Memorandum submitted by the Association
of Lay Inspectors (ALI) (OFS 06)
1. The schedule of what inspectors are expected
to do has become overloaded relative to the time-scale permitted.
Inspection scrutiny is necessarily thinner overall than it was.
2. Resultant pressures have caused the morale
of inspectors to become fragile.
3. Lay inspectors, representatives of the
public, are for the first time anxious about their standing. Although
OFSTED requires them to undertake at least 5 days' training a
year, and acknowledges the continuing very high quality of their
special contribution, lay inspectors suffer certain disadvantages
compared to their inspection colleagues, not least the official
presumption that the more experience they obtain the less qualified
they might be to remain as inspectors. The contrary is in fact
In the disturbed wake of their portrayal
in paragraphs 59-61 of Improving inspection, improving schools,
the morale of the existing loyal lay inspector workforce has received
a severe buffeting.
4. Lay inspectors regard OFSTED's intended
recruitment of more lay inspectors as sensible and necessary but
numbers need to be proportionate to the capacity available within
the system for appropriate training and natural deployment.
5. Consultation between OFSTED and lay inspectors
has improved during the past year but outcomes, in most instances,
are currently uncertain.
6. The far-reaching changes proposed for
OFSTED's contracting regime give rise to some significant worries.
7. In addition to the Framework, for which
detailed prescriptive guidance is supplied in OFSTED's Handbooks
for Inspecting, further amplification and instruction is communicated
through Updates. These are issued approximately every term. Particular
topics on which to focus may also be the subject of discrete guidance
booklets, such as those issued for Evaluating educational inclusion,
Writing about educational inclusion, and Inspecting pupils' spiritual,
moral, social and cultural development.
8. To cite a recent example, Appendix A
to Update 38 lists 22 questions or actions always to be
addressed when inspecting attendance, and an additional 23 which
should be pursued when standards of attendance are below national
benchmark levels. A glance at the discrete guidance booklets is
enough to show that consideration of the theme is to be pursued
across all inspection aspects, and report paragraph writing is
enjoined to reflect this clearly.
9. It must be questioned as to how far these
excellent aspirations are realistic. Even for such an important
area as educational inclusion, OFSTED inspectors have been allocated
no additional time beyond what they had before. To lay inspectors,
who come from the real world, this is not just surprising but
10. A memorandum from ALI reflecting these
concerns more fully was submitted to OFSTED earlier this year.
It is quoted as Attachment A.
11. While the state of inspection morale
is difficult to prove, since fuzzy evidence is inherently arguable,
it can readily be appreciated that stress is likely to occur when
job size increases without appropriate allowances.
12. The brunt of leadership and responsibility
on each inspection is borne by registered inspectors. Their attitudes
are therefore a sensitive pointer to the whole. A small survey
(of 85 respondents) conducted by the Institute of Registered Inspectors
of Schools in June 2002 indicated that half had decreased their
activity during 2001-02, and that a third intended to decrease
their activity during 2002-03.
13. Principal reasons given for this were:
|Length of working day/week
|Increased report writing requirements||36%
|Pressure of time to complete inspection
|Level of fees in relation to hours of work
|More attractive consultancy opportunities
|Pressure of HMI monitoring||26%
14. Few team members have been applying to become registered
inspectors, and many have declined to do so when approached by
contractors. The underlying difficulties of the job remain.
Lay inspector unease
15. An unrealistically large number of lay inspectors,
more than 1,500, were recruited and trained from 1992 to 1994.
Consequently many found that they were unable to get early employment
on teams. Some lost interest and dropped out, though OFSTED did
increase opportunities for employment at the time of the Additional
16. No recruitment of lay inspectors has taken place
since that time. Through natural processes, but also resulting
from certain training obligations added by OFSTED, numbers have
progressively fallen to the current figure of 377. Every Section
10 inspection has to have a lay inspector on the team. In 2000-01
4,447 such inspections took place, around the usual number. On
average therefore each lay inspector could be expected to undertake
some 10 inspections annually, equivalent to at least three a term.
Contractors quite naturally have been keen to assure themselves
of an adequate supply and seek, at an early stage, to match up
their commitments. It is not surprising, therefore, that some
lay inspectors, with available capacity, have done many inspections.
Over a 10 year spell, without casting aspersions, one might expect
an averagely active lay inspector to have inspected about 100
schools, and those in demand to have done considerably more.
17. It is not surprising that some lay inspectors "have
done more inspections than their non-lay colleagues".
18. Paragraph 59 of Improving inspection, improving
schools referred to this as "a permanent pool of full-time
lay inspectors". It went on to imply that many in this pool
did not match OFSTED's wish to have "a range of people from
outside the world of education whose independent perspective,
wider experience, and understanding of the local community, could
be brought to bear on the work of schools."
