Memorandum from the National Union of
Teachers (SQE 01)
I thought it would be helpful if I sent you
a letter setting out some questions which arise from the HMCI
report for 1999-2000. It is a detailed report and the questions
set out below are not inclusive. There are other equally pertinent,
questions that arise from the report.
1. The report comments that in primary schools
"too often time for teaching other subjects is lost by devoting
the whole morning to English and mathematics". It goes on
to state "in some schools there are signs of a loss of depth
and breadth of the curriculum, for example in design and technology
and geography, in part as a result of a loss of time".
How does the Chief Inspector think that primary
schools should address the issue of breadth and balance for all
pupils concerned, given the difficulties of managing the timetable?
2. The report is critical of the teaching
of writing in primary schools (paragraphs 17 and 18).
Does the Chief Inspector believe that this is
a fault of the literacy strategy itself or the quality of the
training offered to teachers?
3. The report is critical of the quality
of ICT teaching and learning in both primary (paragraph 24) and
secondary (paragraph 81).
Would it be fair to say that the quality of
information technology teaching is very much dependent on the
level of ICT resourcing in schools and the levels of regular personal
access to computers by teachers?
4. The HMCI's Annual Report states "[assessment]
continues to be the worst aspect of teaching and was unsatisfactory
in one in six schools receiving a full inspection. In the three
in ten schools where this was good, teachers used well-constructed
questions to assess pupils' understanding, particularly at the
end of lessons. Marking was regular, focused, consistent and gave
clear messages to pupils. The information was used to adjust appropriately
the pace and context of lessons" (paragraph 78).
Does he consider that his findings that assessment
"continues to be the weakest aspect of teaching" provides
a powerful indication that assessment policy at a national level
must urgently restore the focus upon formative teacher assessment
rather than summative assessment by prioritising guidance, funding
and resources towards developing and supporting classroom based
assessment which teachers can use diagnostically?
5. There is concern about the effects of
pupil behaviour upon the effectiveness of schools and upon overall
levels of attainment. The HMCI's findings that "the proportion
of unsatisfactory behaviour . . . is slightly higher than in previous
years" (paragraph 91) are alarming.
Why does the HMCI think the proportion of unsatisfactory
behaviour has risen?
What does the HMCI believe to be the impact
of Government requirements to set targets for reducing exclusions
and truancy on pupil behaviour?
Does the HMCI believe that the balance of sanctions
and support available to schools is sufficient to tackle the effects
of disruptive pupil behaviour on teaching and learning?
6. The HMCI report states "Attainment
tends to be higher and progress greater in larger sixth forms.
Smaller sixth forms often recruit students with relatively low
prior attainment, often from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of
these students make satisfactory progress and achieve the results
expected, given their relatively low starting point" (paragraph
Does the Chief Inspector agree that this statement
supports the view that no school sixth form school be closed on
the grounds of size alone?
7. The report says "teachers [do] not
always succeed in the time available in developing the skills
Does HMCI think that this situation will be
exacerbated by the fact that, within the new AS level structure,
teachers will now normally need to prepare students for their
first examinations within the third term of their studies at advanced
level? In short, does HMCI think that the new AS/A level structure
is right for all pupils?
8. The report states that "Many special
schools are having to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse
pupil population, often as a result of the re-organisation of
provision by LEAs".
Would the Chief Inspector agree that LEAs should
provide enough diverse placements to meet the individual needs
9. The report refers to the role of a named
teacher for children in public care. The report states that, "The
workload in monitoring the children is not excessive, but the
named teacher ensures additional support where necessary, co-ordinates
reports for reviews and acts as advocate when required".
Does the Chief Inspector agree that the designated
teacher will require adequate training, resources and time in
order to carry out the identified responsibilities?
10. The section of Fresh Start (paragraphs
241-242) confirms that the initiative has largely been a failure.
Paragraph 242 on the lessons learnt from the Fresh Start experience
identifies the timescale and level of support that these schools
need, much of which has been incorporated into DfEE guidance issued
in the autumn term.
What role does OFSTED have in preventing the
DfEE being "wise after the event" with its initiatives
in the future?
11. The statement with the Annual Report
that "recruitment of suitably qualified staff is increasingly
a problem for schools, particularly those in urban areas"
(paragraph 108) should be viewed with considerable alarm. The
findings that the use of non-specialist teachers is too widespread
and that high levels of staff absence and turnover are causing
severe disruption are of serious concern. In the commentary of
the report the Chief Inspector states, "Urgent action is
more than ever needed on the recruitment and retention of teachers,
as the Government plainly acknowledges."
While the teacher supply crisis may now be "acknowledged"
by the Government does he believe that it is being "addressed"?
Does HMCI believe that the present difficulties
in the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff is
a contributing factor to a number of those weaknesses in secondary
education which were identified by his inspectors in some schools
as outlined in his Annual Report?
Does he further believe that teacher recruitment
and retention is an issue to be urgently addressed in order to
maintain and build on the many improvements in the standards of
teaching, learning, and pupil attainment which he has been able
to identify in his Annual Report for 1999-2000?
12. The report criticises the effective
use of other adults by primary teachers (paragraph 21).
Will the Chief Inspector comment about how the
management of other adults by teachers should be addressed in
terms of the parameters of teachers' roles, responsibilities and
13. This year's report is too early to make
judgements about the effects of outsourcing of LEA functions.
Would HMCI comment on paragraph 340 which states
that of seven LEAs inspected, five improved without intervention
(though in some cases with support from the DfEE)?
Is there not an argument that LEAs should be
given the opportunity to address the areas of weakness in their
OFSTED reports, with support from the DfEE and from successful
LEAs, before being required to outsource their services?
National Union of Teachers