Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
TOMLINSON, CBE, MR
100. When schools go into special measures there
is always a certain amount of shock and denial by the school,
but that denial has been followed up by fast action. With serious
weaknesses clearly the schools go into denial, but then they do
not have to face up to the problems. What do you propose should
happen with those particular schools to make them face up to the
weaknesses within those schools?
(Ms Passmore) They have to face up to it in their
action plan. The LEA also has to write a statement about the action
they are going to take. One of the things we should be considering
is instead of simply visiting a sample we need to visit rather
more, and more rapidly so that if things are not moving forward
sufficiently well we are able to say at an earlier stage, before
they go downwards any more, that further action is needed. This
is something that we are looking at at the moment and it will
have to be discussed with the DfEE. We do feel that this group
of schools has not made the progress that we would expect. We
need to make sure that things do get better.
Mr St Aubyn
101. When your predecessor came into your job
he seemed to identify that he was not prepared to live with the
quality of teaching across the board that both parents and children
deserve. In the last seven years the proportion of unsatisfactory
lessons has dropped from 25 per cent down to 5 per cent. Does
that suggest, first of all, that his fears were real, and that
the actions of OFSTED and the other initiatives have put those
fears to rest.
(Mr Tomlinson) Thank you, your question gives me an
opportunity to record here what has happened to the quality of
teaching in our schools. I can go back a stage further to when
the Senior Chief Inspector was Eric Bolton who then talked about,
"A stubborn 30 per cent of teaching". The number was
less significant than the use of the word "stubborn".
As you say, that has gone down since then, in 1993/94 it was 20
per cent and it is now down to 5 per cent. I think that is a tremendous
achievement by our teachers and head teachers, supported by their
governors, at a time of considerable change and challenge. That,
however, is not sufficient for the schools, there has been an
increase in the proportion of teaching which is getting better,
it has gone from 40 per cent to 60 per cent. What I found quite
staggering last year was that 40 per cent of primary schools inspected
last year did not have a single lesson judged unsatisfactory during
the course of that inspection. We, therefore, have that important
cornerstone in a majority of schools, a very high proportion of
teaching which is satisfactory or even better. We also have nine
out of ten schools which are well led. Those two essential ingredients,
which the Inspectorate always identify, are central to school
improvement and are in place. There are, of course, those schools
where that is not the case, we have just been referring to some,
but they are the minority. In the majority there has been a tremendous
step-change in the Report. I think that that is as a result of
the tremendous hard work of our teachers, head teachers supported
by governors in local education, and the like. It gives me a great
deal of optimism about the capacity of the system to take on the
challenges that we have identified in this report and elsewhere,
rightly, the Key Stage 3 issue, and so on. There has been tremendous
improvement. I would like to think that that was reflected in
what we reported about our school system and that teachers all
around can gain confidence from that and lift their eyes from
their bootstraps and look forward with pride to what they achieve.
102. We are coming to end of our time, that
was a very uplifting statement that was made about the development
in our education. I am sorry to end on a, "could do better"
note, as some of us have been very interested for a very long
time in prison education, the kind of communication that I get
from prisoners and from David Ramsbotham's report on prisons does
not really square, I think it is a bit of a whitewash, with the
prison education system. I have to say that I thought they got
off very lightly compared to what I am picking up. Yes, you do
mention the ICT skills shortages, but across the piece. In a sense,
yes, they are in prison because they have done wrong, but they
are very often the people that the education system has failed
the most. You said that in your evidence. It does seem to me,
as Chairman of this Committee, that we need take a very, very
strong and hard look at what we supply to the education and skills
training of prisoners when they are in prison. Perhaps we should
have certain levels where people only got out of prison if they
meet those educational targets, I am sure that is too radical.
I do expect when you come back to this Committee next year it
will be perhaps with more focus on the Education Service in prison.
Apart from that, it has been a pleasure to have you here. I hope
you have found our questions stimulating. Is there anything else
you want to say to this Committee before you depart? Mr Tomlinson,
I think you have had your swan song in the session, have you not?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think so.
103. Do you want to come back on this?
(Mr Taylor) We will not be able to come back to talk
about prison education in the adult population because that will
not be our responsibility in the future. We shall be focusing,
and we are in discussions about this very thing, on the juvenile
estate. We have raised very specific concerns on a number of single
institutions contributing to the reports on prisons. We certainly
would not want to suggest that we think there is any room for
complacency about the educational provision. If we are being too
soft we will look again at the evidence, where we have it.
(Mr Tomlinson) Like any good school we can always
improve. We will seek to do so. Can I thank you for your courtesy
Chairman: Thank you very much, indeed.