Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Association of Inspection Providers (OFS 04)

  The Association of Inspection and Training Providers (AoIP) is the trade body representing the views of member contractors to Ofsted and meets on a consultative basis with Ofsted as and when required.

  Representing just under half of the total number of contractors allocated contracts in 2001/2002 its members cover all three phases and include contractors from the private sector, LEAs and university inspection services. Our members provide over 60 per cent of all inspections for Ofsted.

  1.  We welcome the recent consultative document issued by Ofsted on the future of S.10 inspections from September 2003 onwards as part of their commitment to securing a widespread response from those who will be affected.

  Our partnership with Ofsted has grown in strength over the last two years and contractors have played a valuable role in the development and maintenance of the current inspection system.

  Contractors have responded flexibly to new demands part way through the current five term contract, for example, to develop the new post-16 inspection arrangements and to share the pre-inspection commentary (PICSI) with schools from September of this year - a requirement only announced in early August.

  Our experience is that where Ofsted works in partnership with us the end result is a better informed and more successful inspection process to which contractors are fully committed having had part-ownership of the changes to that process.

  There are major changes proposed in the consultation document on the future shape of the inspection system from September 2003 onwards. The AoIP is responding to that consultation exercise as its members will be heavily affected by whatever the outcome of the consultation is.

  We would seek two commitments from Ofsted:

    —  To ensure that a "weighting" is given to the views of the Association as our response will be just one among many BUT our members will be the ones to respond to the need to adopt new practices, new administrative/ICT systems, to provide training and so on.

    —  The second commitment therefore flows from the first—Ofsted must discuss with its contractors at a very early stage the implementational issues arising from any changes to the inspection system.

  2.  The opportunity should be taken to redefine the purpose of the inspection system.

  If the purpose of the inspection system is to check and report on the standard of education being delivered and subsequently to improve standards generally but of teaching, learning and pupil attainment specifically, then we, and Ofsted, need to be clear what that means.

  Increasingly, it seems that inspection is also being used as an umbrella to achieve other goals, eg a mechanism for teacher professional development, a training device to improve schools' self-evaluation procedures, a mechanism for gauging the effectiveness of DfES initiatives etc.

  From a contractor point of view we do not have a problem with this `mission creep' providing:

    —  It is explicit what we are being asked to do,

    —  we are involved in its inception and subsequent implementation,

    —  we can recruit and train people in the necessary skills' and

    —  we can seek proper remuneration for the tasks undertaken.

  Contractors are also willing to respond positively to the growing demand for inspection findings to lead to advice and subsequent support for school improvement.

  3.  Ofsted should pay more heed to the principles of Best Value in deciding its work programme.

  Although the inspection of schools, nursery settings and some training is contracted out, Ofsted seems to seek to secure most other elements of work for its own in-house HMI workforce which has been expanding significantly over the last year or so.

  Given the size and nature of the independent market it has been the case for some years now that the greatest expertise in school improvement and effectiveness is within the market and not within Ofsted.

  It is a cause of concern to contractors that Ofsted does not seem to utilize the principles underpinning Best Value in deciding what to do and where to allocate work other than direct inspection - we would strongly urge them to do so.

  It should be remembered that the contracting market, as reflected by our membership, includes LEAs, universities and the "private sector" which itself includes many former HMI and current or former LEA advisers/inspectors, past and currently serving headteachers, teachers and education consultants and so on.

  The expertise that resides within the market is, in our view, insufficiently engaged with Ofsted in any activity other than inspection and inspector training.

  We hope that you will find these three issues of interest and we would be happy to respond again to the Select Committee on any issue if the opportunity arises.

Association of Inspection Providers

November 2001

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