Examination of Witnesses(Questions 60-79)|
WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2002
60. We are suggesting in the way you are thinking
in terms of the way inspection contracts will go, that is what
(Mr Bell) To some extent that can happen if the inspector
is not very good, whether they are part of a very small team or
part of a very large team. This is about bringing about an improvement
overall, as we have done in the quality of inspection. I think
that good inspection, as I suggested, is independent, rigorous,
external, and helping the school to improve its performance. One
of the things I would say about this inspection is we are spending
£30 billion on education in this country. I would have thought
it is entirely legitimate for Parliament (which votes that expenditure)
to know what is working and to have objective measures of performance,
because I think one of the virtues of this kind of dialogue and
debate this morning is that we can talk to you on the basis, not
of anecdote, not of what we happen to think should or should not
be happening, but on the basis of the evidence that we find, and
that can bring about improvements in quality.
61. Is that not the real heart of the difference
between some of us on this Committee and the kind of philosophy
you are espousing, the fact that when we were in New Zealand they
wanted a better alternative to assess the achievement of their
pupils but none of them wanted to go either to the inspection
system or to the testing and examining system that we have in
this country. It just seems to me sometimes that the view that
you have just expressed is constantly pushing our schools to testing
and examining at seven, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, where at the end of
the day we drive out through inspection on the one hand and exams
and testing on the other the ability to allow teachers to teach
and children to learn. That is the criticism of part of what Ofsted
(Mr Bell) Obviously it is not for me to comment directly
on national tests in this conversation.
62. Is there not a danger that what you are
obsessed with in Ofsted is measurementthe old management
thing if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it? That seems
to be what you are espousing today.
(Mr Bell) What I would sayand I think we had
a conversation about this the last time I was hereis that
one of the virtues of the Ofsted inspection system is that it
does not just look at one measure of performance. So when a parent
or a teacher picks up an Ofsted inspection report he says, "How
well is this school doing against national comparators? How well
is this school doing against similar schools? What is the behaviour
like in this school? What is the management like in this school?
What range of extra curricular activity go on for the pupils in
this school? What is the attendance like?" I think that rounded
picture of what is going on in a school is very, very important.
The other thing I would sayI think this is a really very
encouraging statisticis that we are now pretty well there
in terms of the second round of inspections. We will finish the
second round of inspections of all schools by next summer. So
far nine out of ten schools inspected a second time have shown
improvement since the first inspection. I am not claiming credit
for inspection, but what I think I can do is report on that improvement.
I actually think it is quite a powerful tool for you at a national
level to have that evidence, but do not under-estimate how important
the individual schools feel about having that.
(Mr Taylor) Just really to pick up on your use of
the word "measurement" and to underline the point that
David is making, that in a system where, as I think you rightly
say, there is a considerable danger that only that which is quantified
and recorded and assessed in a formal statistical way is valued,
the importance of having a body which keeps saying, "Yes,
but what about quality? What about the quality of the teaching?
What about the quality of the leadership? What about the nature
of the experience for children? What about the way in which the
community is supporting its schools?" is all the more demonstrable
because we get in to evaluate the heart of the process in ways
that are not subject to those easily tabulated sets of bar graphs.
We actually test out whether those mean anything and whether when
you look at what is happening to real pupils in real schools,
real children in the early years and real students in colleges,
what they are getting matches up to these external benchmarks
and statistics. That is what we are there for.
63. Are you saying that loudly and clearly enough?
Why did we have to go to New Zealand and as what they were doing
in their education system? Why are not some of you people saying
we are getting to the stage of over-examining and over-testing
and we are doing damage to children's education? I do not hear
that from Ofsted.
(Mr Taylor) You have not been reading our reports.
64. We have, it is buried. I do not hear David
Bell going on television and radio and clearly saying there is
a great danger if we carry on this path of over-testing and over-examining
we will drive out the ability of teachers to teach and children
to learn in the classroom. We just do not hear it at the moment.