19. To ascertain the facts ALI conducted a postal questionnaire
of all lay inspectors (not merely its own members) in September
2001. Replies were received from 193 out of 550, or 35% of the
then total. The following statistics resulted:
|Inspections undertaken since starting . . .
|Percentage of respondents||36
|Percentage of following within each category:
|Main income ?||5||20
|Active charitable/community participation?
|Experience on school governing body?||42
The above suggests that:
(a) lay inspectors as a whole have a broad spread of inspection
experience, not unduly polarised;
(b) inspection is not the main source of income for the
(c) substantial proportions across all the activity categories
are active in their local communities, including in the governance
of schools. Dynamic individuals may show these qualities across
20. Lay inspectors continue to be characterised by independent
perspective. This has not been sapped by the acquisition of greater
knowledge about how schools work. On the contrary, lay efficiency
and effectiveness have been increased by knowing what questions
to ask and when. Lay inspectors' confidence to speak out among
educationalists, and the respect accorded to them, has been enhanced.
Indeed, responding to one question (among 10) in ALI's questionnaire,
only a handful said they had received adverse comments from HMI
monitors, and many, more than one in four, added they are used
to receiving compliments from HMI. It is therefore difficult to
understand what qualities the existing lay inspector population
lacks and by which it deserves to be cut down. Grass-roots comment
has been harsh.
Balanced recruitment of lay inspectors
21. Regular refreshment of the pool of lay inspectors
is self-evidently sensible, and should hardly require determination,
merely ongoing organisation.
22. Paragraphs 16 and 19 above suggest that the existing
pool is anything but stagnant, although depletion, by accident
and otherwise, has taken place over the years. Depletion from
natural causes will continue and fresh inputs are necessary.
23. The greater diversity sought is desirable but may
be difficult to obtain. In particular, economics of inspection
mean that to recoup expenses a minimum level of inspection activity
is necessary. The cost of training investment, both for the individual
and OFSTED, must be justified. Repeated experience is essential
to establish confidence and, for example, the skill of focused
economy in writing. Time considerations, and late changes to planned
schedules, mean that lay inspection is not easily combined with
the exigencies of a normal daily job.
24. Contractors face additional costs in employing new
lay inspectors while lay capacities on task develop. It would
be just to recognise this by way of incentive rather than to impose
assimilation through dictat.
25. A note from ALI reflecting concerns connected with
recruitment, and especially with training and subsequent employment,
was submitted to OFSTED earlier this year. It is quoted as Attachment
26. In addition to ALI's opportunities to raise lay matters
through OFSTED's termly Inspectors' Forum, several welcome developments
have taken place. All lay inspectors were invited to a series
of conferences, held regionally, in spring 2002. This new initiative,
in which HMI were keen to hear the perceptions of lay inspectors
as well as to share fresh strands of thought, was very well received.
OFSTED's considered conclusions are awaited with interest.
27. All-round consultation took place in connection with
Improving inspection, improving schools and the results
of this have been announced. That process occasionally is to be
welcomed although, if consulted, ALI would have advised against
presenting the matter of lay inspectors in the tendentious terms
used. It has only done harm.
28. Following representations, members of the Inspectors'
Forum were invited to comment informally on the draft Inspection
Framework. Much appreciation was expressed by all for many attentive
observations and good dialogue. Later drafts have not been seen.
Outcomes will no doubt be announced following trial in the current
29. ALI was pleased to be consulted in December regarding
outline plans for OFSTED's lay conferences in the spring. Comments
made were said to have been helpful. Similarly, ALI has been pleased
to be asked to provide thoughts relating to new lay inspector
recruitment and training. Outcomes will no doubt be announced
30. OFSTED have always responded favourably to ALI's
invitation for a topical keynote speaker to address members attending
31. ALI gleans that contractors were informed during
the holidays in mid-August that OFSTED proposes far-reaching changes
to the contracting system so as to place inspection responsibility
primarily in the hands of a small number of large organisations.
32. Details of this are not yet known. ALI observes:
(a) small contractors are often seen to be closer and
more effective relative to each inspection than large providers;
(b) inspectors value greatly the core value of independence
which working for several contractors allows. In the event of
dispute they can vote with their feet, and have choices to avoid
being unduly pressurised; and
(c) core principles of open competition have hitherto
likewise ensured an unslanted and progressive approach to delivering
quality reports. Frequent competitive activity across the field
spurs contractors on to improve their methods.
33. The Association of Lay Inspectors (ALI) was formed
in 1993. Its first aim has remained unchanged: To improve the
standard of the inspection service. Membership has generally increased
year on year. Paid-up membership currently consists of 161 lay
inspectors spread across England and Wales and is a growing proportion
of the lay inspector workforce. Members who attend value ALI's
training days, generally held termly in London and Manchester.
Members support each other by way of information, discussion and
help using ALI's email group. In this way, difficulties may be
shared and reactions expressed. The experiences and opinion of
lay inspectors belonging to the Association, almost half of the
whole, can be gauged at any instant.
