committee proceedings my noble and learned friend Lord Archer referred to the unfortunate practice which he felt was growing of Ministers responding to amendments before they have been moved. On this occasion and in moving Amendment No. 234, I point out that most noble Lords have already spoken to it, and others, before the Government have moved it.

This amendment will give effect to the recommendations of your Lordships' Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. Amendments Nos. 234 and 235 provide for orders and regulations under Clause 46, on the renewal and expiry of the 50:50 recruitment provisions, and under Clause 52, on emblems and flags, to be made by the affirmative procedure. The Committee also recommended that orders under Clause 49, on registration, be made by the affirmative procedure. But the Government's amendment to that clause has removed the Secretary of State's order-making power. In the light of that provision, I suggest that

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Amendment No. 234A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, to Government Amendment No. 234 has become unnecessary. I beg to move.

Lord Cope of Berkeley had given notice of his intention to move, as an amendment to Amendment No. 234, Amendment No. 234A:

    Line 2, after ("46(3)") insert (", 49(2)").

The noble Lord said: As the noble Baroness has pointed out, Amendment No. 234A was intended to take up the other recommendation which we believe that the Government should have dealt with. However, as the noble Baroness has said, that has now become unnecessary because of the amendment we made earlier this afternoon.

[Amendment No. 234A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 234, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 234 agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 235:

    Page 35, line 30, after ("one") insert ("made under a provision mentioned in subsection (3A) or").

The noble Baroness said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 234. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 72, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 73 [Interpretation]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 236:

    Page 36, line 37, at end insert--

("( ) Subsections (2) to (4) of section 39 of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 apply for the purpose of calculating a period of time laid down by or under this Act.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 73, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 74 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Amendments]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 237:

    Page 62, line 46, leave out ("entries") and insert ("entry").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 238 to 240:

    Page 62, line 47, at end insert--

("(4) In that Part of that Schedule, at the appropriate place in alphabetical order insert the following entry--").

    Page 66, line 7, leave out ("Force").

    Page 66, line 17, leave out ("and (4)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Transitional and transitory provisions]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 241 to 248:

    Page 67, line 34, leave out sub-paragraph (a).

    Page 67, line 36, leave out ("police service") and insert ("Police Service of Northern Ireland").

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    Page 67, line 39, leave out ("police service") and insert ("Police Service of Northern Ireland").

    Page 67, line 42, leave out ("member of the police service") and insert ("police officer serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland").

    Page 67, line 44, leave out ("member of the police service reserve") and insert ("police officer serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve").

    Page 68, line 1, leave out ("police service reserve") and insert ("Police Service of Northern Ireland Reserve in any other context").

    Page 68, line 3, leave out ("police service") and insert ("Police Service of Northern Ireland").

    Page 68, line 4, at end insert--

("Recruitment arrangements: references to the Board

. At any time before the commencement of section 2, references in sections 43 to 47 to the Board shall be construed as references to the Police Authority for Northern Ireland.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 75 [Commencement]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendments Nos. 249 and 250.

    Page 37, line 23, at end insert--

("( ) sections 64 and 65;").

    Page 37, line 24, at end insert--

("( ) Schedule 4;
( ) paragraphs 3(4) and 4(3) of Schedule 6 and section 75(1) so far as relating thereto;").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 75, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 76 and 77 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.


Lord Carter : My Lords, exercising my pastoral care as Chief Whip and for those noble Lords who have been engaged on the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and who will also be engaged on the Freedom of Information Bill, I beg to move that the Committee stage of that Bill be postponed until after the Question standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Education in County Durham

7.17 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will investigate the complaint made by Durham County Education Committee against Ofsted's conduct in relation to the inspection of certain schools in County Durham in 1997 and the subsequent actions taken by Ofsted.

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, the complaint by the County Durham Education Authority was made initially three years ago and has involved Ofsted itself, the Ofsted adjudicator and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Mr Chris Woodhead. The fact that the matter has not been resolved after such a long period is a measure of the concern felt about it by the Durham LEA. The latest position is that Ofsted has apologised to the Durham County LEA, to the Director of Education and to another member of his staff. Mr Woodhead has also sent a letter of personal apology on the same basis.

Durham LEA is continuing to press the complaint because although at long last the apologies recognise errors which Ofsted has denied for three years, no action has been taken to deal with what are clearly major professional blunders and deficiencies, but also because the issues of systemic and constitutional significance which have been exposed at the heart of Ofsted need to be dealt with nationally.

