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


APPENDIX 8

Memorandum from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (OFS 07)

ATL COMMENTARY ON THE WORK OF OFSTED

  ATL broadly welcomes the tenor of OFSTED's Corporate Plan, the general direction of its plans for improving inspection and the first steps made towards work in the early years sector. Within that context it is true to say that there are areas which we would hope to see emphasised to a greater extent than is currently the case.

  These concern:

    —  good practice guidance;

    —  the role of assistants;

    —  the impact of funding on standards;

    —  issues of staff deployment in schools;

    —  inspections and bureaucracy;

    —  early years.

THE CORPORATE PLAN

Bridging the gap between the annual report and the good practice database

  1.  We welcome both the database and the prospect of the promised ten reports on topics of interest both to the government and the teaching profession. We know that secondary schools have found the subject level guidance helpful in preparing for an inspection. Nevertheless we consider that there is a case for the preparation of good practice guidance that draws upon the material held on OFSTED's database at a wider level than that of the individual school. Because of the risk that almost too much attention is being paid to literacy and numeracy, we would like to see coverage of areas (such as primary Science) that are at risk of becoming marginalised.

THE CORPORATE PLAN

Evaluation of the role of assistants

  2.  We note (and welcome) the reference in paragraph 36 but would wish to see evaluation that went beyond the confines of the Literacy and Numeracy strategies. There is scope for ongoing assessment of the deployment and training of assistants both in primary and secondary sectors. We also note that the present Handbooks are insufficiently explicit on this issue; revisions will need to take account of rapid developments in this area.

INVESTIGATING MORE VIGOROUSLY THE IMPACT OF ADDITIONAL FUNDING ON STANDARDS ACHIEVED

  3.  Paragraph 38 refers to OFSTED's role as independent evaluator of government initiatives. We consider that there is a wider issue which remains to be addressed and that is the impact of extra funding on standards. We include in this the impact of high levels of parental contribution, local sponsorship and other forms of school level income as well as initiatives such as the award of Beacon or specialist status. While it is possible for an inspection to refer to this under current procedures, it is by no means inevitable and many questions remain. A government committed to evidence based policy would benefit from OFSTED's evaluation of its data.

IMPROVING INSPECTION

  4.  As our response to this document has indicated, we think this consultation is potentially very valuable in making the outcomes of inspection more useful to schools in their development planning. We are also convinced that increasing the amount of survey work will contribute to a more rigorous evaluation of the plethora of government initiatives. There are, though, serious disappointments. We consider that there is still the prospect of superfluous inspection, undertaken extravagantly frequently. Money saved by reducing the frequency to, say, every ten years could have been better invested in tracking innovative approaches. This is a missed opportunity.

  5.  Nevertheless, opportunities remain. On the assumption that the Improving Inspection proposals go forward, it will be necessary to revise the guidance that goes to schools and inspectors. We consider that the Chief Inspector could very helpfully consider ways to make it inevitable that issues of teacher deployment and career development are being addressed by school management.

  6.  We say this because one of the weaknesses of the present model is that it allows these issues to be looked at only on a discretionary basis. If a school is performing satisfactorily in terms of outcomes, it is unlikely that, for example, any equalities issues will be raised either during the inspection or in the report. Thus the school's responsibilities for overall career development are ignored in favour of a short termist concentration on acceptable pupil outcomes. In view of the issues of teacher supply, OFSTED's authority might encourage all Heads to take the long term view characterised by the best Heads at present. Pre-OFSTED HMI inspections looked at teacher qualifications and specialisms in a way which provided valuable evidence about the profile of the teacher workforce. Something similar now needs to be done in relation both to teachers and to assistants.

INSPECTIONS AND BUREAUCRACY

  7.  OFSTED is to be commended for its continuing awareness of the unduly demanding nature of inspections and for its concern to minimise burdens. But more needs to be done to ensure that schools stop wasting time and effort in excessive pre-inspection paperwork.

EARLY YEARS

  8.  We would very much wish to congratulate this team on its work to date. We had the pleasure of welcoming Maggie Smith to ATL. Everyone who met her was struck by her passion to get things right for children. At this early stage there are three questions it would be worth the Select Committee exploring:

    —  how will OFSTED deal with the challenge of ensuring consistency of inspection across the strands of daycare and school, public and private provision?

    —  how will OFSTED's remit relate to the work of EYDCPs? Will it be that of data provider or of quality assurer?

    —  is it planned that OFSTED's visits will encompass family focused/extended schools or will the remit be more restricted?

November 2001


 
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