Select Committee on Education and Skills Second Report



27.  Our predecessor Committee's Eighth Report of 2000-01 noted that OFSTED had a role in reducing teachers' workload and recorded Mr Tomlinson's intention to revise the inspection process with this end in mind. A joint report by OFSTED and the Department for Education and Employment (DfES), Reducing the Burden of Inspection, was published in May 2001 and included 24 recommendations for reducing the demands of inspection. Implementation of these recommendations began in September 2001. We recommend that in the Annual Report for 2001-02 Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools should report on the evaluation of measures to reduce the burden of inspection and on any further initiatives to reduce teacher workload.

28.  The Annual Report noted that while lesson planning had been found to be effective in most primary schools, "extensive and over-elaborate planning still creates unnecessary pressure on teachers' time."[28] The PricewaterhouseCoopers report on teacher workload[29] found that this was to some extent linked to school leaders' perceptions of OFSTED requirements. Mr Tomlinson acknowledged this:

    "I have issued letters - certainly one last year to head teachers - stating quite clearly that I did not want teachers to be asked to revise their schemes of work, to revise and redraft policies, nor to be asked to enter into some perceived lesson planning that OFSTED was thought to want. We have no requirements about that; it is what the school does and has that we want to see."[30]

29.  Despite these efforts, the message that, as Miss Passmore summarised "We do not want schools to go over the top and we do not want head teachers to ask their staff to do things that really are quite unnecessary"[31] has failed to reach teachers and school leaders. While this misunderstanding persists, OFSTED inspections are likely to remain events of unnecessarily high stress and anxiety for school staff.[32]

30.  In order to ensure clarity for all parties, inspectors and inspected, we recommend that OFSTED should publish explicit guidance on expectations for sufficient and effective planning.

31.  Government policy on schools' funding has also been responsible for adding to the administrative and managerial burdens within schools. Schools are funded from a variety of sources. The Annual Report comments that:

    "Effective management of different funding streams, each with separate targets and systems of accountability, presents a considerable challenge. Making good use of them is a complex and time-consuming process that has over-stretched the capacity of some schools."[33]

32.  We share Mr Tomlinson's concerns that valuable school resources are being diverted away from the core business of education and into the management and administration of a multiplicity of funding streams. We consider the current model for school funding to be excessively burdensome. We recommend that Government should review the strategy for school funding as a matter of urgency in order to achieve a system that is less onerous in terms of management and administration and offers a more efficient use of public funds.

Supply Teachers

The quality of supply teachers is a matter of serious concern. We recommend that OFSTED should bring forward proposals for monitoring the quality and classroom readiness of supply teachers, in order to identify areas where improvement is needed. The next step would be to put in place a strategy to help supply teachers with weaknesses to improve their performance. — Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Standards and Quality in Education: The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-99, HC 345, paragraph 8.

33.  Since our predecessor Committee made the above recommendation in its Sixth Report of 1999-2000, events have again focussed attention on the question of the quality of supply teachers. The Annual Report highlighted one of the consequences of the teacher shortage in the reliance of many schools on short term supply:

34.  While Mr Tomlinson, in his oral evidence, acknowledged the significant contribution of many supply teachers,[35] the Annual Report recorded the finding that supply staff in primary and secondary schools were found to perform less well overall than any other category of teacher. In primary schools, fewer than 50 per cent of supply taught lessons were judged good or better, compared with two-thirds of those delivered by their permanent colleagues. In secondary schools just one-third of supply taught lessons were judged good or better.[36]

35.  Recent publicity surrounding the Amy Gehring[37] case has highlighted the gaps in the teacher supply system, and the increased risk of taking on staff who may be unsuitable for roles involving the care and guidance of children. Mr Tomlinson acknowledged that while it was ultimately the responsibility of schools to assure themselves of the suitability of individual supply teachers, it is in practice a difficult and burdensome role, particularly for small schools.[38]

36.  Currently, teacher supply agencies are covered by the same legislation and regulatory framework as other employment agencies. The number of supply agencies operating means that there are many individuals and organisations responsible for the implementation of child protection policies. It is apparent that there has been a failure to comply with existing requirements and that processes for the regulation of teacher supply agencies need to be strengthened. We recommend that the existing rigorous framework should be maintained to assure the personal and professional suitability of individuals before they are engaged as supply teachers. Any system should also take account of the continuing professional development requirements of teachers employed through supply agencies. We further recommend that supply agencies should be monitored to ensure compliance with the existing requirements.

37.  We note the enthusiasm with which Mr Tomlinson suggested that OFSTED might, in future, take responsibility for regulating teacher supply agencies. We welcome this openness and we recommend that the Department should consider taking powers to regulate teacher supply agencies.


38.  OFSTED published an evaluation of the Specialist Schools initiative in 2001.[39] Overall, specialist schools were found to have marginally higher rates of pupil attainment than their non-specialist counterparts, with schools specialising in languages significantly above average and those in sports marginally below average.

39.  In addition to raising the standards of attainment for their own pupils, specialist schools have a role in disseminating good practice to neighbouring schools and acting as a resource for the local community. In this regard the specialist schools initiative has yet to have any significant impact and remains "the weakest element of specialist schools' work".[40] This is a matter of great concern, not least because 30 percent of specialist schools' funding is explicitly dedicated to this out-reach role. We recommend that the contribution schools make to their communities should be prioritised as each specialist school becomes due for redesignation. We further recommend that in cases where specialist colleges cannot demonstrate a significant contribution to raising standards in neighbouring schools they should be withdrawn from the scheme or required to undertake remedial action.

