Select Committee on Education and Employment Second Report


SECOND REPORT

The Education and Employment Committee has agreed to the following Report:—

OFSTED CORPORATE PLAN 2000

"It is our intention to hold regular annual meetings with HM Chief Inspector, not only on his annual report but on the work of OFSTED itself. Although as a Select Committee we cannot bind our successors, we would expect our successor Committees to continue this practice"—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 204.

INTRODUCTION

  1. Mr Chris Woodhead, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Schools in England since 1994, gave oral evidence in public to the Education Sub-committee on Wednesday 1 November 2000. He announced his resignation the following day. The transcript of the oral evidence session with Mr Woodhead and his colleagues from OFSTED has already be published on the Internet[1] and appears in print in this volume. The oral examination session was part of a regular cycle of evidence sessions with the Education Sub-committee which has been established since our major Report on the Work of OFSTED published in June 1999.[2] Earlier this year, Mr Woodhead and his colleagues gave evidence on the Annual Report of OFSTED for 1998-99. That session was mainly concerned with OFSTED's findings about the quality of education being delivered to children in the country's schools.[3] The November session was principally concerned with the issue of accountability, as part of our remit to examine the stewardship of an important non-Ministerial Government Department.

CORPORATE PLAN — RESOURCE ACCOUNTING AND BUDGETING

  2. OFSTED's Corporate Plan 2000 sets out two major challenges for the coming year, arising from the widening of OFSTED's remit to cover inspections of more Early Years settings under the Care Standards Act 2000 and the expansion of its responsibilities for post-16 education as a consequence of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. In his introduction to the Corporate Plan, Mr Chris Woodhead wrote that:

3. In our Report on the Early Years, we have recommended that the head of the new OFSTED arm should have substantial experience of the care and education of young children.[5] In our view it is also essential that there should be a strong element of both early years experience of education and care within the team. In subsequent correspondence,[6] Mr Woodhead said that OFSTED had concluded that the key requirements for the challenging post of Director of Early Years were related to management experience and expertise. Mr Woodhead gave an assurance that early years expertise would be included within the overall expertise of the Director's senior team. We expect to be following up our work on Early Years with regular scrutiny of the performance of the OFSTED Early Years Director as part of the accountability of OFSTED to Parliament.

4. As far as the post-16 sector is concerned, Mr Woodhead confirmed that in the inspection of a further education college the role of the college's nominee would be no less significant than that of the headteacher in the school inspection process.[7] This would not preclude "the most detailed and continuing conversations with the college principal".[8] Both Mr Woodhead and his deputy Mr Mike Tomlinson gave the Sub-committee an assurance that the criteria that will be drawn up for the inspection of sixth-form colleges would be exactly the same as those regarding the inspection of sixth-forms within schools.[9] Mr Woodhead accepted that in the past:

    "we have not always done justice to the sixth-form within the totality of the school inspection. So we are looking to invest more resource, more inspector days in the inspection of school sixth-forms, so that we have got a level playing-field with the sixth-form college in the FE sector".[10]

5. The Education and Employment Committee has received from Ms Judith Phillips, OFSTED's Director of Planning, Policy and Resources, the Dry Run Resource Accounts for 1998-99 and the Dry Run Estimates for 2000-01.[11] OFSTED's Service Delivery Agreement, which was published on 3 November 2000,[12] sets out how OFSTED plans to deliver on a number of targets. The introduction of resource accounting and budgeting brings new opportunities for better financial reporting and more transparency about the allocation of resources and performance against objectives.

INSPECTING SCHOOLS FOR RACE EQUALITY

  6. The murder of Stephen Lawrence has had far-reaching effects on the way racism is tackled in British society. In the Home Secretary's Action Plan for implementing the recommendations of the Macpherson Report,[13] OFSTED was assigned lead responsibility for examining the implementation of strategies for the role of education in the prevention of racism.[14] The Action Plan announced that revised frameworks for the inspection of schools and local education authorities would ensure that the issues raised in the Macpherson Report would be addressed during inspections, and that appropriate training was put in place for inspectors.

