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


APPENDIX 14

Memorandum from the Commission for Racial Equality (OFS 12)

SUMMARY

    —  The CRE commissioned research into inspecting schools for race equality which reported in 2000. The report criticised OFSTED's failure to embrace the role envisaged for it in the Action Plan on recommendations from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report, and the application of the framework for school inspections.

    —  The positive duty to promote race equality in the amended Race Relations Act is being implemented. OFSTED is subject to the duty as well as the schools, colleges and LEAs which it inspects.

    —  The CRE and OFSTED have established a good working relationship

    —  OFSTED's corporate plan makes helpful references to race equality but does not reflect a leading role in this area.

    —  Training and guidance for inspectors in `educational inclusion' is welcome. It needs to be followed up vigorously and applied to other inspection areas.

    —  Proposals for school inspection should be assessed in terms of their impact on race equality.

    —  Support for effective inspection for race equality from good ethnic monitoring data is jeopardised by delays to the DfES guidance.

    —  The framework for LEA inspection should reflect the positive duty more fully. It should cover the need for LEAs to address issues such as educational segregation highlighted by the disturbances in northern towns earlier this year.

BACKGROUND

  1.  The CRE has striven to promote the development of good equal opportunities policy and practice in schools and other educational institutions. Our most recent published guidance for schools, Learning for All, standards for racial equality in schools (CRE 2000) was distributed to all schools in England and Wales and has become a standard reference for schools in auditing performance and planning action. The CRE has long held the view that inspection processes can play a critically important role in challenging bad and promoting improved policy and practice. The Government in its action plan responding to the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report gave a lead role to OFSTED in monitoring the implementation of strategies to prevent and address racism in schools. In this context, in 1999, the CRE commissioned research into the application of the schools inspection framework. The ("Osler") report[4] 1 found that OFSTED's role on race equality was not clearly articulated or recognised. It found that training for inspectors in this field was inadequate and that inspection reports' coverage of racial equality issues - such as the reporting of differential attainment by ethnicity - was generally either missing or of poor quality.

  2.  The Race Relations (Amendment) Act (RRAA) 2000 makes significant changes to race relations law. One of these is to place a general duty on listed public authorities in carrying out their functions to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations. Schools and colleges are among the listed authorities. So (as a Government department) is OFSTED. Orders currently before parliament provide for specific duties to be imposed on certain listed authorities to help them meet the general duty. Particular specific duties are to be imposed on schools and colleges when the orders come into force on 3 December. They will be required, by 31 May 2002 to draw up a race equality policy and have arrangements in place to review and monitor the impact of their policies. OFSTED - in common with other Government departments and others such as local education authorities—will have a specific duty to draw up a Race Equality Scheme with specified content by the same date. OFSTED has welcomed these changes and said that it intends to play a full part in ensuring schools, LEAs and others meet their duties under the Act. On 3 December the CRE expects to publish for consultation a draft code of practice giving practical guidance to public authorities.

  3.  The CRE and OFSTED have established a good working relationship which has included OFSTED assisting in the development of the code of practice.

CORPORATE PLAN

  4.  In some particular respects the Corporate Plan 2001-02 reflects a role for OFSTED which embraces racial equality. For example, there is reference[5] to the guidance on evaluating educational inclusion, "including school practice on race equality" and to the associated training. And mention is made of reports planned on the National Literacy Scheme and inclusion `with special reference to minority ethnic pupils and travellers and refugees'[6], on the use of the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, on the achievement of Black Caribbean pupils, and on school policy and practice on racial equality.[7] However, there is in the plan no substantial focus on race equality which measures up to the role the Lawrence action plan envisaged. There are gaps: for example the section on "valuing [staff] diversity" [8] contains no indication that OFSTED will work towards staffing—including contracted inspectors—which reflects the diversity of the parent and pupil population. Most important, there is no reference to the RRAA and the need for OFSTED to comply with the general duty and to develop a Race Equality Scheme. Notwithstanding this, the CRE understands that OFSTED has established a race strategy unit to address this area of work and this is welcome. The CRE looks forward to assisting in its work.