(Mr Taylor) I will quote one example. Read the main
findings of the report on the first year of the new AS arrangements
about the dangers of the excessive burden. There are many more
(Mr Bell) Can I give you one
65. You were not expecting to come to this Committee
and get an easy time.
(Mr Bell) I had a naive belief once, Chairman. You
received as part of your pack of materials a press release relating
to our recent report on the curricula in successful primary schools.
That is a very good example again of what we are saying. Here
are schools that have combined the continuing emphasis on high-quality
literacy and numeracy with a broad, balanced and enriched curriculum.
We say categorically in that report that this is not beyond the
reach of all primary schools in this country. It is another piece
of evidence. We are not just saying keep focusing on this, that
and the other. We recognise, as David said, the importance of
the quality of experience. As I said when I launched that report,
this is a good news story about combining high standards with
a high quality, enriched curriculum for young children.
66. What is the strongest thing you have said
about the number of tests and exams that children have in the
system? What is the strongest thing in any of the publications?
(Mr Bell) Colleagues can come in if they will, given
their greater awareness of Ofsted's distinguished history! The
point I would make is that decisions regarding assessment at key
stage levelsseven, 11, 14 and 16are national government
decisions, so I do not think it is for me to comment.
67. You are responsible to this Committee and
you do not have to be frightened of the Department for Education
and Skills nor the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister believes
we are at our best when we are bold. What we are explaining to
you is sometimes be bold and say to this Committee that Government
policy and the way it is working through is not good for the education
of our children.
(Mr Bell) I will be very frank and bold with you.
I believe that it is important to have national testing at seven,
11, 14 and 16, and obviously external testing. I will tell you
why I think it is important to have that. Again prior to those
sorts of arrangements being in place, it was not possible for
parents and others to know how we were doing in the education
system, not just how we were doing generally but often what progress
their children were making. What I would sayand I think
this is an issue that is worthy of further examination perhaps
by Ofsted and more generallyis that that national testing
system, of course, has spawned a whole range of other assessments
in schools, and I think there may be a question as to whether
that is always sensible. So we have now got tests between key
stages, we have now got the tests that secondary schools will
often apply when pupils first go into secondary schooland
we commented on that in a recent report on the transition from
primary to secondary. There is a question there that needs to
be looked at. Again picking up what we said in that report about
successful primary schools, those headteachers and those teachers
in those schools were not complaining and saying, "This is
a terrible burden, this is awful, this is dreadful." What
they were saying was, "We can use that information intelligently
to find out what our pupils are doing and to devise an appropriate
curriculum." There is a question about good schools always
being able to use assessment information intelligently. Maybe
there is a question about all the other assessments that have
been spawned on the back of the national tests.
68. I am interested in exploring a bit more
how you measure the success of the improving schools. You were
saying that as Ofsted approaches its second complete round of
inspecting schools, you have got a lot of evidence that a lot
of schools have improved since the first round and you were saying
that 30% of teachers were unsatisfactory when Ofsted first went
to schools and now the figure has dropped dramatically. How much
is it that schools have simply learned how to press buttons and
jump through the hoops that you want them to? Is that the same
as saying schools are dramatically improving or are they simply
achieving what you want?
(Mr Bell) I think that is a serious and important
question but in the end I would have thought that headteachers,
teachers and governors would recognise that that is not particular
sensible and valuable. The other thing that I would say is that
although an inspection is a process that takes place over a few
days in a week, one of the things that inspectors are very careful
to do is to look at evidence that demonstrates what is going on
over the rest of the school year. For example, we look at samples
of children's work to see what has been happening. The questionnaire
to parents gives you a flavour of what is going on when inspectors
are not there. It is an important point that we must continue
to use inspection as a focus but also to make sure we have a bigger
picture of what is going on in schools. When you talk to headteachers
and teachers, nobody is pretending inspection is not a pressure,
of course it is a pressure for all sorts of reasons, but I think
often schools will comment that it is useful to have that external
check on what is going on. The best value for inspection is derived
in schools where teachers and headteachers and governors see it
as part of their continuing process of evaluating how well they
69. Can we go to the specific example where
30% of teachers were unsatisfactory and now it has dropped to
(Mr Bell)Five per cent unsatisfactory.