7. The Commission for Racial Equality was concerned that, despite the helpful frameworks for inspection, in practice inspectors often did not inspect for race equality and school inspection reports did not report on race equality. In order to test whether their concerns were well founded, the Commission for Racial Equality awarded a contract for a research project to Professor Audrey Osler and Dr Marlene Morrison of the University of Leicester. Their research was carried out between August 1999 and April 2000 and the report was published in July 2000.[15]

8. The researchers' key findings included the enormous variations between schools in the degree to which they collect ethnic data, and the urgent need for inspectors to receive focussed training on race equality.[16]

9. On the report's publication, OFSTED issued a press release dismissing its findings.[17] OFSTED told the CRE that "your research is flawed because it:

  • misconstrues OFSTED's responsibilities in relation to the Government's action plan;
  • relies on very thin evidence, including an analysis of just 30 reports written to the old inspection Framework;
  • uses a simplistic word search of inspection reports looking for words which are not part of the Framework's vocabulary;
  • misrepresents or ignores the actions taken and planned by OFSTED in monitoring educational inclusion and race-equality issues;
  • and assumes that we have powers that we do not have".[18]

15. Following a meeting between Mr Gurbux Singh, the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Mr Woodhead on 11 September 2000, Mr Singh wrote to Mr Woodhead to put on record:

     "how profoundly inappropriate and personally insulting I found many of your comments, and the way in which you conducted much of our meeting. Patronising, rude and sarcastic behaviour is simply unacceptable from a senior (or any other) public servant in carrying out their professional role".[19]

Mr Woodhead replied on 14 September:

    "your self-righteous indignation astonishes me ... we did not enjoy the meeting much either. Nothing I said was patronising, rude or sarcastic. I spoke plainly because you needed to understand the seriousness of our concerns".[20]

16. Mr Woodhead described the report by the University of Leicester researchers as "a shoddy piece of work" and said that OFSTED had done their best to help the researchers.[21] In mid-September the CRE requested the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to carry out an independent study of the report on Inspecting Schools for Race Equality: OFSTED's Strengths and Weaknesses for quality and validity.[22] The NFER concluded that the CRE report "represents a significant empirical contribution to existing knowledge of school inspection and race equality".[23] The NFER reported some inadequacies in research methods, but argued that the report of the research was "internally consistent, drew proper conclusions from evidence and [was] worthy of serious consideration by OFSTED".[24]

17. The NFER noted that Mr Woodhead had declined two requests from the University of Leicester researchers for a meeting with him to discuss race equality and OFSTED.[25] In the NFER's view "it was unfortunate that such a meeting did not take place as it might have afforded an opportunity to clarify issues in respect of OFSTED's leadership and role with respect to race equality in school inspections".[26]

18. We were concerned that Mr Woodhead had not made him himself available to meet the CRE's researchers when they requested a meeting with him before publishing their findings.[27] Mr Woodhead said that:

    "in my judgement, given the pressures on me and given, equally importantly, the likelihood of the questions being asked dealing with the practicalities of inspection, my decision was that other colleagues were the best people to answer these questions, and that seems, to me, to be a wholly proper use of my time and an efficient way of dealing with the inquiry that the CRE was sponsoring".[28]

19. We consider that, in making this decision, the Chief Inspector laid himself open to the criticism that he did not consider the subject to be particularly important and thereby compromised his ability to object to any subsequent criticism made of the Office for which he had responsibility.

20. After the evidence session, Mr Woodhead wrote to "set the record straight" on OFSTED's discussion with CRE.[29] He sent us copies of further correspondence and the OFSTED's internal critique of the research.[30] It is clear from that correspondence that the CRE asked on 9 June 2000 for a meeting in the week beginning 26 June, before the Report's publication in early July.[31] At that stage the CRE researchers' report was still in draft. Mr Woodhead replied to the CRE on 29 June that the draft report had serious flaws and that he had a list of detailed concerns that needed "to be discussed before any thought is given to a publication date".[32] The CRE replied on 6 July that the report was already at the printers. OFSTED should have acted more swiftly to bring their concerns to the attention of the Commission for Racial Equality and we are concerned that it took so long for them to respond to the Commission for Racial Equality's approach. The Commission for Racial Equality should have shown greater willingness to engage with those concerns before publication. We regret that neither did so.