40.  At present, schools wishing to apply for specialist status must raise unconditional private sector sponsorship of £50,000. This has proved a significant barrier for schools in areas of economic and social deprivation. Mr Tomlinson shared with us his own experiences of schools in such circumstances and acknowledged that otherwise promising proposals were being denied specialist status solely because of the funding barrier.[41] We were delighted to learn from Mr Tomlinson that the Government has been briefed by OFSTED on this issue and that the Department's thinking on the matter has shifted towards greater flexibility in order to enable schools in socially and economically deprived areas to gain specialist status.[42]

41.  We concur with the view that a more flexible approach to specialist school designation is needed, particularly in areas of economic and social deprivation and we look forward to the publication of the Department's revised criteria for specialist school status.


42.  The Learning and Skills Act 2000 extended OFSTED's remit to include inspection of educational provision for 16-18 year-olds in sixth-form colleges, tertiary colleges and further education (FE) colleges from April 2001.

43.  Five FE colleges were inspected in 2001 during the period covered by the report and a summary of the findings were included in HMCI's Annual Report. The picture presented by this very small sample was generally negative, with a pattern of poor retention, completion and pass rates, weak quality assurance procedures and insufficient monitoring of teaching and learning in the classroom. Two out of the five colleges were found to be inadequate overall and in three out of the five colleges leadership and management were found to be unsatisfactory. Teaching and learning was found to be unsatisfactory in nearly one in five of lessons for 16-18 year-olds.[43]

44.  Subsequent press coverage and ministerial comment built on this initial finding, suggesting that a small number of colleges risk having funding withdrawn unless their performance improves.[44] Mr Tomlinson assured us that the Minister had been fully briefed as to the emerging picture from all 68 post 16 inspections (63 plus the original 5 reported in the 2000-01 report). He added that "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."[45]

45.  In contrast to the small number of disappointing and highly publicised inspection reports, Mr Taylor reported that "there have been some outstanding colleges, both sixth form and general FE, and those reports give full credit to significant achievements across the board."[46]

46.  By mid March, a total of 68 post-16 inspections had accumulated a significant database on performance in further education and we were interested to know whether any overall patterns or issues had emerged. Mr Taylor told us that:

    "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."[47]

47.  Looking forward to the next Annual Report, when 25 percent of all post 16 provision will have been inspected, Mr Taylor predicted a more thorough analysis of performance than had been the case in the 2000-01 report. Mr Tomlinson suggested key issues in the analysis were likely to be management training and personnel.[48] Mr Tomlinson agreed that further education colleges needed be given the encouragement to improve so that they could deliver on their vital role in academic and skills based learning.

48.  Part of the role played by further education colleges is to support the learning of students who have been failed or excluded by other parts of the education system. The current OFSTED model for judging institutional performance relies heavily on the output measure of public examination results. This approach takes no account of value added, the distance travelled by individual students, often from a very low starting point and therefore does not fully reflect the challenges and successes of the post-compulsory sector.[49]

49.  Mr Tomlinson reported that OFSTED was currently working on a number of new measures of school performance that will provide a fuller picture of circumstances and achievement.[50] We anticipate that these measures will be applied across the inspection regime for compulsory and post-compulsory education.

50.  We look forward to a more detailed and representative commentary on post compulsory provision in the 2001-02 Annual Report from HMCI. Moreover we would welcome clear recommendations to support the improvement of post 16 provision based on an analysis of strengths and weaknesses and examples of good practice.



51.  The Annual Report identified continuing overall improvement in the work of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and noted that all those LEAs which had received unsatisfactory reports following inspection in 2000-01 had made improvements. Mr Tomlinson identified the key factor in LEA improvement and effective management as being

52.  On the outsourcing of LEA functions by local authorities, Mr Tomlinson said that the evidence for the success of this policy had yet to be seen. He added that a critical test for outsourcing would be:

    "... how well do all the other services coalesce with education, because you cannot see it as a single entity. Some of the children we have been talking about need a coordinated effort of not only the education service but social services, sometimes housing and the like."[52]  

53.  We support Mr Tomlinson's views on the integration of local services and recommend that this issue should be prioritised in any review of the effectiveness of outsourced local authority education functions.


54.  The HMCI identified several key issues on which OFSTED will focus in the current year:

55.  We welcome this programme of work, and look forward to contributing to the work of OFSTED through constructive engagement as part of our scrutiny of its activities.

28   HC 500 para 29. Back

29   PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Teacher Workload Study, December 2001 page 13 para 1.17. Back

30   Q.37. Back

31   Q.38. Back

32   See also First Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2001-02, The Work of OFSTED, HC 437, paras 5 and 6. Back

33   HC 500 para 93. Back

34   HC 500 page 82. Back

35   Q.55. Back

36   HC 500 paras 35 & 100. Back

37   For example, The Guardian, 12 April 2002. Ms Gehring was acquitted of all criminal charges. Back

38   Q.48. Back

39   Specialist Schools: An evaluation of progress, Office for Standards in Education, October 2001. Back

40   HC 500 para 152. Back

41   Q.73. Back

42   Q.74. Back

43   HC500 page 54, para 192. Back

44   Hodge cracks down on failure, Times Educational Supplement, 13 July 2001. Back

45   Q.113. Back

46   Q.113. Back

47   Q.116. Back

48   Q.117. Back

49   Ev. page 27 (SQ07 para 6). Back

50   Q.81. Back

51   Q.90. Back

52   Q.91. Back

53   HC 500, Commentary, page 21. Back

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