Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
TOMLINSON CBE, MISS
OBE, MR DAVID
60. So the Tomlinson regime will be marked by
a difference in tone and texture and style rather than fundamental
(Mr Tomlinson) Certainly, the first part, I hope.
The second part, I think it all depends upon what you regard as
radical. I think that, as a result of the consultation and decisions
made, we will bring changes to the system, which I believe will
be welcomed by the profession at large, and will bring a different
form of inspection regime than we have got now. Whether that is
considered radical, I do not know.
61. You know that, Chief Inspector, much of
the change in tone and content this Committee rather welcomes,
but we do want to make sure that you are still in there, fighting
for what you believe in, vis-a"-vis the Department.
Can you tell us of any major disagreement you have had with the
Department in terms of what you have wanted to change?
(Mr Tomlinson) I have not had any major disagreements
with the Department in terms of what I wanted to achieve, not
in terms of the inspection; there are things that I want to do
that will have to wait for time and data. If you want an example,
I am very frustrated by the fact that we do not have the data
which allows us to move to value added information for schools,
and notably to have that at a level which enables us to talk about
the achievements of schools with different groups of pupils. It
seems to me crucial that we have that, that we can celebrate,
for example, through that information, the tremendous work that
some schools do with pupils with special educational needs, as
an example, or pupils from particular ethnic groups where they
are successful; whereas aggregating it, at the moment, hides all
of that and does not help. So I am frustrated, but that is not
with the Department, it is frustration that we have not got the
data yet. So there are things which I want to move forward on,
62. But, Chief Inspector, let us push you just
on one particular thing. The Government has announced a large
expansion, it has already given the resources, but a further,
large expansion, in terms of the number of classroom assistants
that can be available. Now, in terms of your inspection, do you
look at the role of classroom assistant, do you evaluate it and
see what kind of classroom assistant help most liberates the teacher
to do the job that they should be doing?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes, we do, and we have a piece of
work being done by HMI at the moment which is looking at the role
of classroom assistants. I am hoping that we may, indeed, publish
an interim report, early in the new year, on our findings. That
will be continuing, as we follow through further work in the schools
that we are visiting.
63. But you have been inspecting schools for
a long time; are classroom assistants a great benefit to schools,
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes, they are.
64. And we need more of them?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes, they are, as long as they are
well managed in the schools and used in an appropriate and proper
way; that does not always happen in all our schools, unfortunately.
But, yes, they are a valuable resource. It is also interesting
that, wherever a classroom assistant is involved with a teacher,
actually, the quality of teaching in that classroom, as a whole,
is better than when there is not a classroom assistant.
65. Have you seen any evidence of `pig ignorant'
adults working in this role?
(Mr Tomlinson) No. I have seen an awful lot of very
skilled, very dedicated, very talented adults, who really do take
their job very, very seriously and do make a significant contribution
to the school, and within the community a significant contribution
about the school and its work; it is a two-way process. And many
heads say to me, `some of these people would make excellent teachers,
if the opportunity were available to them to move through to become
66. So you would condemn any description of
classroom assistants in those terms?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes, I would. I would not think that
it is the appropriate language to describe any group of people
Chairman: I think all the members of this Committee
would agree with you. Shall we move on now, I think we have finished
with school inspection for the moment, but we can come back, to
having a look at 16-19 inspection, in particular, and I realise
you have got a talented team here, and Judith Phillips and David
Taylor have not said a word yet, so we hope you can bring them
in as well, and I will ask John to open the batting on this one.
67. Just very quickly. The Association of Colleges
stated that 6-12 weeks' notice of an inspection is a very difficult
timescale for colleges to meet, in the light of the data demands
that are made on them. Are you considering the introduction of
short or light-touch inspections for further education colleges?
(Mr Taylor) The two parts of the question do not seem
to relate very closely to each other. The first part is about
notice of inspection, the second is about the nature of inspection.
On the notice of inspection, we have already, in the case of some
very large colleges, and I will remind you that we have colleges
with multimillion-pound budgets operating on as many as 90 different
sites, that 12 weeks was imposing exactly the kind of pressure
that you have described; the AoC have talked to us about it and
we have agreed to an extension, where that is appropriate, to
16 weeks for those colleges. On the nature of the inspection,
we were committed, when we took over the responsibility for college
inspections, to introducing a new and rigorous and comprehensive
system, and that is what we are doing. We are currently talking
both to the AoC and other bodies about how, within that commitment,
we can continue to work on reducing the burden of inspection,
in the same ways that we are trying to do on the schools side.
So I think both of those concerns are ones which we are trying
to meet head on.
68. Do you think the introduction of short or
light-touch inspections will reduce, in many respects, the demands
on further education colleges, in preparation for that inspection?
(Mr Taylor) If, when we have completed the first round
of the current full inspections, which we only began in the summer,
we have evidence that enables us to move to a lighter regime,
we will clearly want to do that, as soon as possible. But, having
set up the system, which was that all inspections should be on
a similar basis, so that we had, if you like, a fresh, Domesday
survey of all colleges, through inspection, then we cannot really
move to a different model within that first cycle, without changing
the ground rules.
