Select Committee on Education and Skills First Special Report


ANNEX I

GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO THE COMMITTEE'S EIGHTH REPORT 2000-2001:

STANDARDS AND QUALITY IN EDUCATION: THE ANNUAL REPORT OF HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF SCHOOLS 1999-2000

Memorandum from the Department for Education and Skills

Teacher recruitment and retention

The Government shares the view expressed by the Committee and by HM Chief Inspector that adequate numbers of well-qualified teachers are essential to the continuing improvement in standards to which we are committed. Over the last Parliament, the number of teachers employed in maintained schools in England rose to its highest level since 1984. We have pledged to secure a further increase of 10,000 by 2006.

The measures that we put in place during the last Parliament will help to underpin that pledge. £6,000 training bursaries have been available to postgraduate trainees in all subjects since September 2000, with further £4,000 "golden hellos" payable after induction to those who have qualified in and go on to teach mathematics, science, modern languages, technology and English. These incentives have already produced the first rise in recruitment to initial teacher training since 1992/93, but their effect on teacher numbers will not become apparent until the first training bursary recipients take up their first teaching jobs this autumn. For mature graduates, we have expanded the school-based Graduate Teacher Programme to 2,250 places a year, supported by funding of up to £17,000 per trainee. There has been buoyant demand from schools for places on this programme. We also want to encourage more qualified teachers who are currently out of the service back into the profession. Relaxation of the rules of the teachers' pension scheme is encouraging early retirees back into teaching, while 1,350 fully-funded places on refresher courses are being made available for returners below retirement age. In addition, the Government has proposed to offer a "welcome-back bonus" to those who return to the profession between Easter and Christmas 2001.

Bureaucracy

On 3 May 2001, OFSTED published the report, Reducing The Burden of Inspection, which focuses on the mechanics of the inspection process and on changes that can be implemented in the short term, to reduce the absolute burden on schools in general, the demands on particular categories of schools and also schools' own perceptions of what they need to do to prepare for inspection. The Department worked closely with OFSTED in drawing up these measures as part of the wider strategy to reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools.

We welcome OFSTED's timely action in implementing our commitment in the Schools: Building on Success Green Paper, published in February, "to discuss with OFSTED how to achieve further substantial reductions in the bureaucracy associated with inspection within a few months."

Boys' writing

The Government has always recognised that raising standards of writing would be an even greater challenge than improving reading, not least because of the need to employ new methods of teaching and learning. The National Literacy Strategy, introduced in September 1998 and supported by a comprehensive programme of professional development for teachers, has already had an impact on standards of writing amongst younger pupils. The proportion of seven year olds achieving at least level 2B in their Key Stage 1 writing test has increased by 8 percentage points between 1997 and 2000 and OFSTED have reported improved performance in writing amongst pupils in years 3,4 and 5 pupils. In addition, a recent independent survey of headteachers showed that nearly 80 per cent believed that the National Literacy Strategy was improving the teaching of writing

We recognised last summer, however, that more needed to be done to raise standards of writing and we made this a top priority for the 2000/01 school year. In September 2000, we published the Grammar for Writing guidance, which helps teachers of 7-11 year olds to teach the basic principles of grammar. Some 50,000 Year 5 and Year 6 teachers attended training during the autumn of 2001 and early spring 2001 to support them in using that guidance and many teachers of children in Years 3 and 4 have been trained since then. In May 2001, we published complementary guidance for teachers of 4-7 year olds, Developing Early Writing, which provides practical support on improving handwriting, spelling, punctuation and sentence construction.

In addition, we have given additional funding to providers of Initial Teacher Training to run a day's course on the teaching of writing, using materials specially written for the purpose. This has been run for all primary student teachers undertaking their final teaching practice (over 11,000 nationally) and for the teacher with whose class they are working. We have also created a national network of 300 Beacon schools with writing within their area of expertise, and made available a range of on-line guidance for teachers on teaching and marking writing.

The 2000 Key Stage 2 results showed that, over the last two years, the attainment gap between boys and girls in English narrowed from 16 percentage points in 1998 to 9 percentage points in 2000.

The National Literacy Strategy has a number of features that particularly support schools and teachers in their work to raise standards amongst boys. Research into this issue has shown that boys benefit from interactive teaching, being taught at a brisk pace and from a clear lesson structure. These elements are incorporated in the Literacy Hour where children are encouraged to play an active part in lessons by answering questions, contributing to discussions and explaining their choices and opinions. The literacy strategy's Framework for teaching also gives clear objectives for writing, emphasises links between writing and reading and promotes the use of a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts. Boys have also responded well to the Strategy's emphasis on setting children clear targets for improvement. We recognise that there is still more to be done to improve boys' performance, and we will shortly be producing specific guidance on raising literacy standards amongst boys. We have also commissioned a three-year longitudinal research project from Homerton College, Cambridge, to identify successful strategies for raising boys' achievement at school.