The purpose of this note is to flag up some of the more important
elements concerning increasing time pressure on inspectors. The
desired result is that OFSTED should adjust tariff arrangements
to reflect current practicalities.
1. The Inspector Forum was told in January 2001 that
the tariffs from the first Framework in 1994 were still being
used. This caused surprise. Inspectors urged that further research
should be undertaken as inspectors' workload had increased. No
further report to the Forum has been made.
2. OFSTED will appreciate that reports are now much more
thorough, and backed by more detail, than they were in 1994. In
particular, a considerable increase in workload resulted from
introduction of the 2000 Framework and its associated documentation.
The RCJ, for instance, contained some 40% more scoring categories
than the JRF. Notebook requirements have been a significant addition.
Many more EFs than the former OFs are written because of these
expectations (by an estimated factor of 50%).
3. Collaterally, more time is absorbed in pre-inspection
briefings and periods set aside for notebook completion/reflection.
Feedback to teachers and others has expanded greatly since 1994,
and is set to increase further. The RI's overall monitoring role,
to the detail of each EF, has become much more accentuated. Contractors,
spurred by OFSTED's QA regime, expect detailed monitoring reports
from the RI on each inspector's work, and each inspector has similarly
to make a structured report on the RI (and the contractor's own
4. Further increases in work are frequently communicated
between Frameworks, normally, but not exclusively, through Updates.
Educational inclusion is a classic: inspectors and contractors
were quick to draw attention to the time implications; the response
was that they were merely expected to "inspect smarter";
and now every report has obligatorily to include several/many
references to EI! Where is the "quid pro quo"? Who suffers?
5. OFSTED has adopted a policy of reducing the amount
of documentation provided by the school before inspection. This
no doubt helps schools but it puts greater strain on inspectors.
Not least it means that more has to be asked for/found and read
during the inspection days. There is less knowledge at the outset;
it has to be obtained "on the wing". This is an additional
burden within an inspection week.
From the recent members' meetings, in London and Manchester,
there was general approval of assisting new LI trainees. Important
points which emerged were:
1. The training which LIs need is considerably different
from TIs. It is thought that OFSTED may not be sufficiently conscious
of this. The level of basic knowledge of education matters, and
of what happens in schools, is greatly less. Such knowledge should
not be assumed; it needs to be built in.
2. Nothing can equal, or replace, the value of in-school
inspection experience. Trainees therefore need as much as possible
of this. But see 3 below.
3. Not all LIs would be willing, even if capable, to
mentor trainee LIs.
(a) The concentration necessary to fulfil a normal inspection
commitment, given the breadth of task and limitation of time,
is already very heavy.
(b) It is a cause of real disquiet and worry as to what
a mentoring role might require.
(c) Undoubtedly extra time (or an extra LI, which amounts
to something similar) would be required. Payment for what could
be quite arduous (more so than with a TI; see 1 above) must also
enter the equation.
4. A conclusion therefore reached was that:
(a) given the number of existing LIs available (around
(b) the number of inspections available during the training
period (over which these existing LIs would be spread), and
(c) probable reluctance by many to add to their contracted
principal inspection task
it may be physically impossible to deliver adequate training
to 200 more before September 2003. It might be much more sensible
to take in, say, 50 instead of 200 during that period. The methodologies
could be tried out, almost as a pilot, before a greater number
were put through the following year.
5. This phasing would also recognise the initial difficulties
(a) the definitive Framework to be used from September/2003
not being available until November/2002 at the earliest;
(b) inspections meanwhile having to be conducted on the
rather different 2000 model and trainees having to master two
during their training period;
(c) contractors having to ascertain which existing LIs
are capable and willing to undertake teaching and mentoring;
(d) LIs having to acquire and hone up the new skills required
(with also much to be learnt through experience);
(e) all inspections during the training period having
had LIs already contracted, with commitments fixed;
(f) LIs, who otherwise may be heavily committed in their
ordinary, non-inspection, lives, not having set aside additional
time for new LI-training purposes.
6. Importantly to all concerned, the influx of 50, rather
than 200, new LIs would give a much better chance of them being
sensibly assimilated into active inspection work. Because of being
fewer, this arrangement would give the newcomers more chances
of building up their experience, giving them continuous practice.
This would also minimise distress to RIs and contractors as they,
necessarily, spend time adjusting the initially raw outputs which,
by continuous practice, should become less raw more quickly. It
would also lessen the chances of OFSTED being forced into the
threatened unpopular (and unfair) reserve measures of penalising
contractors and ousting LIs to achieve the objective of refreshed-LI
employment. You may, incidentally?!, already know that some contractors
are saying they will pay new LIs (at any rate, initially) less
than existing ones.
|Programme perhaps best geared to||50 in 2002-03
|75 in 2003-04|
|75 in 2004-05|
and at least 50 pa thereafter to cover natural losses?