Memorandum submitted by Independent Schools
The Independent Schools Council (ISC) represents
the seven leading independent schools associations in the United
Kingdom, collectively educating more than 500,000 children in
1,278 schools. ISC exists to promote choice, diversity and excellence
in education; the development of talent at all levels of ability;
and the widening of opportunity for children from all backgrounds
to achieve their potential.
This note explores and demolishes the case for
transferring regulation of Independent Schools from the Secretary
of State to Ofsted. The proposal is wrong in principle, and is
founded on a serious misrepresentation in the consultation document
of the current role of Ofsted. The consultation on the proposal
has been badly conducted and is probably in breach of Cabinet
Office guidelines. Even before the results of the consultation
are known, Ofsted is recruiting staff on the assumption that the
proposals are a fait accompli.
The Education and Skills Select Committee strongly and rightly
questioned the capacity of Ofsted to cope with its existing workload.
Adding regulatory functions to an already overloaded inspection
body is not a sensible move, especially since the existing system
(regulation by the Secretary of State) works well.
2. THE PROPOSAL
There is no rationale for this proposal:
Ofsted is principally an inspecting
body, not a regulator.
The Secretary of Sate will continue
to be the regulator for maintained schools: it makes no sense
for one part of the UK schools sector to be hived off to Ofsted.
On the contrary, the Secretary of State should be able to report
directly to Parliament on the performance of the entire schools
The independent sector remains crucially
important for the UK economy in providing a high proportion of
qualified applicants to university in maths, sciences and languages.
A major element of Government policy, widely supported by the
independent sector, is to improve the quality of maintained schools
by sharing innovations from the independent sector (and vice
versa). Ofsted's approach in practice is often overly bureaucratic
and veers towards a "one size fits all" methodology.
This is the reverse of what is needed if the independent and maintained
sectors are to cross-fertilise each other.
3. THE PROPOSAL
It is wrong in principle for the inspection
and regulatory regimes to be unified: inspectors should inspect;
regulators should regulate. Where the inspecting body finds flaws,
the regulator should take action. The serious problem of principle
of combining the regulatory and inspection regimes is that the
same body will be judge and jury (or prosecuting counsel and judge).
Undoubtedly, the inspecting body will at times form a wrongly
negative conclusion, and the regulator is the impartial third
party judging between the school and the inspectorate. There is
every reason to keep this arrangement, which is staying in place
for maintained schools. As a matter of logic, and leaving aside
the issues of principle, there is no sense in unifying regulation
and inspection regimes for the 7% of children in the independent
sector while not unifying them for the 93% of children in the
maintained sector. The claim that the proposals will in fact unify
inspection and regulation is in any case completely bogus, as
the following paragraph demonstrates.
4. THE CLAIM
This claim is entirely wrong. It is based on
the false assumption that Ofsted carries out the totality (or
at least the majority) of inspection of independent schools. This
is the reverse of the truth:
All independent schools in England
in membership of the Independent Schools Council are inspected
by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) under statutory
The total number of these schools
in England is 1,219.
The total number of pupils in these
schools amounts to more than 80% of the pupils being educated
in independent schools in England.
ISI is recognised as a high quality
inspectorate and its inspection role is likely to be increased.
ISI will continue to inspect schools
educating the great majority of independent school pupils in England.
Regulation and inspection will therefore not be unified because
inspection will continue to be conducted by separate bodies.
The most recent report from the Education and
Skills Committee on the work of Ofsted was published only nine
days before the consultation on the transfer of regulatory functions
was issued. The report said, at Paragraph 14:
"This is a time of great change for Ofsted
and whilst we are sensitive to the challenges that this brings
we are still concerned at the complex set of objectives and sectors
that Ofsted now spans and its capability to fulfil its core mission".
The report also noted concern at the "increasing
complexity of this large bureaucracy and the ability of its new
non-executive board to rapidly grasp this complexity".
The report was issued without any reference
to the consultation proposals, because, extraordinarily, no hint
was given to the Committee that these proposals were in prospect.
The consultation proposals will inevitably add further weight
and complexity to Ofsted's workload. Even if the proposals were
sensible, which they are not, it would be the wrong time to add
to Ofsted's workload.
The proposal to transfer regulation of the independent
sector is wrong in principle, flawed in concept, and likely to
fail in practice. These points are expanded, with evidence, in
the consultation responses from the Independent Schools Council
(ISC) and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), copies of
which are attached. The ISC response is downloadable from http://www.isc.co.uk/publication_7_0_0_10_289.htm.
10 PDF copies of two job advertisements are attached:
both refer to the transfer in specific terms (not printed). Back
The Work of Ofsted: House of Commons Education and Skills
Committee; Sixth Report of Session 2006-07 (HC 165). Back