21. On the substantive issue of inspecting for race equality, we note that the OFSTED Handbook has been revised since most of the inspections on which the CRE research was based took place.[33] We recognise that OFSTED has no power to require the compilation of ethnic data, and the generally shared reluctance to impose more record keeping and requirements on schools. The DfEE has issued a consultation document on guidance for schools on ethnic monitoring, which aims to strengthen ethnic monitoring as a positive management tool to raise achievement and tackle inequality of opportunity.[34] We welcome OFSTED's willingness[35] to strengthen the guidance given to inspectors about what comments they should make on schools which do not collect the data needed to enable them to highlight in schools the performance of different groups. We expect OFSTED inspection reports to include adverse comment on schools which fail to collect basic information needed to address race equality issues.

DEGREE STANDARDS

  22. In September 2000, Mr Woodhead had commented in an interview with The Times Higher Educational Supplement,[36] on the suitability of some disciplines for degree level study and on the standards of degrees. He argued that "degree courses ought to be more demanding and what a degree represents ought to be more impressive".[37] He had written an article earlier in the summer for The Sunday Times which criticised "politicians, who have sacrificed the integrity of vocational training on the altar of vacuous theoretical convolution".[38]

23. The public body whose job it is to promote public confidence in the standards of awards in higher education is the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). Following the media coverage of Mr Woodhead's comments on degree standards, Mr John Randall, the Quality Assurance Agency's Chief Executive, wrote to Mr Woodhead inviting him to work co-operatively on this issue.[39] At the evidence session, Mr Woodhead apologised for not having replied to Mr Randall, and said that he would meet him to discuss his response to the concerns raised by Mr Woodhead.[40]

"We support the view that HM Chief Inspector should, where appropriate, speak out on education issues. This helps to stimulate and inform a wider public debate. The Chief Inspector should not be afraid to use his or her position to argue for those policies and practices that contribute to rising educational achievement. The major interest here must be the interests of children and their parents. However, we feel strongly that such public expression of views should be based firmly on clear and scientific evidence emerging from inspections undertaken by OFSTED's inspectors and other reputable sources. There is a considerable danger that if this principle is not adhered to, the Chief Inspector will be seen simply as a pundit or polemicist. This will do significant harm to the reputation of OFSTED itself. Whoever holds the post of HM Chief Inspector should always be aware that, although as a Crown appointee they have more independence than civil servants, their scope for public comment is not wholly unfettered."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 227.


24. Among the courses criticised by Mr Woodhead was media studies: "do they equip the student for a job in the media? Many senior figures in that industry think not".[41] It appears that certain sections of the media prefer to recruit gifted amateurs for key positions rather than graduates with a relevant qualification in journalism.

A LEVEL STANDARDS

  25. In an interview with The Guardian on his first day back at work after his summer holiday, Mr Woodhead was reported as saying that "nobody seems to know" whether exam standards have failed since GCSEs were introduced. He was quoted as saying "We need A levels that are as academically rigorous as they have ever been. Indeed I would like them to be more academically rigorous. As standards rise in schools then we ought, in our public examinations, to be looking to raise the level of demand at all levels as well".[42] His remarks were reported under a headline "A levels too easy, says Woodhead".[43] Mr Woodhead explained that "the headline does not do justice to the text that the paper printed".[44]

26. In his evidence to the Education Sub-committee, Mr Woodhead said that he believed that A levels should be made more difficult for two reasons:

     "one, because examinations exert a powerful influence upon our expectations as to what happens in schools; and, two, because A level results are obviously used by university admissions tutors, and indeed by employers, to decide which candidates are the right candidates for particular courses and particular jobs. And if you have got an ever-increasing number of people securing the top grades then the examination is not fulfilling the purpose of discriminating amongst candidates that is one of its prime functions".[45]

27. In his evidence to the Education Sub-committee, Mr Woodhead was asked to explain how he could equate the view that he should not be reported as claiming that A Levels were too easy with his statement that he wished "them to be academically rigorous".[46] Members of the Committee were not convinced that he had been misreported. We recommend that OFSTED should put in place procedures to check carefully its public comments on contentious matters to ensure that they are not ambiguous.