It is one of the main contentions of the LEA and myself that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is accountable to no one, not even Ministers. In addition, the parliamentary ombudsman has confirmed his lack of jurisdiction to deal with the case.

The facts and implications of the case fall into two parts: first, the behaviour of the registered inspector working for Ofsted and the failure of Ofsted to deal with that situation. The second and wider issue is concerned with the situation within and throughout Ofsted, implicating Her Majesty's Chief Inspector himself.

In 1997 Durham LEA was aware of a number of school inspections in its area carried out by the same registered inspector working for Ofsted where schools had complained to the LEA that the lady in question was abusing her position. Although the final reports on those schools were satisfactory, and in many cases outstanding, for most of the week of the inspections the registered inspector in question threatened the schools with being classed as failing schools. Her behaviour was reported by a number of schools, including other schools and other LEAs across the whole region.

One school in the County Durham LEA area asked the authority for assistance during its inspection because of this treatment, and a complaint was subsequently made by the LEA to Ofsted about this registered inspector. That seems to me a natural action which any LEA would have taken. The complaint was, in fact, made on behalf of a number of schools in the LEA. I have been informed that other LEAs in the North East have also complained about the same inspector.

During one of the inspections the head teacher and chair of governors asked the LEA for assistance because of the hostile way in which they were being treated. As a result the Director of Education asked one of the LEA's senior inspectors to visit the school. Again I should have thought that was a natural action for the director to take.

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Ofsted complained to the LEA about what it called an "intrusion", to which the LEA replied in the strongest terms saying that Ofsted's view was based on having heard only one side of the story. Ofsted's own adjudicator some two years later in her report on the matter said that Mr Woodhead's behaviour had been "unwarranted" and "implicitly threatening" and Mr Woodhead apologised. I am bound to say that the words that I quoted are just about as strong as any words could be in those circumstances.

There is another aspect of this matter which is quite astonishing. The LEA in its complaint had asked Ofsted to review the whole of the work of the registered inspector in question because of the number of complaints from a number of LEAs. For two years Ofsted in letters to the Durham Director of Education said it was neither possible nor proper to carry out such a review. Some two years later when the matter was referred by the LEA to the Ofsted adjudicator, the LEA learned that Ofsted now told the adjudicator that in fact it had carried out such a review two years earlier. I hesitate to say that this involved deliberate lying, but it is obvious that a detailed explanation should be forthcoming, but it has not been forthcoming at any time. The LEA is also entitled to question the adequacy of the review, on which the adjudicator said,

    "It seemed to me that the complainant (that is, the LEA) had a right to be satisfied that OFSTED had considered the LEA's concerns in the context of other relevant concerns about the inspector".

I turn to what might be called the constitutional implications, the personal position of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, and the lack of accountability which this whole episode demonstrates. The key point is this: we know that the episodes took place--there is no denying that--and that Ofsted eventually accepted it and apologised for it. However, we do not know why it happened because Mr Woodhead has never been asked to explain his conduct. Ofsted maintained that a full investigation was carried out, but how could that have been done when Mr Woodhead was not interviewed, or, indeed, as I understand it, consulted at any stage? That is a most peculiar situation.

This, of course, opens up the question of accountability. It appears that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is accountable only to Parliament, and, if this is so, what form will it take? In a case such as this, will a printed report be tabled in both Houses of Parliament? Without such a report it is difficult to see how a proper judgment can be made on such important issues. I have to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench whether, in the face of such serious events, Ofsted itself has taken steps to prevent a recurrence of the significant and serial failings exposed by these complaints? I should have thought too that intervention by the Government was essential.

It really amounts to "who inspects the inspectors?" No one would expect that Ofsted would carry out its work without mistakes being made, but when deficiencies of this scale are exposed it is imperative for

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the good of the education service in the country as a whole that the machinery and the personnel involved be subjected to the closest scrutiny.

My Question today asks whether the Government will investigate these complaints. There can surely be no doubt about the need for an investigation, not only because of what has happened in County Durham but also because of the implications for the education service in the rest of the country. I conclude by saying that that seems to me to be a matter of absolutely fundamental importance. I hope that I receive a satisfactory reply from my noble friend on the Front Bench.

7.27 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, for giving us the opportunity to discuss a very important issue. What we have heard about Ofsted's behaviour in Durham has had echoes in other places and raises issues about Ofsted which warrant serious scrutiny.

May I first of all stress that we on these Benches support the need for a tough and effective, high quality and accountable independent schools inspection service in the interests of raising standards. I therefore propose to address my remarks to these three desirable qualities for Ofsted in the light of the issue which the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, has brought to the attention of the House.