69. So do a full-scale inspection first, to
draw the map, so to speak, and then take it from there?
(Mr Taylor) Yes.
70. Did you call it a Domesday inspection?
(Mr Taylor) Yes; the word Domesday has nothing to
do with doom, in the sense of doom and gloom, it has to do with
a comprehensive mapping.
71. I think any of us who know a little bit
about that period of history would recognise that, Mr Taylor,
but I think it is really unfortunate to use it in the present
(Mr Taylor) That is why I stressed that doom and gloom
was not the nature of it at all.
72. You are responsible for the overarching
14-19 year old area, the inspection, so if we take a particular
community, and you have got FE colleges, and you have got sixth-form
colleges, sixth-forms in schools, who is responsible, is it the
Learning and Skills Council, is it the further education colleges
themselves, is it the particular institutions; so where does the
responsibility lie, where are the reporting lines? I can envisage
some bureaucratic problems here; do you agree?
(Mr Taylor) I think it needs very precise definition,
which we have not yet arrived at. The introduction of the Learning
and Skills Council brought a significant change in the funding
arrangements for further education, and the creation of 47 local
Learning and Skills Councils has meant that we need to work very
closely with those Councils to define precisely the territory
of inspectorates and of those local agencies which have a quality
assurance as well as a funding responsibility. What we see is
that inspection acts, if you like, as the trigger to the local
Learning and Skills Council's follow-up action, based on the outcomes
of inspection, and we are developing the kind of arrangements
which we hope will make that work in as unbureaucratic a way as
possible, though we recognise that there are a number of concerns
around at the moment.
73. Do you see yourselves inspecting the Learning
and Skills Councils?
(Mr Taylor) No, we do not have that remit.
(Mr Tomlinson) No, we do not.
74. Do you see yourselves commenting on what
the Learning and Skills Council are commissioning?
(Mr Taylor) Indirectly, we are bound to, obviously;
if the LSC decides to fund certain courses
75. Because Mr Tomlinson was talking earlier
about employers, in taking account of the wider stakeholders,
it seems to me quite important; if the Learning and Skills Council
are getting it completely wrong and asking the colleges to put
on all these courses, for which there are no employment opportunities,
the local employers are saying, `it's absolutely rubbish, we need
plumbers, we don't need hairdressers,' etc., you would be commenting
(Mr Taylor) That is what I meant by indirect comment;
we would comment not on the LSC policy but whether the courses
which were being provided were good quality courses and were meeting
the needs of the students. The focus of the college inspection
is on the individual student and what is provided for that student;
if the courses that are being funded are not meeting that student's
needs, we shall say so, loud and clear.
76. Chief Inspector, your predecessor once said
that, when he heard me describe his style as that of a witch-finder
general, he was so shocked he had to drive off the motorway onto
the hard shoulder and think about life. What did you think when
you heard John Harwood suggest that up to 40 per cent of FE provision
was not very good; did you drive off the road and have to think
(Mr Tomlinson) I did not drive off the road, for the
simple reason I was not on the road.
77. But would you have driven off the road,
if you had been on it?
(Mr Tomlinson) I try not to answer hypothetical questions.
78. We try to have continuity in this Committee.
(Mr Tomlinson) I realise you are, yes, I noticed it
more than once today, yes. I think that, as far as I was concerned,
the first question inevitably that comes to my mind is, well,
we need to look at the evidence for that statement. I am firmly
fixed to the view that, the role that I occupy, when I speak it
should be capable of being backed up by clear and firm inspection
evidence. John, of course, in fairness to him, did subsequently
expand on that view, in an article, and laid out the data that
he had inherited from the FEFC, which enabled him, he felt, to
make those statements. And it was not that he thought that that
was the proportion of colleges, but, indeed, those colleges which
had at least one area within them which was regarded as less than
satisfactory. But my first thought, when I hear anything like
that, is, `well, I hope there's sound evidence for that,' and
I would like to see it, and that was the only thought that I would
put. But, in fairness to John, he has subsequently laid out the
evidence, and indeed corrected the interpretation of what he said
away from the concept of the college as a whole to the sum of
the areas within a college which may be less than satisfactory.
79. It is very refreshing for this Committee
to hear you say that you are going to base things on the facts
as you discover them, and that is very welcome.
(Mr Taylor) May we clarify just one point. Two of
the first five colleges inspected in the summer term were judged
inadequate; that is 40 per cent of those five colleges. We made
it clear, at the time and on several occasions subsequently, that
we do not believe that is a representative figure, and the evidence
we are collecting this term will show a much lower proportion
of unsatisfactory colleges, but the kind of figure that Mike has
just been talking about, for colleges where at least one curriculum
area is judged less than satisfactory, is probably going to be
not a million miles away from what we are finding through college