28. Mr Mike Tomlinson, one of OFSTED's Directors of Inspection, quoted "some commentator within the education world" who had said that, if the present trend continued, in 30 years everyone would get a grade A at A level.[47] There is a serious debate about the future of the A Level. We reiterate the view expressed in our Fourth Report of 1998-99 and we therefore recommend that "such public expression of views should be based firmly on clear and scientific evidence emerging from inspections undertaken by OFSTED's inspectors and other reputable sources".[48]

DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL

29. Durham County Council has been pursuing a complaint against OFSTED for more than three years. Although Durham County Council has now received apologies from OFSTED and from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), in its view there are still several unresolved issues, including the extent to which OFSTED is accountable to the Select Committee. In a letter dated 23 May 2000, Mr Woodhead told Mr Keith Mitchell, Durham County Council's Director of Education, that "you have been consistently unwilling to accept any of the points put to you. I can only conclude that there is little that can be productively gained from continuing this correspondence".[49]

30. Durham County Council's complaint against OFSTED was first made in June 1997. The initial complaint was made by Durham on behalf of Bishop Middleham Primary School against a Registered Inspector, who had inspected a number of schools in County Durham.[50] OFSTED investigated the complaint made by Durham initially through their internal complaints procedure. The result of that investigation was that OFSTED did not uphold the complaint. In addition to not upholding the complaint, OFSTED expressed "serious concern" that one of Durham's education officers, intervened during the school's inspection to inform the inspector that Durham did not agree with her provisional findings that the school might require special measures. In OFSTED's response to Durham, Mr Malcolm Westbrook, OFSTED's Registrar, wrote that "HMCI has asked me to state his views that if this [intervention by the LEA] took place as alleged by the Registered Inspector, it was an unacceptable intrusion into an inspection which he hopes will not be repeated." Mr Westbrook noted that the LEA officer was also an OFSTED Registered Inspector, and OFSTED had asked him for his comments on the allegation.[51]

31. From 5 November 1997 to 14 October 1998, Durham and OFSTED exchanged correspondence regarding the role played by the LEA officer when he met the registered inspector during the inspection at Bishop Middleham School. OFSTED confirmed that they would not uphold Durham's complaint.[52] Durham was not content with the way in which OFSTED handled the complaint, and referred the complaint to the next stage of the complaints procedure: an internal review by the Compliance Department within OFSTED.[53]

32. Mr Mitchell wrote to the Compliance Department within OFSTED to confirm he sought a review of the handling of the original complaint against the registered inspector, and broadened his complaint to include concerns about the transparency and impartiality of OFSTED's complaints procedure.[54]

33. OFSTED's internal review of the complaint concluded that it had been dealt with in a thorough and transparent manner.[55] Durham County Council found the outcome of the review unsatisfactory and considered the process seriously deficient. It therefore referred the matter to Ms Elaine Rassaby, the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator.[56] In a review of the handling of Durham's complaint, the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator's main conclusions were:

  • OFSTED's investigation of the original complaint had been generally thorough,
  • OFSTED needed to consider its approach to the disclosure of information about its investigation to complainants,[57]
  • OFSTED's inquiries into the role of the LEA officer were appropriate,
  • HMCI's comments to Durham about the behaviour of the LEA officer were inappropriate.[58]

In a letter to Durham County Council on 23 May 2000, Mr Woodhead accepted that his comments on the role of the LEA officer should not have been expressed to the local education authority and apologised.[59]

38. In his comments on the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator's conclusions, Mr Mitchell expressed the view that a proper investigation into his original complaint had not taken place and that the role of HMCI in commenting on the original complaint was a matter of serious concern. He questioned whether the process and findings could be regarded as safe and secure.[60]

39. Following the final judgement by the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator, Keith Mitchell wrote to the Secretary of State to reiterate his concerns about the handling of this complaint, and to request that the DfEE should review the matter and take appropriate action.[61] Estelle Morris, Minister for School Standards at the Department for Education and Employment, replied that OFSTED was a separate Government Department. She noted that where a complainant to OFSTED remained dissatisfied having exhausted the complaints procedure (including adjudication by the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator), the next step would be to take the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.[62]

40. Durham contacted the Parliamentary Ombudsman, but was informed that the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 precludes the Ombudsman from investigating complaints by a local authority.[63] The Ombudsman system is based on the protection of the rights of the individual citizen.

