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


Memorandum from Summerhill School (OFS 08)

    —  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 school.

  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 process itself.

  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?

Michael Newman

Curriculum Adviser

Summerhill School

November 2001

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