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Lord Dearing: I did not intend to speak to this amendment but I do so having listened to the arguments of the noble Baroness. The present structure of the inspections as set out in Clause 68 is not really a partnership or joint inspection. It is an inspection under the direction of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to a plan determined by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools producing a report offered by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and following a composition of an inspectorate determined by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.

That particular approach puts the ALI in a totally subordinate position. Therefore, it is most unlikely to attract the quality of inspector required to be effective and will be at risk of losing that distinctive contribution which is needed for a community of learners which is adult rather than young, part-time rather than full-time, and possibly needing greater encouragement to engage in education and upskilling. After all, we are trying to create an adult learning society. If the Government are set on this particular approach, the result may be damaging to the Government's aspirations.

Therefore, while I am minded to support the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, in his amendment, I express great concern at the approach adopted both in the combination of the present clauses, and including, in particular, Clause 68.

7.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: We appear to be moving away from the amendments under discussion. I do not want to enter into debates which will come later. As I have said before, it is important in Committee that we do not have a Second Reading debate about a particular aspect of the Bill, such as inspection, but that we focus on the amendments tabled.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that our proposals are a mess and that they would be incoherent. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that we have a rather incoherent system at present. The Government intend to create a much more coherent system than that established by her government.

I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I am grateful to her for indicating that she will not be moving Amendments Nos. 182 and 187 which would give ALI a remit for inspecting school sixth forms. I am glad that she and her colleagues have realised that that would not make a great deal of sense.

The amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness would fundamentally change the character of the Bill. Amendment No. 183 would exclude the inspection of

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colleges outside the FE sector, including specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities which we have just discussed and about which her noble friend Lord Addington expressed concerns. The noble Baroness may want, on reflection, to acknowledge that that was not her intention.

Amendment No. 184 extends the remit of the adult learning inspectorate so that it has sole responsibility for post-16 inspection other than sixth forms. As a consequence I understand that Ofsted's role in post-16 inspection would be restricted to only school sixth forms. I believe that is what the noble Baroness has in mind.

Perhaps I may address the fundamental points of principle which the noble Baroness called the logic behind our approach. I hope that that will help, too, in answering some of the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, will forgive me if I do not pick up on his interjection. I believe that that is much more relevant to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Haskel which we shall reach later.

I turn to our own proposals which, despite the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, are coherent. Our provisions will build on the best of the three existing inspection systems. I cannot understand why the noble Baroness finds that unacceptable.

I pay tribute not just to Ofsted, which is well known for its work in raising standards in education, but also to the important work of the FEFC Inspectorate and the Training and Skills Council Inspectorate. They have done sterling work across the spectrum of post-16 provision, which we should acknowledge. We want to build on and draw on that sterling work in the new structures we are creating. Our proposals will combine the best traditions of the three existing inspectorates and produce a system far better than that we have at present.

It is wrong to suggest that the two new inspectorates will be falling over each other. They will not; they will be working together. No single inspectorate could encompass the range and variety that has to be inspected in the whole of the post-16 provision of learning for both academic qualifications and, indeed, vocational skills.

At Second Reading, and in the debate on the earlier amendment tonight, I explained that we shall have a common inspection framework. I believe that this will be a new, valuable and visionary document compatible with the quality improvement strategy at the centre of the work of the LSC. The collaboration of the two inspectorates--ALI and Ofsted--both using the common framework, will add considerable value. The new regime will also have rigour so that the inspectorates can take a penetrating look at standards across all streams of learning. Members of the Committee will appreciate that on standards generally there is considerable room for improvement.

It may be helpful at this point if I say a little more about the common inspection framework. It will include a series of common principles for inspection,

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set out by the chief inspectors. I expect to see, for example, that inspection will give priority to judgments about teaching and that it will place emphasis on the standards achieved. It will also address continuous self-improvement and internal quality assurance.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I believe that internal quality assurance is a matter which FE colleges, sixth-form colleges, work-based training and school sixth forms should be able to embrace. There will also be principles relating to practical issues; for example, that joint inspection teams must reflect the expertise needed to inspect the range of provision, and that the balance of provision in the institution must be reflected within the inspection team. I refer, for example, to the proportion of inspectors from each inspectorate.

There will also be a series of quality statements or judgments explaining what inspectors will be looking for in particular areas. The inspectorates also anticipate producing a handbook of practical arrangements to go alongside the statutory framework.

Perhaps I may say to the Liberal Democrat Benches that the restriction of Ofsted's role in post-16 inspection would be a considerable mistake. The experience and rigour of Ofsted, building on its expertise in school sixth forms, is surely relevant to sixth-form colleges. The benefit of that rigour would be lost. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, supports the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and wants Ofsted to be removed from this work or whether she takes a somewhat different view. The noble Baroness shakes her head so I assume that she takes a different view from that put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

Ofsted has brought together its considerable experience in a number of influential reports on effective sixth forms, modular A-levels and GNVQs. We have to remember that some 40 per cent of all students studying for A-levels and GNVQs are in the FE sector. So, there is a great deal of advantage to be gained from Ofsted being able to inspect across the two sectors in these important areas.

For all those reasons, I should be reluctant to accept the amendments tabled in this group which restrict Ofsted's role in post-16 work. As I have said, drafting on the common framework is being done by the inspectorates. At this stage, the Government have no formal role. That must be right and in keeping with the tradition of the independence of the inspectorates. However, I hope that the consultation in spring will coincide with a related consultation on the quality strategy of the LSC. I accept that that document, and the common inspection framework, will need to be compatible and coherent.

As regards the two consultations on the framework, in the spring we hope to have the one to which I have alluded. There will also be the statutory three-month consultation under the procedures set out in Clause 67. That can take place only when the Bill is enacted. I

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believe that that will give ample opportunity for those with an interest in this area to comment upon it. It will mean that the framework will also quickly become a familiar document--all providers will know what it contains and what to expect when they are inspected.

The amendments that have been spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, are substantial. However, in my view, the arguments against them are more substantial. I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Baroness decides what to do about the amendment, perhaps I may return to a few points. I begin with the criticism that, somehow or other, we were making Second Reading speeches. It was almost impossible to discuss these amendments without mentioning the inspection framework, because such amendments would disturb that framework. Therefore, I make no apologies in that respect. I certainly was not making a Second Reading speech. Nevertheless, it is important for us to understand precisely what the consequences of acceptance of these amendments would be.

The Minister referred to a very "incoherent" system that the Government have apparently inherited. Can the noble Baroness say, quite specifically, in what way Ofsted has failed, given the fact that it has been responsible thus far for inspecting sixth-form education as part of the inspection of schools as a whole? Can she also say in what way the FEFC is incapable--or, indeed, its successor, the ALI would be incapable--of inspecting the quality of the teaching and the learning, as well as the training and its effect on adult learning environments? I simply do not know.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised an important point; namely, that it is not possible to extend the remit of any one inspectorate body to inspect right across post-16 education simply because you cannot extend Ofsted's remit any further. The very valid point was made that Ofsted now has almost cradle to grave responsibilities in any event. Indeed, that starts from nursery education, baby minding and carers and will now also include all 16-plus education under the extension already encompassed within the Bill. Answers to such questions are important to the debate.


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