41. In January 2000 Mr Mitchell wrote to the DfEE restating his concerns about the way in which OFSTED had dealt with the initial complaint, and the role played by Mr Woodhead. Estelle Morris responded that the DfEE had considered OFSTED's and HMCI's accountability arrangements in the light of our major Report last year[64] and concluded that no change was required. She reiterated that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools headed a Government Department and was accountable to Parliament for the management of OFSTED and its public funds, giving her view that HMCI's accountability "operates principally through the Education and Employment Select Committee".[65]

42. Durham restated its concerns to OFSTED in February 2000. OFSTED rejected these concerns and stated that where the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator had indicated that it should act, it had done so. OFSTED considered the matter closed.[66]

43. Mr Keith Mitchell wrote to the Chairman of the Education and Employment Committee's Education Sub-committee, Mr Barry Sheerman, on 9 March and 5 April 2000 highlighting Durham's concern that Mr Woodhead had involved himself in the initial review of the complaint made by Durham.[67] Mr Mitchell noted that HMCI would continue to be involved in complaints made to OFSTED, although following the recommendation by the external OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator, HMCI's view would not be expressed to the complainant in future. Mr Mitchell argued in his letter to the Clerk of the Sub-committee of 27 June 2000 that the case raised significant issues about the accountability of HMCI, and whether Parliament, as the only body empowered to hold HMCI to account, was exercising its duties in regard of that accountability.[68]

44. The Durham case was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Dormand of Easington in a debate on an unstarred question on 25 October 2000.[69] Replying to the debate, the Minister of State (Lords) at the Department for Education and Employment, Baroness Blackstone, stated her belief that "all this shows that both the complaints were fully investigated, and that not only were the complaints about OFSTED's handling fully investigated by Elaine Rassaby, but that investigation had an evident effect: OFSTED accepted that mistakes had been made; apologies have been offered and practices amended".[70] On the wider principle of accountability, the Opposition spokesman Baroness Blatch stated that OFSTED's 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".[71] Baroness Blackstone placed on record the Government's view that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools "is directly accountable to Parliament for the management of his department and the public funds which are allocated to it. In practice, that accountability operates principally through the Education and Employment Select Committee".[72]

45. Mr Woodhead recognised that "the Director of Education in Durham feels very, very strongly about this, and he has made that very, very clear".[73] Mr Woodhead rehearsed the detail of the complaint[74] and admitted to the Sub-committee that he "was perfectly prepared, in the light of the judgement that the independent Adjudicator had come to, that we had got it wrong, put my hand up, apologise, fine; but, Keith Mitchell [Durham's Director of Education] was not happy with that".[75] Mr Woodhead argued that the Durham complaint was actually "a good example of the range of ways in which OFSTED is, in fact, accountable".[76]

46. Following the meeting on 1 November, the Director of Education at Durham County Council was invited to comment on the evidence given by Mr Woodhead. Mr Mitchell continued to press the case for an independent inquiry into the outstanding issues.[77] We recognise the right of Durham County Council to raise their valid concerns with this Select Committee. We also recognise the need to keep a sense of proportion in pursuing complaints concerning alleged procedural irregularities made by a publicly-funded local education authority against a publicly-funded non-Ministerial Government department.

INSPECTION EVIDENCE ON THE TEACHING OF SWIMMING

  47. During his previous meeting with the Select Committee, Mr Woodhead had said that OFSTED would shortly be publishing a report on the teaching of swimming, which would provide additional evidence for the comment in his Annual Report that he had no concerns about this aspect of the curriculum.[78] In evidence on 1 November, Mr Woodhead apologised for the delay in producing the OFSTED report,[79] which was finally made available on the Internet on Monday 6 November.[80] The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1998-99, published in March 2000, had stated that "Swimming is well taught. Most pupils reach the National Curriculum expectation of swimming 25 metres unaided and know about important aspects of safety by the end of Key Stage 2".[81] The OFSTED report on swimming, based on inspection evidence from 301 schools, highlighted the concerns that, although four out of five pupils can swim twenty-five metres by the end of Key Stage 2 (about the age of eleven), there was significant variation between schools and in a worrying minority of schools water safety and survival was not covered sufficiently well.[82]

"We were told that OFSTED's specialist adviser on physical education was preparing a report which would include detailed evidence from inspections about pupil attainment at Key Stage 2 on swimming. We look forward to seeing the improved collection of data on pupil attainment in swimming, which we consider to be a key life skill."— Sixth Report, Session 1999-2000, paragraph 20.



"The National Curriculum entitles all children to learn to swim unaided for a distance of 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. We have asked OFSTED to report on swimming at Key Stages 1 and 2, using enhanced inspection evidence gathered during November 1999 and information from their existing inspection database. We anticipate receiving their report in the Autumn."—Government Response to Committee's recommendation, from Seventh Special Report, Session 1999-2000, paragraph 8.

