Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
40. One of the other areas of workload that
many teachers complain about is the way that the Government funds
some of the initiatives, through ring-fenced and through certain
funding streams. In your view, would you like to see that changed
and, if so, how?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes. I think if you look at my last
year's report I made specific reference to the fact that one of
the concerns was the number of streams now available to schools
and the different accounting mechanisms and accountability mechanisms
that institutions have to go through in respect of that funding.
I do think it is an area which has been tackled. The standards
fund has been tackled with a number of headings and the requirements
are much less than they were, but I still think there is more
to do by way of tackling that particular set of issues. It comes,
in a sense, to tackling the issue of the balance between core
funding for a school and other streams of funding which may be
necessary in some cases. But I do think that is an area which
would benefit from further attention and, ideally, reduction.
I mean, it is not only us. I was in an establishment last week
in which they get European social fund money for pupils, 14-16
year olds and so on, and they were saying that for every pupil
they have 11 forms to fill in. It seems to be an international
issue, the growth of bureaucracy; it does not seem to be a wholly
English or Great Britain phenomenon.
41. Is it your view that it is a constructive
use of teachers' time to be bidding for money which they probably
should have anyway?
(Mr Tomlinson) When you say teachers, in most cases
it is head teachers. Again, if you have many streams, then it
is a continual
42. Is it a valuable use of head teachers' time?
(Mr Tomlinson) No. I think many schools have bursars
to do itincreasingly more have bursars to do it. I think
that is the right place for it.
Chairman: Paul has recently been on the other
side of this divide.
43. It is not just head teachers who are involved
in the process. Whole teams are involved, right down to classroom
teachers, who have to provide evidence of books. You emphasise
that OFSTED do not want from the classroom teacher anything more
than they would normally doand, of course, OFSTED are only
there one week out of so many years. But what is it that you at
the moment are requiring of the classroom teacher, in terms of
detailed record keeping and target setting and all the rest of
it, on pupils? From your experience of looking both at the primary
sector and the secondary sector, are there different standards
for the two sectors that might cause overload in the secondary
sector? A primary school teacher is generally teaching 30 kids
a week for a year, the same 30 kids, and they can keep very detailed
records; a secondary school teacher, depending on their subject
specialism, will be teaching between 200 and 600 different children.
Can we expect in the secondary school the same depth of planning
and record keeping that we expect at primary level? At the moment
we do seem to expect it.
(Mr Tomlinson) We do have common demands of both sectors,
yes. I mean, I would add to that, of course, importantly, that
in the primary sector few classroom teachers get much non-teaching
time compared with t heir secondary colleagues. I am not arguing
that one is well off, I am simply saying that relatively that
is the case, so I think that has to be at least borne in mind
in any response. I agree with your analysis in terms of the number
of children and so on. I do think good planning is important,
whatever shape it takes, and it varies from teacher to teacher.
What bothers me most is any requirement that seems to imply a
"one size fits all" solution to any particular challenge
because my experience of schools is that they are all different
in their own unique and important way. So I think some planning
is important. I think what is borne out by inspection evidence
is that, when we look at the extent of assessment that goes on,
we find invariably it is not well used by the teacher for either
planning their next work or planning individual pupils' next work.
I think there is a serious question to be asked about: If it is
not informing teachers' work for the future, is it therefore valuable
and worth spending the time on? I think that is a question that
deserves some careful consideration and thought. Obviously it
is a task mainly for the Government and the QCA, of course, who
are the main bodies responsible there.
Chairman: Could we move on to supply teaching
and supply teachers, Mr Tomlinson. Jonathan Shaw is going to be
dealing with this.
44. Schools are increasingly happy to use supply
teachers, as you have highlighted in your report. I think there
is concern about he quality of supply teachers, as was highlighted
in the Amy Gehring case recently. Do you have a dialogue with
these companies that provide supply teachers? Have you any observations
about the regulatory framework in which they operate?
(Mr Tomlinson) No, we have no contact with them. We
have no locus for any contact with them. We have not commented
on the regulatory framework within which they operate.
45. Would you like to?
(Mr Tomlinson) Would I like to look at them?
46. Would you like to tell the Committee this
morning your observations as to whether they should be
(Mr Tomlinson) As you well know and, indeed, have
stated, there is concern about the quality of the supply teachers.
I would hasten to add: not all. There are some who are very good
and are highly regarded by their schoolsindeed, some schools
would like to make them permanent. What is interesting is that
those teachers do not want to be permanent teachers. The life
of the supply teacher is a much more acceptable one than being
a permanent teacher. That comes back to some of the record keeping
that the supply teacher does not have to do and all the rest of
it. So not all supply teachers are poor teachers, some are very
good teachers indeed, but we do not have enough of that group.
The question for the agencies would be: What do I know about the
teaching of these people? before I decide that I would want to
have them on my books and offer them to another school; equally:
What feedback do I get from the schools about their performance?
and: What do I therefore seek to do by way of improving their
training and development to perform better? I think these are
the questions, if I were going in, I would be asking them. Obviously
what checks have you done in order to ensure (a), (b) and (c)
I think would be proper.
47. Who should be responsible for those checks?
Should that be the school? Should that be the local education
(Mr Tomlinson) I think, increasingly, the school,
because it is the employer, it is in a sense the responsible body
for asking those questions.
