Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
100. I was interested that your commentary ends
with identifying certain factors which you wish to look at in
the near future and the first of those, interestingly to me, is
the care and development of children 0-6. Can you tell me what
the significance is now of 0-6?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes. Up to six is essentially the period
where the foundation curriculum finishes and the next stage of
the national curriculum comes into place. It also represents for
most young children the point at which they will have spent some
time in formal schooling as distinct from other forms of child
care and education. What we are wanting to do is to ask ourselves
and see if we can find answers to some fairly interesting questions.
Does it make a difference to the child's development and educational
attainment at the end of the foundation stage that they have had
early child care and education? Does it matter what sort they
have? Importantly, we want to look at the very tightly defined
area. Is it getting to the children and parents who most need
that support or are parents and children taking advantage of it?
What are the obstacles to that? There is a whole set of interesting
questions there that, with our responsibility now for child care,
we are able to look at when we were not able to before. It will
be planned within OFSTED and we hope the exercise will start later
101. I am delighted to hear your reference to
and obvious approval of the foundation stage because I think that
has been key. In your further progress, I am sure you will look
back at the select committee's report on early years.
(Mr Tomlinson) The foundation curriculum is a document
which I find universally praised by teachers and practitioners
alike in all settings. They think it is an excellent way of looking
at and delivering the development of young children.
102. I am sure it will impact on the attainment
of young people, as was generally accepted would the numeracy
and literacy courses. That has been a highlight over the last
years. At the moment however the attainment appears to be tailing
off or plateauing. Have you concern about that? In mathematics
in particular perhaps there is a plateauing. What should we do,
do you think?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes, I am concerned, but I am equally
realistic about how long improvement can be sustained without
taking a breather. The research, limited though it is, interestingly
suggests that you can keep up this improvement for about three
years before you need to take a breather and start again. If you
look at our reports on numeracy and literacy, that sample of schools
that we have been following has applied to it a series of tests
of children coming up to the key stage two testin other
words, in years four and five. That test is administered for us
by the NFER. The pupils in years four and five were performing
better than their counterparts previously. The feeling is that
the improvement is happening down below and will begin to feed
through. What we have to be realistic about is that we cannot
have continuous leaps in performance. What is important over the
years is that the trend is upwards. One could say one percentage
point, I might suspect, lies within the error of marking anyway,
but that would not be a welcome thing to say.
103. As you know, some reports have suggested
that that might indeed be the case. The wider concern however
is that pressure in numeracy and literacy tends to push out some
of the wider curricular activities and it is that area I want
to ask about. What about the wider issues and getting young people
prepared for life generally? What about the life skill of swimming,
as you would expect me to ask, to which I cannot find a reference
in your report? As you know, that is a completely measurable skill.
25 metres swum safely and without aid. Are you going to offer
me a separate report in which I will find those facts and figures?
(Mr Tomlinson) Not at this point in time but I will
most certainly make sure that my successor is aware of what you
are interested in and seeks to provide you with it in future so
that we have some comparison of what progress has been made since
last time. The issue of maintaining the broader balanced curriculum
that everyone supportsI draw attention to it in the section
on primary and indicate where some of the squeezes are beginning
to appear in some schoolswe are coming to the end of an
inspection exercise undertaken by HMI which has been looking in
detail at how schools manage the primary curriculum to try and
resolve these tensions. If I am right, the publication will be
May/June time. What it does already indicate is that there are
some schools who are managing by very innovative ways of organising
their curriculum and time to be able to keep the broader balanced
curriculum without jeopardising the emphasis on literacy and numeracy.
We have to learn how they are doing it and see how well we can
support the others to adopt these or other strategies to help
to maintain that broad, balanced curriculum.
104. From my constituency and a specific school
within it which has looked after autistic children remarkably
well on an individual basis and are being asked, because of their
experience, to do it with others, I want to make sure that they
do not lose out and that the added value is recognised. I think
you have indicated that but they would want me to take this opportunity
to say that they want to do that work but they do not want to
lose out in the OFSTED inspection result.