"We note the Committee's enthusiasm for swimming and will, in due course, supply more detail as a result of our recent survey."—OFSTED Response to Committee's recommendation, from Seventh Special Report, Session 1999-2000, page vi.

48. Notwithstanding the Chief Inspector's disappointing and casual response to our earlier recommendation (see Box), accident figures show that learning to swim is quite literally a matter of life and death for children: drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death among the under 16s.[83] The Committee was concerned to learn from the OFSTED report of the variability of standards reached by children at different groups of schools, the percentage able to swim 25 metres at the end of Key Stage 2 varying from 91 per cent to 67 per cent. We recommend that the Government should study the underlying reasons given in the OFSTED report and should ensure that all children are given every opportunity to learn to swim before they leave primary school.

OTHER ISSUES

  49. Among the other issues raised with Mr Woodhead and his colleagues were the role of local education authorities,[84] school discipline and exclusions from school,[85] sharing data on best practice,[86] the inspection of Education Action Zones[87] and the measurement of 'value-added' in school inspections.[88] The full transcript of the evidence given by Mr Woodhead and his colleagues is published with this Report.

HMCI'S ACCOUNTABILITY

"We conclude that the accountability mechanisms for OFSTED are not sufficiently robust. Nor do they demonstrate that OFSTED is fully accountable for its work. This is not a criticism of OFSTED itself: OFSTED operates within the statutory framework which Parliament gave it. However, we believe it is in the best interests of education, and OFSTED itself, that stronger, clearer mechanisms be introduced."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 196.

  50. The remit of this Select Committee is "to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Education and Employment and associated public bodies".[89] It falls to this Committee, and to the Committee of Public Accounts with its narrower audit function, to hold to account Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, whose current post has been specifically re-defined by Parliament to maximise his operational independence from the Government of the day.[90] The Chief Inspector is the Accounting Officer for the separate OFSTED Vote, and is formally appointed by the Crown. This "Frankenstein monster",[91] as Mr Woodhead jokingly referred to it, does not neatly into the usual forms of accountability; we have no powers to appoint, dismiss or discipline the Chief Inspector. His remit is set by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment; his annual targets are set by agreement with the Secretary of State and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education and Employment.[92] Mr Woodhead regarded himself as "the non-ministerial head of a Government Department, and as such I am accountable to the Prime Minister".[93] He described his relationship with the Secretary of State for Education and Employment as "an interesting one, in many senses of the word interesting".[94]

51. Mr Woodhead distinguished the formal position from the political reality : "if there is a general public stink of such magnitude, then enough MPs create enough stink, enough papers write powerfully enough about the issue for the individual concerned to be sacked, that is what happens in real life, and that is what would happen to me".[95] Select Committees have considerable capacity to create a "stink". They also provide a very public forum where those concerned can air their concerns through submitting written evidence or being invited to appear in person. Parliamentary privilege gives powerful protection to witnesses blowing the whistle as well to press coverage of remarks made by honourable Members.

52. There is inevitably a certain tension between the independence with which Parliament has endowed OFSTED and the expectation that there should be robust mechanisms by which public servants are held to account. We will continue to play our distinctive and public part in the interaction between the various parties with an interest in OFSTED.

"We believe that a case can be made for establishing a board of commissioners, or a supervisory or advisory board for OFSTED."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 210.

"Such a board, if established, should not be too large. A small board would best serve the need to strengthen OFSTED's accountability, perhaps comprising six or eight members. The majority of the board members, including the chairman, would be drawn from outside the education world."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 211.

"The functions of such a board would have to be very carefully delineated in order to ensure that the Chief Inspector and other OFSTED inspectors retained full independence in their judgements. We are firmly of the view that such a board should not become involved with individual inspection judgements, nor would it contribute to HMCI's work in advising policy-makers on the state of education in England."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 212.

"The arguments for and against establishing a board of some kind are finely balanced. We recommend that strong consideration be given to the establishment of such a board." —Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 213.