70. The NASUWT, of which I am a member (to declare
an interest) have said in their evidence: "The conduct of
inspection is overly dependent on the use of unreliable subjective
perceptions sourced from the practice of classroom observation."
Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon has been very critical of the unreliable
nature of classroom observations. In the first round of Ofsted
inspections a lot of teachers saidand I was subjected to
the first round of Ofsted inspections as a teacher"We
are not jumping through hoops for these people. We have got all
our normal work to do. We have got exams, we have got reports,
we have got coursework, we have got exam boards." In the
second round of inspections they jumped through hoops. An average
teacher does three lessons in the week that Ofsted is there. Do
you really think that the three lessons your inspectors see that
week are the same for the next four years until you come again?
(Mr Bell) Let me just comment on one part of what
you said. I think if you asked teachers and headteachers up and
down the country whether the Ofsted criteria for what constitutes
good teaching is right, most people will say, "Yes, that
gives you a good flavour of what it is to teach effectively."
I think that has been an important lever. You might say that is
just doing what Ofsted expect, but of course, that criteria did
not just emerge out of the ether. That was a judgment about what
really did make effective teaching, so if teachers are looking
at their performance critically against the characteristics of
what makes good teaching, forget the Ofsted dimension of this,
and improving their practice, surely, that is a good thing. I
think that is an important point to make and that is not quite
the same as jumping through hoops. As far as what you see when
you observe and is that typicalit is back to the point
I would make that it is quite important that inspectors do not
rely simply on an observation once, twice, three or however many
times but actually look at the wider evidence that gives you an
insight into the quality of teaching. For example, what does pupils'
work demonstrate? Is it good quality? Is it well marked? Does
it cover the curriculum range?
(Miss Passmore) As David said, the criteria we have
developed and are continuing to refine (and will have further
refinements in the framework that will start next September) have
come through working with a very large number of people in schools
along the way. I think the purpose of teaching is quite clear
to everybody, that it is to help youngsters to learn, and if jumping
through a hoop means you do something that helps youngsters learn,
then that must be a movement in the right direction. We have seen
over the years while we have been present in classrooms some very
poor practice where nobody was learning anything. There is a great
deal more practice where youngsters are making progress. We do
still from time to time hear anecdotes about people being parachuted
in for the week and extra preparation. We keep saying, "Please
do what you do normally do", because when you look at the
work and when you talk to the pupils, it is not in anybody's interest
to do something different just for that week. We are concerned
that we do not knowthe time we have often citedwhat
happens on a wet Friday afternoon. We have to assume that what
we see is the very best that is going on. We have done some paired
working to assess what is going on and to whether it is valid
or not. We have had two inspectors in a room (with the agreement
of the school concerned, because obviously if you have got two
inspectors rather than one that of itself could add to stress)
and we have found very, very similar correlations between both
inspectors. We are working at the moment on doing further work
to try and improve so that we get even less discrepency where
people might make different judgments about the same lesson.
Paul Holmes: If you think that what you
see in that week in a school of an average teacher is what goes
on for the best part of the next four years, I think you are being
71. You made the point about the importance
of the bigger picture and the range of indicators for a school.
Does it follow that you think that the league tables should be
broadened rather than focusing on single score examination results?
If so, have you advised the Government to that effect?
(Mr Bell) I have two things to say about that. First
of all, of course the league tables/performance tables are going
to be enhanced from this year with the addition of value added
data, which will be extended to all primary schools next year.
So that gives you an enhancement.