48. It is all right for a large secondary school
which has bursars, but the head teacher in a small rural primary
school, how are they going to manage?
(Mr Tomlinson) Very difficult, very difficult indeed.
That is why, in the main, they look to relying upon the agency
to have done that.
49. Who checks the agency?
(Mr Tomlinson) At the moment, as I understand it,
no-one, but I would need to have that confirmed.
50. That is my understanding as well. So what
we have is an agency market at the moment, is it not? The shortage
of teachers is manna from heaven for them in terms of their business.
You have got that set of circumstances where there is a big demand
to provide supply teachers and at the same time you have no checks
(Mr Tomlinson) No.
51. The child care legislation, day care standards
and all the child protection measures we have brought in, that
flies in the face of that, does it not?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think some checks have to be done
by the agencies. The statutory checks in terms of List 99 and
all the rest, and the social services list, which is not convictions
but about people who should not be allowed to be in charge of
children, those are required of them and so on. The extent to
which those are thoroughly done, I do not know, because we do
not go in an look at them. It is not within our remit to do so.
Of course what is interesting is that some years ago that pool
of supply teachers would have been recruited and managed by the
local education authority, whereas that is now rarely the case
for whatever good or otherwise reason.
52. In the Amy Gehring case there were concerns
previously about her as a supply teacher.
(Mr Tomlinson) There were. Not so much about her performance
as a teacher, in the strict sense of teaching, but certainly in
the extent to which there appeared to beand all I can go
on is what I read in the pressconcern about her behaviour,
shall we say, as a teacher with pupils, and clearly what has been
admitted by the company concerned is that information that it
had was not acted upon and passed on in the way that it should
53. There is a great deal of demand for these
teachers and no-one is really keeping a proper eye in terms of
the type of person or the quality of them. Who is going to do
that? It cannot be the schools. We do not want to place another
burden surely on the schools. Who is going to do it?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think that is a matter for the Government
to decide who is going to do it.
54. Is it that it is just too difficult?
(Mr Tomlinson) If OFSTED were asked to do it, I am
sure we would be very happy to undertake that role.
55. Mr Tomlinson, you said earlier on that it
was a more relaxed environment being a supply teacher. Have we
got the balance wrong between what we expect of supply teachers,
filling the forms in and that, and what we expect of our mainstream
teachers. I know schools in my constituency where they have a
continual stream of supply teachers through them, because recruitment
and retention is particularly difficult in our LEA. I am just
wondering whether we ought to make it more relaxed for mainstream
teachers as well so that they are not feeling quite so pressured.
Finally, there is a huge number of retired teachers who we might
persuade to come back to do perhaps job sharing or supply even.
These folk have vast experience. There is one example in my constituency
where they were trying to do a job share and the school thought
it was not such a good idea because there was a lack of continuity
with pupils. I think it is a cracking idea. Schools will benefit
generally because you get that little bit extra from each teacher.
That is the way teachers are.
(Mr Tomlinson) On the question of job share, there
are examples of it and in some cases, part time or job share,
particularly where the other half is spent doing a professional
job in areas such as art and design, where many teachers are still
practising as almost semi-professional, bring a huge amount to
the classroom and can enrich it enormously. Schools do use that
but obviously it is a matter for the individual school. The first
issue is it would be sensible and the government is looking at
ways in which it can reduce the workload on our permanent, full
time teachers. I would not want to go quite so far as that because
we need teachers to have information about the progress of pupils
and for that information to be available not just to themselves
but to others. It is finding the right balance.
56. There are so many supply teachers in some
schools that there is a massive gap there anyway.
(Mr Tomlinson) There is. Your point on continuity
is a good one. Sometimes we are happy to have lots of supply teachers
and ignore the continuity issue but then not have a job share
because we are worried about the continuity issue.
57. There seems to be an air of complacency
about this. Here we are, in a situation where all of us in this
room know how much schools rely on a good supply of supply teachers.
There is no doubt that the system would not work without high
quality supply teachers, good agencies, whether run by local education
authorities or privately. We all need this resource. Yet what
you are saying is that you do not think they are controlled. This
supply of quality into schools is not really of central concern
to you. There is not one word in your report that says, "We
want to be able to check the quality of these people coming and
move down the supply chain to make sure it is properly regulated.
Is not this an admission of failure on your part?"
(Mr Tomlinson) No, I do not believe it is at all.
Our report is quite clear about the relative quality of teaching
of supply teachers compared with the rest. There is a part in
the report on teacher training which shows from our evidence that
the proportion of lessons that are less than satisfactory is greater
for supply teachers than for others. We are concerned about that
and we say so. It is a concern, not just the quality but the number,
as has been already indicated. I said that in my report: a succession
of supply teachers. I am not complacent at all about it. We are
reporting very clearly on it and I am reporting equally with the
department about the problem. I am not complacent; nor am I suggesting
that we are not interested. We have no locus at the moment for
taking any action against the agencies that supply supply teachers.
58. I would have expected you to be banging
down the Secretary of State's door, saying
(Mr Tomlinson) You do not know that I am not.
59. Are you?
(Mr Tomlinson) I have raised this issue, yes.