(Mr Tomlinson) I sincerely hope they will not, given
the way in which I anticipate the reporting of achievement will
Mr Shaw: In response to Mr Chaytor, you said
that there was not a sufficient number of different faith schools
to provide reliable information about whether they were providing
good value as opposed to other areas. You looked at five colleges
out of more than 400 and we have both barrels from the Education
Minister at the colleges last week in The Independent,
saying that they were threatened with closure. All this is based
on five colleges. You did say later on that you looked at a further
18 and most of those were performing pretty satisfactorily. Is
it now colleges? Are we going back in time? Is this deja vu
to the macho era that we saw for schools? Are colleges now the
target of OFSTED and the Education Department?
105. Are you picking on FE colleges, Mr Tomlinson?
(Mr Tomlinson) No. In the new inspection arrangements,
we are focusing very clearly and explicitly on the quality of
teaching going on in collegesit was not given the same
focus previously that we are giving itand on the quality
of management at various levels in the institutions. Since the
report covers the work up to the end of the summer term 2001,
which is why only five are included, we have inspected a further
63. The data now show that of those 63, ignoring the five, between
eight and nine per cent are regarded as inadequate and between
10 and 11 per cent have a grade for management which is below
the satisfactory mark. We continue to have about ten per cent
of teaching which is less than satisfactory across those 63 as
well and of course there is a matter of retention rates and the
like. The issues therefore in here have not changed.
106. You think five was accurate?
(Mr Tomlinson) No, it was not accurate.
107. That is what ministers picked up on. Did
you have any discussion with ministers prior to press reports
on 7 March about the reliability and accuracy of the data contained
within your report as providing a sufficient reflection of how
colleges are performing?
(Mr Taylor) We met regularly with the minister responsible
for further education throughout the period from the issue of
the first five reports. We flagged to her very clearly that in
our view that was an unrepresentative sample were it to be used
in the annual report. Over the last six months, those further
meetings have clarified the emerging picture from the 29 reports
which have now been published and the 39 which have still to be
published, so that on 7 March that minister was fully briefed
about the picture which we had obtained about further education
from all those colleges. She was not therefore in any way dependent
only on the five reports which were mentioned in the annual report
and which Mike has indicated were the only ones we carried out
during the academic year covered by that report. I do think it
is quite interesting that, on the one hand, one of the programmes
of inspection that I have been responsible for has been accused
of being soft and soggy and the other one has been accused of
being macho. It may be that we are treading the path between the
Scylla of leniency and the Charybdis of rigour in an astute and
108. Assembling a team to inspect some of the
large further education colleges, I think you need some 40 people.
Are all your inspectors qualified?
(Mr Taylor) They are.
109. They all have at least a certificate of
education? What would you describe as qualified?
(Mr Taylor) Qualified would not be whether they have
a teaching certificate. The qualifications for inspectors are
a combination of successful teaching experience, leadership experience
in the key roles within colleges acquired over a number of years
so we both assess and train all inspectors whether they are our
full time inspectors or the occasional, additional inspectors
whom we employ. They are big teams and we accept there are considerable
quality assurance issues for us.
110. Is there a quality assurance programme
in place for your inspectors?
(Mr Taylor) Yes.
111. Do you provide information about CVs? When
you come in front of us we have your CVs and we know who you are
and what you have done. Do you provide that sort of information
about the inspectors for the colleges?
(Mr Tomlinson) We have not provided the detail but
where some colleges ask information is conveyed to them.
112. If a college says, "We would like
to know", in terms of transparency?
(Mr Tomlinson) In many cases, the additional inspectors
are drawn from the colleges and are practitioners at the moment.
We have on secondment to us a number of people from colleges to
work with us on our inspections. There is always a quality assurance
issue but I believe that in a mix with permanent staff, not only
our permanent staff but also the permanent staff of the Adult
Learning Inspectoratebecause they are joint inspections.
The inspection of their work based training indicates that more
than half of it is judged less than satisfactory.
113. Do you think on reflection that there has
been a very negative conclusion about further education colleges
from these five inspections on which the press reports were based?
You do not think failing colleges could be closed for poor results
when it is only based on five?