Prison education

We welcome the interest taken by the Select Committee in the education and training of prisoners. In addition to the new partnership arrangements between the Department for Education and Skills and the Prison Service, the Government has adopted a new manifesto commitment to improve dramatically the quality and quantity of prison education. The Prisoners Learning and Skills Unit will work with all partners to realise this aim in the coming parliamentary session and we plan to take stock of progress made under the new partnership arrangements in 2003.

ICT

The Government shares the Committee's view that ICT skills should be accorded the highest priority. That is why we are implementing a strategy to create and support a dynamic framework for ICT skills and a corresponding framework for teachers. Essential elements of this approach include the development of an accessible infrastructure, which makes ICT universally available to learners, and the integration of ICT into all our learning processes.

The National Grid for Learning (NGfL), for example, has already made significant progress in integrating new technologies into the education system and between 1998 and 2002, £657 million is being made available to Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to develop their ICT infrastructure, links to the Internet and access to educationally valuable material. The aim is for all schools, colleges and public libraries to be connected both to the grid and the Internet by 2002. By then all serving teachers should have received training to ensure that they are competent to teach using ICT in the curriculum.

The revised National Curriculum, introduced in September 2000, recognises the key role that ICT has in the development of pupils' skills and provides a range of examples that will help teachers to use ICT effectively and creatively in all subjects. It is now compulsory for pupils to be taught ICT from age 5 to 16, either as a separate subject or through other subjects.

We already have 188 Beacon schools with use of ICT recorded as an area of strength and committed to sharing their good practice with other schools. By making the use of ICT one of the priority activity areas for new Beacons, we will ensure that the number of schools working in this area increases to the benefit of all those schools that need assistance and support in the subject.

As part of the Key Stage 3 strategy to raise standards for 11-14 year olds, we are piloting a new programme to strengthen the teaching of ICT as a subject in its own right. Forty schools in five LEAs are involved in the pilot. The five LEAs are appointing leading ICT teachers who will be based in schools and whose role will include providing demonstration lessons to others. In addition, new teaching materials are being piloted during the summer term.

There is also a need to expand our specialist and other high tech learning programmes to secure greater competitive advantage for the UK through increasing the supply of skilled people. The recent White Paper: Opportunity for All sets out for the first time a truly joined up strategy for skills.

The Government is pursuing a wide range of initiatives including community-based programmes to help people get on-line, schemes to ensure that ICT is properly taught in schools, colleges and universities, programmes to bring unemployed people into ICT employment and to improve links between ICT industry and education. We welcome the Committee's interest in this important area.

Specialist schools

Specialist schools are playing an increasingly important role in the Government's policies to raise standards and increase diversity in secondary education. We would welcome an inquiry that looked at the contribution that the specialist schools programme has made to improved educational attainment.

Sport

The National Curriculum had an aspiration that schools should provide 2 hours of sport per week, either within or outside the curriculum, and this recognition of the value of sport was confirmed by the Prime Minister when he announced in January 2001 that all children will receive an entitlement to high quality physical activity and sport both inside and outside school. We would welcome an inquiry that looks at how well schools are progressing in meeting the 2-hour aspiration and delivering a quality physical education curriculum.

The Complaints Adjudicator

In February 2001, the Government announced that the appointment of OFSTED's external complaints adjudicator would in future be made by the Secretary of State, in line with a recommendation by the Committee. We have subsequently agreed that the new adjudicator will fulfil the same role in respect of the Adult Learning Inspectorate. A recruitment exercise will commence shortly, aimed at appointing a new adjudicator from January 2002, on a three-year contract. We believe that the new arrangements will further underline and enhance the independence of the adjudicator.

Parliamentary debate on HMCI's Annual Report

The evidence produced by HM Chief Inspector in his annual reports provides an important stimulus to discussion on standards and quality in education. This was demonstrated during the debate about the work of OFSTED in Westminster Hall on 15 February, where the annual report for 1999-2000 informed the discussion. We always value opportunities to debate questions relating to the standards and quality agenda.

The appointment of HM Chief Inspector

We intend to make an announcement on this matter before the summer recess. The Government has no plans to propose Parliamentary involvement in the appointment of HM Chief Inspector of Schools. Recruitment for the post will be run in accordance with the guidelines of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments following advertisements in the national press.

Role of the Committee

The Government acknowledges the structured way in which the Education and Employment Committee established arrangements for holding HM Chief Inspector to account. We hope that the new Education & Skills Committee will take this valuable work forward.


16 July 2001


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 July 2001