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The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 23, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 35, 45, 62, 75, 98 and 99, which are listed in my name in this group. At the outset, I declare an interest. I was for many years a trustee and council member of the well-known charity, Save the Children. These amendments have been suggested to me by Save the Children and I am indebted to it for briefing on the subject. The amendments in this group all deal with the same subject and it therefore seemed sensible to deal with them together.
Save the Children has a long history of working in a participative way with children and young people and has been involved in many statutory organisations, including schools, social services, local authorities and central government. It takes its steer from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Under Articles 12 and 13 of that convention, children and young people have the right to express an opinion, to have that opinion taken into account and to express their own views, unless that would violate the rights of others.
Save the Children believes that the full and meaningful participation of children and young people in school inspections is necessary. It is important that their views are taken into account if an inspection is to be based on a full understanding of how a school is performing and meeting the needs of the community it services. Information regarding the purpose of the inspection, and child-friendly reports following it, would help children and young people to become more involved in the process. Independent inspectors, lay inspectors and Her
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Majesty's Inspectorate would benefit greatly from training in children's participation. There are resources available on many different methods of participation and consultation that could easily be developed for use by inspectors and incorporated in their initial training or in their professional development. Children and young people could be trained to form part of the inspection team, which is a model that is used by the Social Services Inspectorate. The formal assessment of inspectors could include particular reference to their knowledge of involving children and young people in school inspections. Inspections should involve a broad range of children and young people in the process and should include ethnic minority, refugee and asylum-seeking children.
The aim of these amendments is to ensure that there is a participative role for children and young people. I am sure that this would be to the benefit not only of the children and young people themselves but it would assist the inspectors and the inspection process. I hope what is proposed in this group of amendments, for which Amendment No. 23 is a paving amendment, will receive favourable consideration.
Amendment No. 23 requires an age-appropriate report to be available for registered pupils. I remind the Minister that in earlier discussions she has referred to the need to involve children fully in this process and I therefore hope for a favourable response to these amendments. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: I shall speak to Amendment No. 34, which stands in my name in this group of amendments. The purpose of this small amendment is to ensure that at the beginning of the process, when parents are being notified about the timing of an inspection, pupils are also informed in their own right. If pupils are to be genuine stakeholders in the school process, they too should be informed. I am quite aware that most schools will be very anxious to tell pupils that inspectors are coming in because they want pupils to be on their best behaviour. But I want to enshrine in statute an equal right for children in the school to have that information. That would respect their dignity and their position in the school. They are vital participants in the school community. I know that it is a small matter, but it is important because it recognises the dignity and the position of the children.
Baroness Andrews: I am grateful to the noble Baronesses who have spoken on these amendments. We fully support the sentiments that have driven them. My noble friend Lady Turner has been a very powerful champion of Save the Children for many years. We fully agree with the importance of involving children and young people in the school inspection process. If we were asked what the school inspection process is for, our answer would be that it is for and about them, their education and their life chances. They have an important part to play in the inspection process. There is an increased emphasis on discussion with pupils under the new arrangements because of the vital element of self-evaluation.
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During the pilots, we looked at pupils' views about inspection. Evaluation of the pilot inspections showed that pupils thought that inspection was necessary and important for them and their schools, and that those that had the opportunity to speak to inspectors about themselves and their work enjoyed the experience. They emphasised how important it is for inspectors to ask them questions in order to understand what it is like to be a pupil at the school. That answers in part some of the questions raised by my noble friend about the nature of the inspectors' own qualifications.
The amendments proposed by my noble friend Lady Turner and the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Sharp, would put the duty of a school to notify registered pupils of a forthcoming inspection on the same footing as the duty to notify their parents. The noble Baroness spoke eloquently about their equal right to be so informed. It is very important that pupils should be aware that an inspection is taking place; they can hardly have been unaware in the past, given the high degree of activity and stress that they will have picked up on in some schools.
It is important to note that the evidence is that schools do inform pupils in advance of a forthcoming inspection. Pupils need to be made aware that inspectors may want to speak to them about their experience in the classroom and out of it, in lessons, between lessons and during breaks. Schools will want to know that pupils are fully aware of what that will involve. There have been several references to the fact that pupils have been notified to make sure that they are as well behaved as they possibly could be, but in my experience that cannot be guaranteed under any circumstances. However, it is extremely important that pupils know what might be expected of them, if they have the opportunity to reflect on their experience with the inspector. I am sure that pupils are frank in what they say.
There are numerous reasons why schools need to keep pupils informed of forthcoming inspections and we must be confident that schools will involve pupils as part of the normal business of preparing for the arrival of the inspector. When Ofsted notifies the school of a forthcoming inspection, the head teacher informs all those involved. The staff would be informed at a staff meeting. We would expect schools to arrange for pupils to be informed through the normal working mechanisms. In the pilots, we found that all pupils at the schools involved had been told about the inspection in advance. In most cases, this happened at assembly and was followed up by teachers in form time. We have to trust schools and teachers to get this right. I do not believe this practice would be enhanced through a further statutory requirement, but I understand why the noble Baroness's background and conviction make her ask for it.
Notifying parents is a rather different matter. Parents are outside the normal day-to-day running of the school. They are not in the school and there is no vehicle for them like the assembly. That is why we have included in legislation the duty on schools to take reasonable steps to ensure that parents are notified. This is an important protection for parents. They are
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users, but they are not participants in the day-to-day workings of the school. So, despite my agreement with the sentiments, I am bound to resist the amendments.
I now turn to the amendments to Clauses 5 and 15 tabled by my noble friend Lady Turner. They require age appropriate reports. I want to examine two ideas. The first is the principle of the provision of inspectors' reports to pupils and the second is age-appropriateness. I support the aim of ensuring that pupils and parents receive a version of the inspection report and are informed of the outcome of the inspection. We are working with schools in the trials to develop mechanisms for involving pupils and we are committed to producing pupil-focused feedback after each school inspection.
One new element, for example, is that Ofsted will send to the school council a letter summarising the key outcomes of the inspection. In 80 per cent of our schools at key stage 2, we have school councils. Where no school council is yet in placethe Government are very much behind the idea of school councilsa letter will go to head teachers. That, of course, means that the schools can also cascade the information down. Let us therefore use the internal mechanisms to get it right. That approach was used, and a further evaluation of six schools involved in that process showed that all the pupils in the schools had seen the report.
What is the situation with regard to age-appropriate reports? It is very difficult to define. We had some debate during proceedings on the Children Bill about how we would get reports written that reflected the different age levels and sophistication. In fact, the reading ages varied and were consistent with chronological ages and so on. Because of the diversity of needs across a single year group in a school with many children with special educational needs, it is very difficult to define centrally what would be an appropriate report for any particular age group.
Ofsted is already committed to providing a pupil focused summary of the outcomes of all school inspections, which can be tailored by the school council or the school for all the pupils. That also has been trialled. Those reports are charming and do the job, and I shall be happy to provide some examples of them. For example, in a special school that was inspected during the trials, the inspectors produced a summary report for pupils in Makaton, the communication method that uses pictures instead of words, which was very popular. The letter to the school councils will tell people how they can access the full inspection report.
I therefore fully endorse the aim of the amendment, and I should like to reassure the noble Baroness that steps are being taken to address the issue and that we shall continue to consider what can be done about it.
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