(Mr Tomlinson) The minister concerned did not base
her speech last week on five. She based it on a larger sample
as a result of the continued dialogue we have with her. We have
to face the fact that even taking the 63 in addition we are talking
about ten per cent of our colleges near enough that are inadequate.
I am not going to be complacent. That is not good enough.
(Mr Taylor) Within the first batch that has been published,
there have been some outstanding colleges, both sixth form and
general FE, and those reports give full credit to significant
achievements across the board.
Chairman: No Member of this Committee wants
you to be soft where you find fault.
114. You have looked at 63 colleges.
(Mr Tomlinson) 68 if you put the five in.
115. 10 to 11 per cent of them have a management
at below satisfactory level. Would you say management at the level
of departmental heads who deliver the subject or are you saying
that the main cause is with management as in principal and corporation
with the board of governors?
(Mr Taylor) One of the features of the new inspection
framework is that we have asked our inspectors to take a broad
view about leadership at all levels within colleges. We feel that
there was some tendency to focus excessively on the role of the
principal or the vice principal and top management team. In our
view, with a focus that our inspections have on the quality of
learning, the leadership provided at departmental level is absolutely
critical to the success of an institution. One of the factors
which is contributing to some of those unsatisfactory grades is
inconsistency or unevenness of management across the piece. We
are not saying that this college is full of bad managers, but
in order to evaluate the leadership and management properly you
need to ask: is that leadership and management at all levels operating
in a way which is leading to successful student outcomes since
the inspections are above all about whether the learners are getting
the educational deal they should be getting. Where that is not
happening, we are throwing up a higher proportion of unsatisfactory
leadership than was previously coming through.
116. Have you picked up any particular problem
at colleges in general where the strategic steer given by the
corporation and board of governors is the root of the problem?
(Mr Taylor) In some cases, there are some generic
issues around the governance and especially financial management
of colleges which was a problem we were aware we were inheriting.
We are not talking about widespread, very dramatic cases of the
kind that perhaps propelled us into this activity, but there are
issues about the corporate management in some of these colleges.
117. Do you think there is any evidence or any
recommendation you might eventually make that we need to look
at the way corporations, boards of governors, are selected or
self-appointed in terms of the quality of the board of governors
that sometimes throws up?
(Mr Taylor) When we are analysing the first year's
reportsand there will be a major section in next year's
annual report to supplement the very thin section on FE colleges
this yearnext year we will report in some detail about
FE. We will have done a quarter of all the colleges and issues
around governance are certainly going to feature within that report.
(Mr Tomlinson) It might also raise the issue of management
training at all levels, personnel and further education.
118. FE colleges have a more vital role to play
in our national, regional and local framework. Our regional economy
is being held back because of a vocational skills shortage. What
we must not have is colleges of FE being whipping boys. We must
give them the encouragement to improve so that they do the business
that we require.
(Mr Tomlinson) I entirely agree.
119. I think Mike Tomlinson did indicate at
the very beginning that there is a change of emphasis on the future
of inspection. Within the school inspection now, there is an element
for the self-evaluation school. Could you comment on the outcome
which that has brought to light and how important that is now
in changing the whole structure of inspection for you?
(Miss Passmore) The position of school self-evaluation
is already changing rather than waiting until we make changes
in 2003. The work we have done previously has shown that schools
have not been very good at conducting evaluations that are useful,
accurate and so on. From January this year, we have changed the
format of one of the forms that schools are asked to complete.
It used to be called "The Head Teachers Statement" and
we have changed the structure of it so that it is an assessment
of the school. It asks the head teacherand we hope it is
shared with others in the schoolto assess various features
but also to give us the evidence about how do you know. Instead
of just telling us that something is good, we ask the person who
is providing that information to tell us how they know it is good.
We are looking at further guidance that we can issue as we do
not want there to be vast numbers of different forms of evaluation
required. The very last thing we would want to do is to come along
with something which is required in a particular format from schools
who have been doing things separately. We want to build on the
training materials we have already produced that schools are using
that are linked with our existing framework; to develop the existing
form 4 so that it is a more considered document and more helpful
to the school and inspectors and to have further guidance available
that will also be worked on with the Department for Education
and Skills, ready for the changes in 2003.