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


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the Department for Education and Skills (NHMCI 03)

  Thank you for your letter of 11 January requesting information and documents relating to the appointment of David Bell as HM Chief Inspector from 1 May 2002.

  As the Committee will be aware, the post of HM Chief Inspector of Schools is a Crown appointment, made by the Queen in Council on the recommendation of the Government. It therefore falls outside the remit of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) and the Civil Service Commissioners. However, for reasons of openness and transparency, it was agreed that the OCPA public appointment procedures would be followed throughout the process. A copy of the OCPA's guidance is enclosed at Annex 1.[2]


  A small number of staff from the Department, from a variety of grades, were involved in the process and in total an estimated 11 days of civil service time (including the selection and interview process) were spent on the project.

  In addition, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were engaged to administer the competition and to carry out an international executive search. The fees paid to PwC, including the costs associated with advertising the post, are commercially confidential. The other recruitments handled by PwC since 1997 are listed at Annex 2.

  The recruitment process ran to time, being scheduled to begin in September 2001 and finish with an announcement of the recommendation by early January. National advertisements were placed in The Sunday Times on 16 September, the Guardian on 19 September, the Times Educational Supplement on 21 September and The Economist on the 22 September. A copy of the advertisement is enclosed at Annex 3[3]. The advertisement was displayed on the websites of these publications (except for the Economist) and on PwC's website. In addition, the Permanent Secretary wrote to the Head of the Civil Service on 27 September, with copies sent to other Permanent Secretaries, requesting that any suggestions for suitable candidates be passed to PwC. A copy of this letter is enclosed at Annex 4.


  PwC received a total of 51 requests for information packs and 33 candidates applied subsequently. A copy of the application pack is enclosed at Annex 5. There were five candidates who expressed an interest in the post prior to the advertised deadline of 11 October but submitted full applications after that date. The selection panel were content that the reasons (including illness) for late submission justified acceptance of the later applications, and all applications were received prior to the first meeting of the selection panel.

  The selection panel comprised Dame Rennie Fritchie, Commissioner for Public Appointments, as Chair, alongside David Normington, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education and Skills, Professor Peter Scott, Vice Chancellor of Kingston University and Erica Piennar, headteacher at Prendergast School, Lewisham.

  The panel met for the first time on 24 October and agreed a list of 11 candidates to go forward to the next stage. Professor Scott was unable to attend this meeting, but gave comments, which were taken into account.

  PwC assessed these candidates through a substantial interview with each and produced reports for consideration by the panel. The full panel met on 13 November and agreed a short-list of 6 candidates. One of the candidates subsequently withdrew his candidature. The remaining 5 were interviewed by an occupational psychologist who prepared a report on each before the final interviews. Each candidate was briefed by the Permanent Secretary about the post. References were also taken.

  The panel interviewed the five short-listed candidates on 26 November and subsequently made their recommendations to the Secretary of State. The panel recommended that the Secretary of State should see three candidates, all of whom were regarded as suitable for the post. She did this as soon as possible after the panel had met.

  On 6 January, the Secretary of State announced that she would be recommending to the Queen in Council, that David Bell be appointed as HM Chief Inspector of Schools from 1 May 2002. As the Committees notes in its latest report, this announcement was made a day earlier than intended, following an article in the Sunday Times.

  At a meeting of the Privy Council, held on 12 February, David Bell's appointment from 1 May 2002 to 30 April 2007 was confirmed. A copy of the Order in Council is enclosed at Annex 6.

  Mr Bell will be paid 115,000 per annum with a maximum 12 per cent non-consolidated and non-pensionable performance bonus available. Other documents enclosed with Mr Bell's contract were: the Civil Service Code; the rules on political activities; a basic guide to the Official Secrets Act 1989; and the guidance on the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme.

  As the Committee will be aware, it is not standard practice for the names of unsuccessful candidates to be disclosed. Furthermore, our view is that if it became standard practice to do so, prospective applicants may be deterred from applying at all.

  Background detail on the process leading to the appointment of Chris Woodhead in 1994 and Mike Tomlinson in 2002 including the orders confirming their appointments are included at Annex 7.

John Major

Parliamentary Clerk, Department for Education and Skills

February 2002


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