53. Mr Woodhead was sceptical whether the creation of supervisory structures such as a Board would help: "okay, so a board is created, and the board decided that what we have done is right, or the board was involved all along, where are you left then? I do not see, in fact, that you have advanced things at all".[96]

54. As highlighted above, we have given close consideration to making the Chief Inspector accountable to a Board. As currently established by Parliament and acknowledged by Government and the Official Opposition alike, much is expected of this Select Committee in terms of holding Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools as the Chief Executive of OFSTED to account. Experience has shown us that within our limited time and resources, it is not feasible for us to conduct a detailed investigation to hear all sides concerning even the most important issues or complaints. Our remit, which is "to examine the expenditure and administration and policy of the Department for Education and Employment and its associated public bodies" can only operate at a general strategic level, supplemented on occasion by detailed scrutiny of a particular issue. As far as day-to-day accountability is concerned, that is in practice currently carried out by Ministers, in whose hands lie the ultimate sanctions of setting performance criteria and targets, assessing that performance, approving pay, bonuses and (re-)appointment. The Treasury and the National Audit Office play an important role in supervising expenditure, and the Ofsted Complaints Adjudicator plays a key role in examining complaints. We recommend that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools should be made accountable to a Board. Meanwhile we will require enhanced resources and recognition of our role in holding Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to account.

APPOINTMENT OF A SUCCESSOR

"We recognise the formal position that Crown appointments cannot be made subject to Parliamentary veto. However, we believe that Parliament should be given an advisory role in the appointment or re-appointment of HM Chief Inspector. We recommend that the Chief Inspector would continue to be appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister, as at present, but before the appointment (or re-appointment) was confirmed, this Select Committee should be given the opportunity to take evidence in public from the nominee and report to Parliament on the proposed appointment. A debate could then be held in the House on the Committee's report. Although the Government would not formally be obliged to make time for such a debate, we recommend that the Government should give an undertaking to do so."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 205.


  55. It was announced by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment on Thursday 16 November 2000 that Mr Mike Tomlinson had been appointed to a one-year term as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.[97] We intend to hold a Confirmation Hearing on the appointment proposed by Government at any time of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.

PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE

"We recommend that a regular debate be held in the House on HMCI's annual report. Such debates could be preceded by oral evidence from HM Chief Inspector to this Committee, and his evidence (and perhaps a report from the Committee) could usefully inform the debate."—Fourth Report, Session 1998-99, paragraph 204.

  56. We welcome the recent expansion of the opportunities for debate on select committee Reports in Westminster Hall.[98] We intend to press for a debate on the work of OFSTED to enable the whole House to consider the future conduct of this non-Ministerial Government Department, which has such a key role to play in encouraging the raising of standards in the education provided to the children of this country.


1   via the Committee's home page at www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/edemhome.htm Back

2   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Work of OFSTED, HC 61-I. Back

3   Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-1999, HC 345. See also the Government's and OFSTED's Responses in the Seventh Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 861. Back

4   OFSTED Corporate Plan 2000, August 2000. Back

5   First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Early Years, HC 33. The advertisement placed in The Guardian on 18 October 2000 included among the requirements of the post "the ability to establish credibility with the early education and social care sector". Back

6   Appendix 1. Back

7   QQ. 111-112. Back

8   Q. 110. Back

9   Q. 114. Back

10   Q. 115. Back

11   As these documents were produced for illustrative purposes only, they are not for publication. Back

12   See www.ofsted.gov.uk Back

13   Report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Cm 4262-I, February 1999. Back

14   Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: the Home Secretary's Action Plan, March 1999, page 37, Recommendation 69.  Back

15   Audrey Osler and Marlene Morrison, Inspecting Schools for Race Equality: OFSTED's Strengths and Weaknesses. A Report for the Commission for Racial Equality, published by Trentham Books for the Commission of Racial Equality, Stoke on Trent, July 2000. Back

16   Osler and Morrison, page xii and xix. Back

17   OFSTED press release 19 July 2000. Back

18   Letter from Gurbux Singh to Chris Woodhead, 12 September 2000. Back

19   Letter from Gurbux Singh to Chris Woodhead, 12 September 2000. Back

20   Letter from Chris Woodhead to Gurbux Singh, 14 September 2000; Q. 66. Back

21   Letter from Chris Woodhead to Gurbux Singh, 14 September 2000. Back

22   Not printed. Back

23   Not printed. Back

24   Not printed. Back

25   Not printed. Back

26   Not printed. Back

27   QQ. 70-72. Back

28   Q. 72. Back

29   Ev. p. 20. Back

30   Not printed. Back

31   Not printed. Back

32   Not printed. Back

33   Q. 63, Q. 68. Back

34   Consultation on Guidance to schools on Ethnic Monitoring, DfEE 0311/2000, November 2000. Responses are requested by 16 February 2001. Back

