Memorandum from Summerhill School (OFS
Summerhill welcomes the inclusion
of children's voices in inspections.
It expresses concern that without
a proper framework this will fail.
It recommends using "Citizenship"
as a framework.
Summerhill children offer advice
and consultation to OFSTED and the DfES.
Summerhill students will attend the
Select Committee meeting.
Will the committee hold the Chief
inspector accountable for what happened to Summerhill?
1. We welcome Mike Tomlinson's inclusion
of the voices of children in future school inspections - a right
Summerhill children had to go to court in order to win. The school's
inspectors had refused repeated invitations to meet with the children
during the inspection that lead to the threatened closure of the
2. Summerhill is concerned that asking children
their views within a system of inspection that is often seen as
authoritarian, judgemental and could lead to negative consequences
for their schools will not result in an open and useful dialogue.
Simply asking children, who have probably only been asked in the
past by researchers, in a school culture where they have little
opportunity to express their views, could alienate all those involved.
3. We would like to suggest that OFSTED
integrate their inclusion of the children in the inspection process
through the newly introduced National Curriculum subject, "Citizenship".
This would put it in a framework within schools in which the children
are learning to express their opinions and to be involved in decisions
about their lives and community. It would fit very neatly into
the aims of "citizenship" and would allow the children
to critically examine their community (their school) and the inspection
4. This would hopefully involve children
and the inspectors learning from each other in the process. At
Summerhill the children wanted to actively engage with the inspectors
as they are surrounded by a culture based on children's rights,
especially the right to be heard. The children will be very happy
to offer advice and consultation to OFSTED and the DfES.
5. Once again Summerhill children will attend
the Select Committee to hear the Chief Inspector being held accountable.
We hope that this time he might be allowed to answer the questions
suggested to the committee over the past two years (published
in the appendix of the Select Committee Reports: Sixth Report,
The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools
1998-99, Appendix 10 OAR12; Eighth Report, The Annual Report
of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1999-2000, Appendix
7 SQE07) making him accountable to Summerhill students as to why
their school was threatened.
6. The questions are:
(i) Why has the Chief Inspector not been
held accountable to the Select Committee for the results of appeals
and court cases? Why are these not mentioned in the Annual Report?
(ii) What did OFSTED and the DFES learn from
the Summerhill case?
(iii) Are the protective measures for Summerhill,
as a result of the court case, applicable to other schools?