Let us first look at the effectiveness of Ofsted. As a parent, teacher, school governor and employer, I have always found the carrot more effective than the stick in delivering results. The Minister will undoubtedly relate to us statistics to show how standards have been rising. However, one of the many problems with Ofsted is that it is very good at wielding the stick but does not seem to have much idea about the carrot. That is why one of the ways in which we should like to see Ofsted reformed is by giving it a duty to help schools rather than intimidate them, to take a more developmental role, and to get involved with schools following inspections. If it was able to do that, who knows how much better the statistics could be? And perhaps we would not be facing the very real twin crises of teacher morale and teacher shortage.

Despite the guidelines in the new framework for inspections about being sensitive to teachers in the way feedback is given, we still see situations similar to that in Durham with teachers demoralised by the Ofsted process rather than helped by it.

Moor Lane School in Chessington, as highlighted in another place in July by my honourable friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton, is another example of where things were badly handled. In that case the whole staff resigned when an Ofsted follow-up inspection recommended that the school be put into "special measures", despite considerable progress on its action plan. That case brings me to the question of whether we have a high quality independent inspection service.

One of the reforms on my shopping list is to end the current system of bidding for inspections, ensuring that all inspections are led by HMI, with a standard

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national fee for all members of inspection teams. We would also like to see some monitoring of the effects that competition for inspection contracts has on the ability of contractors to invest in quality assurance measures. The findings should be made public.

Clearly, teachers, parents and governors are going to be more willing to accept the findings of a high quality Ofsted service they can respect. If they are convinced that the inspection has been a thorough one, carried out by competent people with relevant experience and taking into account all appropriate evidence, they will buckle down and address the areas of weakness identified. But where we have cases such as one I heard about recently where a school for profoundly deaf children was inspected by a team only one of whom had any experience of teaching children with this problem, we are bound to have a crisis of confidence.

In the Chessington case, the extreme strategy of special measures was triggered by a snapshot follow-up inspection where only five hours of lessons were monitored. Where time for classroom inspection is as limited as that, surely it makes sense to look for corroborative evidence. However, no reference at all was made to the officers of the local authority who knew more about the school than anybody, nor the imminent publication of SATS results. Those results were excellent and might have informed the inspectors' conclusions, but they were ignored.

In this case too the Chief Inspector of Schools interfered without doing his homework. He appeared on television saying that the school should have pulled its socks up following the 1995 inspection. He did not appear to know that the inspection had in fact been very positive about the school, while identifying areas for improvement--as all inspections do.

This raises very serious questions about the worrying tendency of Chris Woodhead to shoot from the hip and make pronouncements about all sorts of issues on which it is not appropriate that he should speak. For example, he has recently had an uncanny habit of commenting favourably on the pronouncements of the Official Opposition about education matters. I refer in particular to his comments during the summer about the "free schools" idea which I should have thought went well beyond his brief.

So we seem to have a common thread here between the Durham and the Chessington cases from which I would hope Ofsted would learn a lesson. In both cases the inspectors seemed unwilling to work with or trust the LEA, even though those LEAs had been found, on their own Ofsted inspections, to be trustworthy and competent. One cannot leave the LEAs out of the picture when looking at how schools can be helped to raise standards. I was staggered recently to see an extract from the Ofsted inspection of Worcestershire County Council, which was found to be "too supportive" of its schools. I do not believe that it is possible for LEAs to be too supportive of their schools. Of course, schools must take responsibility, but so must LEAs and they should be encouraged to do so, not criticised for it.

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Moreover, we on these Benches believe that it should be the duty not only of the Government and the LEAs but also of Ofsted to encourage and offer advice to schools, and that is why we would like to see the arrangements that prevent Ofsted from doing that changed. To separate the identification of problems from the means of putting them right is a great mistake. If this change were made it could remove, at a stroke, the tendency for teachers to see Ofsted as the enemy and not as an ally in the fight for higher standards and would remove a great deal of the stress associated with the process of inspection. If inspectors could not only show schools where they were going wrong but enable and help them to do better, they would be seen in a totally different light.

This, of course, brings me back full circle to the issue of the effectiveness of Ofsted. If a system of inspection is putting such unwarranted stress and additional workload on teachers that they have time off with stress-related illnesses or, worse, commit suicide, there is something wrong with it. If it demoralises a whole staff to the point where they all leave a school which has been making good progress, there is something wrong with it. If the system precludes taking evidence from those in the LEA who know most about the school, it is flawed and needs reforming.