35   Q. 87. Back

36   15 September 2000. Back

37   The Times Higher Educational Supplement, 15 September 2000. Back

38   The Sunday Times, 13 August 2000. Back

39   Not printed. Back

40   Q. 36. Back

41   Sunday Times, 13 August 2000; Q. 32; Q. 39. Back

42   The Guardian, 4 September 2000. Back

43   The Guardian, 4 September 2000. Back

44   Q. 54. Back

45   Q. 44. Back

46   The Guardian, 4 September 2000. Back

47   Q. 57. Back

48   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Work of OFSTED, HC 61-I, paragraph 227. Back

49   Letter from Chris Woodhead to Keith Mitchell, Durham's Chief Education Officer, 23 May 2000. Back

50   Letter from Keith Mitchell to Mike Tomlinson, 16 June 1997. Back

51   Letter from Malcolm Westbrook, OFSTED Registrar, to Keith Mitchell, 20 October 1997. Back

52   Letter from Malcolm Westbrook to Keith Mitchell, 14 October 1998. Back

53   Letter from Keith Mitchell to Malcolm Westbrook, 19 October 1998. Back

54   Letter from Keith Mitchell to A Fermie, 26 October 1998. Back

55   Letter from Simon Ray to Keith Mitchell, 23 November 1998. Back

56   Letter from Keith Mitchell to Simon Ray, 11 December 1998. Back

57   Letter from Chris Woodhead to Keith Mitchell, 23 May 2000. Back

58   See letter from Elaine Rassaby to Keith Mitchell, 18 May 1999, for full details of her adjudication. Back

59   Letter from Chris Woodhead to Keith Mitchell, 23 May 2000. Back

60   Letter from Keith Mitchell to Elaine Rassaby, 12 May 1999. Back

61   Letter from Keith Mitchell to David Blunkett, 7 June 1999. Back

62   Letter from Estelle Morris to Keith Mitchell, 16 July 1999. Back

63   Letter from Richard Heriot to Keith Mitchell, 25 August 1999. Back

64   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Work of OFSTED, HC 61-I. Back

65   Letter from Estelle Morris to Keith Mitchell, 11 February 2000. Back

66   Letter from Simon Ray to Keith Mitchell, 3 March 2000. Back

67   Letters from Keith Mitchell to Chairman of the Education Sub-committee, 9 March and 5 April 2000. Back

68   Letter from Keith Mitchell to Clerk of the Education Sub-committee, 27 June 2000. Back

69   HL Deb 25 October 2000 vol 618 cols 394-407. Back

70   HL Deb 25 October 2000 vol 618 col 405. Back

71   HL Deb 25 October 2000 vol 618 col 401. Back

72   HL Deb 25 October 2000 vol 618 col 406. Back

73   Q. 16. Back

74   Q. 17. Back

75   Q. 19. Back

76   Q. 23. Back

77   Appendix 3. Back

78   Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-99, HC 345, Q. 89-90. Back

79   Q. 89. Back

80   Available via www.ofsted.gov.uk. Back

81  Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1998-99, March 2000, page 27. Back

82   Swimming in Key Stage 2: A Report from Mer Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, OFSTED, 7 November 2000, page 3. Available via www.ofsted.gov.uk. Back

83   Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Water Safety Fact Sheet, February 2000. Back

84   Q. 93, QQ. 102-107. Back

85   QQ. 95-101. Back

86   QQ. 108-109. Back

87   Q.117. Back

88   QQ .119-120. Back

89   House of Commons Standing Order No. 152. Back

90   Education (Schools) Act 1992-now consolidated in the School Inspection Act 1996. Back

91   Q. 24. Back

92   Q. 10. Back

93   Q. 8. Back

94   Q. 8. Back

95   Q. 25. Back

96   Q. 25. Back

97   DfEE Press Release 16 November 2000. Back

98  The Fourth Report from the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons, Session 1999-2000, Sittings in Westminster Hall, was approved by the House of Commons on Monday 20 November 2000. From the beginning of the 2000-01 Session, there will be up to six Thursday afternoon debates a year on select committee reports selected by the Liaison Committee (a select committee composed mainly of the Chairmen of the select committees).  Back


 
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