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


Memorandum from the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (NAEIAC) (SQ01)

  1.  The National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants wishes to submit the following comments on the annual report of HMCI 2000-01 to the House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee. NAEIAC, as the recognised professional body and trade union for educational inspectors, advisers and consultants, is firmly committed to the belief that standards and quality of education can be improved through the intervention of professional inspection, advice, support, training and management, and enjoys regular contact with HMCI and OFSTED on issues of current concern to our membership in the field.


  2.  Our submission may be summarised as follows:

    —  Recent major DfES policy initiatives, coupled with the ongoing drive to raise standards in our schools highlighted in this annual report, provide a new opportunity to move towards an integrated approach to school improvement in this country.

    —  Sharing the results of an annual, validated, school self-evaluation exercise between the principal interested parties could represent a useful starting point in this process.


  3.  An important chapter of the annual report is concerned with improving schools. Progress is recorded, with paragraph 281 confirming that the number of schools requiring special measures stands at 137, compared with a total of 230 in the previous year. It is also noted that 194 individual schools registered sufficient improvement over the year concerned to be removed from the special measures category. Paragraph 289, however, reminds us that the proportion of schools designated as having serious weaknesses is similar to that revealed by inspectors over previous years. Further progress in school improvement is certainly required.

  4.  The key issue of the quality of local school leadership and management is understandably highlighted, and paragraph 288 states that many LEAs now have considerable experience of working with schools in special measures and provide good quality support, often via their local link advisers. Some of the valuable strategies deployed by such LEAs are listed in this chapter. The separate chapter dealing specifically with the work of LEAs refers to considerable overall improvement in their dedicated school improvement activity (paragraph 407).

  5.  NAEIAC is conscious of a range of new and significant national-level policy initiatives which will directly affect local schools over the coming period. These include:

    —  Pilot projects to restructure staffing arrangements within schools, and increase the relative proportion of non-teaching support staffs to classroom teaching staffs.

    —  Additional funding for efforts to commence the delivery of the national curriculum to schools and homes via modern electronic media from September 2002 onwards, encouraging more inter-active and individualised forms of learning for pupils.

    —  Proposals to offer greater flexibility in the 14-19 curriculum and move towards parity between academic and vocational qualifications.

  6.  These initiatives by their nature also bring closer the particular aspects of curriculum reform aimed at encouraging more creative and cultural education which were formally recommended, in broad outline, by the government—commissioned 1999 report of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE). Taken together, these policy issues will require major cultural changes within our schools over the next few years.

  7.  LEAs and schools, therefore, face a uniquely busy and challenging time in seeking to achieve these changes, in order to improve the overall education service in this country. NAEIAC contends that a significant opportunity consequently arises for moving towards an integrated approach to the major issue of school improvement, and that this should be duly reflected in the planned reform of the OFSTED inspection process. The formal inspectorial function should be more closely aligned to the major cultural changes within schools now emerging, albeit unevenly, through self-evaluation, and the introduction of performance management systems. However, it should also be better co-ordinated with the developmental work of LEA advisers and other external school improvement services. A starting point could be consideration of the introduction of an annual, validated, school self-evaluation exercise, based on national OFSTED criteria, which could provide useful information to assist both formal OFSTED inspections and the work of educational advisory teams.

  8.  The detailed consultations recently undertaken by OFSTED, as described in this annual report in connection with its review of school inspection systems, while usefully based on proposals which should protect the rigour of the inspection process while acknowledging the growing impact of school self-evaluation, should be extended to consider better co-ordination with the developmental work of educational advisory services. A "joined-up" approach to the overall task of school improvement should embrace the three key elements of (a) school self-evaluation (b) periodic formal inspections and (c) external developmental activity, by establishing appropriate points of connection between these functions. An annual, validated, school self-evaluation exercise, based on national OFSTED criteria, could help to inform both the inspectorial and developmental processes, thus establishing a clearer link between them in the direct interest of local schools and their efforts to raise standards and achieve the changes required by recent policy initiatives.


  9.  NAEIAC hopes that the above points will be of interest to the Select Committee, and would be happy to respond to any requests for further information which may assist the Committee's deliberations. Our Association is grateful to the members of the former House of Commons Education Sub-Committee for their interest in NAEIAC submissions relating to issues raised by HMCI's annual reports.


February 2002

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