Finally, I turn to one of the most serious shortcomings of the way Ofsted operates--the issue of accountability. We need a stronger, clearer mechanism to ensure that Ofsted is fully accountable. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington. The question is "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" which, roughly translated, means, "Who keeps an eye on Ofsted?" What sort of sinecure is it where someone becomes an Ofsted inspector--or even a chief inspector--and once appointed is accountable to no one? In accepting that not every teacher is perfect, we must also accept that not all inspectors, or chief inspectors, are perfect and must, therefore, be subject to monitoring themselves. The Education and Employment Select Committee in another place in its report on Ofsted last year appears to agree. It recommends a series of sensible suggestions about how this could be done which we on these Benches would support. They include ensuring a regular debate in another place on Her Majesty's Chief Inspector's Annual Report; an annual meeting between HMCI and the Select Committee; ensuring that Parliament has an advisory role in the appointment of HMCI; and establishing an advisory board for Ofsted which would also handle the complaints procedure. I am sure that your Lordships can see the relevance of the last idea, in particular to the topic of this debate.

I come back to the question of what Ofsted is for. If it is to raise standards it must help schools to be effective. But if our secondary schools are suffering a chronic shortage of teachers they will not be effective. The profession is bleeding. Too many experienced teachers are taking any opportunity to jump ship. Despite the Government's recent measures, too few students are applying for initial teacher training, particularly in maths and physics. This cannot go on.

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We have a crisis of morale in the profession and the modus operandi of Ofsted plays a very big role in that. Winston Churchill said, "Give us the tools and we will finish the job." Too many teachers are saying, "If you don't give us the tools we'll quit the job." I speak to many teachers. I can tell your Lordships that morale is at an all-time low. Dedicated teachers--I would never have believe in a thousand years that they would say it--are saying that they would leave tomorrow given half a chance. This is very sad and a great waste if they carry out their threat. We have to plug the hole in the bucket before we start trying to fill it.

We expect a lot of our teachers--rightly so, since they care for our precious children. But I urge the Minister to ensure that Ofsted is reformed to become more effective and accountable and that the chief inspector learns the lessons of the Durham case and acts accordingly.

7.39 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am concerned about perspective in this debate. The Motion on the Order Paper relates to Durham and Durham schools. It is essential that we address that specific issue in this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, made little reference to Durham except in her final sentence.

First, I want to say something positive about Ofsted. I am proud to have belonged to a party which introduced external inspection for all schools. Before that, the average school could expect to be inspected about once in every 300 years. As a system, that was indefensible. It seemed to me right that there should be regular external inspections of our schools.

The previous government and the present one have benefited enormously from knowing what goes on in our schools and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The schools and the teachers in the classroom also benefit from that information and the databank that has been built up over the years from external inspection.

The activities of the inspectors could not be more public. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I have been a governor and I know that the first act of an inspectorate is to discuss the school and its performance with the governors. The staff are considered; the reports are made public; they are discussed at an interim stage and at the final stage and the final version is published and made available in public places. The parents are made aware of the report and any necessary action plans are followed up. We have a great deal to be thankful for from a regular objective external inspection system.

My other point is specific to Durham. As a Minister I always argued that when a complaint was being made about a service, a system or an individual, it was important that all the information relating to the complaint should be very specific. I have tried to find out the problem in Durham. My understanding is that, although there was considerable disquiet about the inspection of a particular school where I understand that a local education authority inspector interfered during the inspection, the authority refused to allow

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the subsequent review of the inspector's work any contact with the school. A complaint cannot be reviewed without going back to inspect the school.

The noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, and the LEA have made general comments about other, unnamed schools. That is unfair when complaining about any organisation. Complaints should be detailed properly. The schools and their particular complaints should have been detailed.

Reference has already been made to the fact that Ofsted is answerable to a parliamentary Select Committee. It was suggested that it should appear before the committee at least annually. That is a matter for the Select Committee. Ofsted has to come if it is summoned. Parliament receives the report and we have an opportunity to consider it.

It is right to go back and look at the thousands of inspections that have taken place since the inception of Ofsted and the number of governing bodies and schools that have used them as management tools to address the issues that arise from the reports. Parents feel much better informed as a result of the work of Ofsted. Its work is made public and it is accountable to every parent, every teacher, every governing body, the Department for Education and Employment, and Parliament, through the Select Committee. It is wrong to say that it is unaccountable and to expand on one particular complaint to condemn the whole system. It is uncharacteristic of the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, to use phrases such as "major professional blunders" and to make an even more serious complaint that Ofsted was deliberately lying.

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