SCHOOL INSPECTION FRAMEWORK

  5.  The CRE's chief concern about schools inspections has been with the quality of application of the racial equality elements in the inspection framework. The provision of mandatory training for inspectors on educational inclusion completed this summer was a major step forward. OFSTED are evaluating the training by scrutinising all inspection reports in September and October. CRE would like to see this supplemented with a questionnaire to a sample of inspectors to explore, for example, their confidence in applying the knowledge and skills they acquired. The new positive duty to promote race equality will have to be carefully adapted into inspection practice and OFSTED will have to assess what further training needs have to be met.

  6.  OFSTED has recently consulted about Section 10 inspections, proposing that they should be more responsive to schools' different circumstances and priorities; supportive of school improvement; better informed about pupils' and parents' views; and better co-ordinated with other inspection and monitoring activity. The CRE's concerns are that:

    —  Schools' self-evaluation of performance is likely to have a more prominent role. Race equality has not been incorporated in the self-evaluation framework or, except locally, into relevant LEA training courses. It is therefore essential that requirements relating to the positive duty to promote race equality are built into all school self-evaluations.

    —  Of the options for inspections the CRE considers the flexible option may be the most effective in helping OFSTED to meet its responsibilities under the positive duty, because identifying and disseminating good practice is built into the inspection model.

    —  The availability of high quality ethnic monitoring data on attainment, behaviour, etc is essential to more supportive inspections. Schools will need to monitor to comply with their race equality duties. In his last annual report, HMCI identified ethnic monitoring as an area of critical weakness in respect of race equality practice in schools and LEAs. The CRE agrees. It is scandalous that on this central issue policy makers at national level have to rely on patchy local monitoring and national level sample surveys, and that schools often ignore monitoring as a management tool. In his report HMCI welcomed the Government's intention to introduce a comprehensive system of ethnic monitoring in 2002. He risked being too optimistic. DfES guidance for LEAs on the collection of ethnic data on pupils, delayed more than once, is not expected to be published before February 2002. The earliest that comprehensive data will be captured at national level is January 2003. It is essential that there is no further slippage in this project.

    —  As part of ensuring that inspections are better informed, it should be possible for parents to request an inspection because of concerns that the school is not providing effectively for racial equality or meeting its obligations under the positive duty. Questionnaires for pupils could be a useful way for inspectors to gain information on, for example, how well the school handles racial incidents.

    —  OFSTED should aim for a more diverse pool of lay inspectors which would help ensure that people from ethnic minority groups are better represented on inspection teams.

LEA INSPECTION

  7.  As stated above, LEAs are subject to the positive duty. Most LEA functions will be relevant to the duty. Inspection of an authority's compliance with its duty will need to examine how challenging discrimination and promoting equal opportunities and good race relations are addressed across all relevant functions, including those which are contracted out. OFSTED has recently consulted on the LEA inspection framework and the CRE has suggested that the requirements of the positive duty need to be embedded in the framework, not just in broad terms but also in the detail. Particular points include:

    —  Examination of the LEA's strategy for school improvement should include its race equality strategy

    —  Monitoring of the school improvement function should include ethnic monitoring

    —  Racial equality should be addressed in the context of special educational needs.

    —  In relation to promoting social inclusion, the positive duty should inform the framework throughout: where it refers to `combating racism' it should be supplemented by adding the promotion of equal opportunities and good race relations.

    —  In looking at corporate issues, the framework should focus on how effectively race equality is addressed in corporate plans and on the quality of leadership in this area.

  8.  The disturbances which took place in several northern towns in the spring and early summer have focused attention on the dangers of racial segregation in schooling as well as residentially. The positive duty clearly requires LEAs (and schools) to encourage good relations between people of different racial groups. The framework needs to prompt an examination of the LEA's information systems, strategies and policies on this issue.

  9.  We have also drawn attention to the need for the positive duty to be covered in best value review inspections, and for the relevant training needs of inspectors to be identified and met. The CRE looks forward to working with OFSTED to discuss how these recommendations can be implemented.

November 2001


4   Audrey Osler and Marlene Morrison, Inspecting Schools for Race Equality: OFSTED's strengths and weaknesses, Trentham Books, 2000. Back

5   Paragraph 7. Back

6   Paragraph 36. Back

7   Paragraph 38. Back

8   Paragraphs 110-117. Back


 
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