72. It still focuses on academic achievement,
not the broader range?
(Mr Bell) I think that is one kind of performance
inspection. I actually believe that another kind of performance
information is what an Ofsted report gives you. As I suggested
earlier, you are getting that broader range. We know that the
majority of people, when they are looking at schools, will look
at performance tables, and as we know from the hits on our web
site people will come and look at Ofsted reports. Of course people
do what they should do; they go and visit the schools themselves.
They talk to the headteacher and teachers, they walk round and
see what is going on. I would have thought most people use a variety
of indicators and measures to give them a flavour of what is going
on. We believe we make one important contribution to that by publishing
a report that covers a range of indicators of what the school
73. Do you think league tables should evolve
beyond the introduction of the value-added element?
(Mr Bell) No is the straight answer to that because
I believe that with the Ofsted data you have then got that broader
picture of what a school is doing.
74. I have a couple of questions on the Race
Relations Amendment Act. The Act requires you to take account
and promote the issue of race equality within public bodies and
it includes yourself and schools. You have published your Race
Equality Scheme. Can you tell what your inspectors now do differently
and how you monitor that? Could you also comment on the fact that
there has been criticism that there is not always a focus on promoting
a positive agenda on race relations in all schools which have
a completely white intake.
(Mr Bell) Can I make two very quick general points.
First of all, just to emphasis again, a point I made earlier about
our guidance to inspectors. It is a condition of continuing registration
to evaluate education that provision is made for this. The second
general point it is an area that Ofsted more generally has reported
on because, of course, recently we produced a report on the performance
of black Afro-Caribbean youngsters in both primary and secondary
schools. We do take these issues seriously. Turning to the specifics
I will ask Elizabeth to answer.
(Miss Passmore) We produced our Race Equality Scheme,
as you said, and published it by 31 May as required and undertook,
when we received the final statutory guidance, which came the
next day 1 June, that we would look again at our scheme as and
when appropriate. We will do that by 31 March next year. We have
in our Race Equality Scheme to take account of our duties as a
public body as they apply to us. We also have the duty to promote
race equality through our work as an inspectorate. In that area,
we have looked at the framework for schools, for colleges and
so on, and as it becomes time for reviewing them, we are making
revisions to those frameworks so there are provisions in hand
for the framework that will emerge for next September.
75. But what is happening in schools? There
has been criticism that little is done to promote inclusion and
the positive nature of living in a multi-cultural world in schools
that do not have an ethnic composition.
(Miss Passmore) Schools similarly had to have a policy
in place by 31 May and we are at the moment inspecting for the
first term or so with that new requirement being in place. We
have not at the moment asked for separate paragraphs to be pulled
out because, as David said, we feel this is something that should
pervade what is going on in the school.
76. We do not want bolt on; we want it to be
(Miss Passmore) That is what we are asking inspectors
to do. We have started looking again at reporting to see whether
there is better reporting and that is now beginning to come through.
We are not giving up at this point. We will be issuing further
guidance to make the reporting even stronger as we issue further
guidance in updates later this term.
77. You would expect to see schools which have
all-white populations promoting race relations?
(Miss Passmore) It is a duty that they must.
78. There is a further criticism about the inspection
of initial teacher training which was published in June 2002 and
the criticism is that it does not make explicit reference to the
positive duties under the Act. Professor Osler has given evidence
to us and she is saying that it should be explicit within the
framework. What is your comment? If something is not explicit
in the framework of teaching, what is going to happen further
down the field? What is your response to those criticisms?
(Miss Passmore) The framework obviously was produced
at a particular time when it was difficult to know what the final
requirements were going to be, and we have had to look at what
it is in our duty to require of initial teacher training organisations
and higher education and what it is they need to be checking for
themselves. We are conscious of these concerns and are looking
further at what we need to do to strengthen this.
79. It was published in 2002 and the Act has
been around since 2000.
(Miss Passmore) This was the revised framework