Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
TOMLINSON CBE, MISS
OBE, MR DAVID
80. But, Chief Inspector, you will know that
this Committee is very concerned about what we consider the supply
chain through into 16 and 18, the fact that increasing evidence
there is something is happening in that sector that is not bringing
through enough talented people who would then go into higher education,
or even into a parallel vocational, good vocational, further education.
And we do feel that there is a job to be done here, in terms of
identifying the weaknesses and doing something about them?
(Mr Tomlinson) I entirely agree with you, and that
is why, as David has already said, the focus of our inspections
now is very, very clearly on the student learner and less on the
systems within the college; and that, we believe, is the right
focus to have. And your point about students moving into higher
education, a figure that I was given recently was, the proportion
of students this last summer with three Cs or better that could
have gone to university from the lower two socioeconomic groupings
amounted to only 800 students, which shows the magnitude of the
task in raising that number of students, their performance, but
more importantly their opportunity and desire to go on to higher
(Mr Taylor) But that does also relate to the statistics
for retention, through further education, because the real concern
is how many students start courses at 16 and do not complete them,
and therefore they are excluded from such statistics.
81. I do hope you will look at the evidence
that we took from the Learning and Skills Council, and from other
people, in those sessions, in terms of our concerns about temporary
contracts, short-term staff, low wages, the morale in the profession?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes.
82. In terms of OFSTED's capacity to inspect
colleges, which are much larger and more complex institutions
than most schools, what proportion of the inspection teams have
experience of the work of colleges outside the conventional GCSE,
A level programme that they will be familiar with in schools?
(Mr Taylor) A high proportion do. The first point
to make, of course, is that all of these college inspections are
83. Do you have precise figures?
(Mr Taylor) Not a figure, because it will differ for
84. And are there figures across the board for
all the inspections that have taken place so far?
(Mr Taylor) We could produce those, but, obviously,
that is not something I have got with me.
85. Sure; and do you publish the CVs of the
inspectors who go into college inspections?
(Mr Taylor) No, we do not publish CVs.
86. But the FEFC did used to do that, I think,
did it not?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think they made it available to the
colleges for comment.
87. Would you consider making them available,
just to deal with this issue about the inspection teams may not
have direct experience of how the colleges work?
(Mr Tomlinson) Can I just say something, to add to
what David said. First of all, we have recruited people into OFSTED,
since we assumed this responsibility, as HMI, as permanent members
of staff. Secondly, of course, we do most of our college inspections
in conjunction with the Adult Learning Inspectorate, who supply
inspectors, for example, with experience and expertise of work-based
training, and the like. Thirdly, we have a large body of people,
which we call additional inspectors, who come on to our inspections,
the vast majority of whom are currently working in colleges. And
we have recently, indeed, seconded into OFSTED a number of college
personnel to help us with this work. So we will look at the figures
and give you them.
We are as keen, I think, as you are hinting at that the team and
its experience and expertise should match the college that is
being inspected, whether it be a sixth-form college or a general
88. Could I follow on from that and say that
one of the characteristics of the former inspection was to have
a member of the college staff on the inspecting body, which the
former HMCI was adamantly opposed to; and, on reflection, do you
feel that that would have been a continuum which would have been
helpful to the OFSTED inspection?
(Mr Tomlinson) No. I think that we discussed this
quite extensively, certainly amongst ourselves, with the Adult
Learning Inspectorate, and elsewhere. The college still nominates
a person to be the link person with the inspection team; the only
time that that person is not present at meetings is where the
team is coming to its judgements and its grades about the performance
of the college. And we think that that is quite right, that that
discussion should be held within the team, based upon all the
evidence, without the presence of someone from the college, who
indeed might just possibly be in the area that the inspectors
are wanting to be critical of; but, up to that point, there is
the link still nominated. And over the inspections that we have
conducted since April of this year, I do not think, David, we
have had any major complaints from colleges about that particular
(Mr Taylor) No. We did have extensive consultations
with the AoC, which was lobbying for providers', nominees, to
have that role, of assisting in the grading meetings; we have
tended to continue to hold the line that, on the whole, defendants
do not sit in on juries' deliberations.
89. But that link person is there to clarify,
in the complexity of a large college, some of the information
that you may require?
(Mr Taylor) Exactly, and all of that is extremely
helpful, and is used in that way, and the feedback we have is
that the college nominee is working closely with the inspection
to provide that kind of help, to help clarify hypotheses as they
are being formulated, and so on. So it is very full co-operation;
we just feel there is one place where it stops working.
90. Moving on to the importance of the student
learner, are you monitoring their views in the same way as you
are now doing within schools, and, if so, can you tell us a little
bit about how that is being done, because you have largely an
adult learning group, and does that make a difference, and how
are you managing in, again, the complexity of the colleges you
(Mr Taylor) As you will be aware, many colleges do
the kind of student survey in quite some detail themselves, and
we naturally make as full use of that information as we can, but
we have, in fact, introduced the student questionnaire in college
inspections, which in some ways is the precursor for what we are
hoping to do in schools. And it provides extremely useful information,
particularly on the kinds of issue that Mike was referring to,
which is the kind of level of counselling and support available,
and how students feel about being in a college, which is a real
focus of the inspection, and one of the concerns which is often
expressed about how students can get lost in the jungle of a big
91. Lastly, the Association of Colleges still
feel, I think, that you are, even in the short time you have been
doing this, concentrating on the bits that you know best, namely,
the 16-19, and although that, I think, in the terms of this Committee,
is especially important, can you tell us a bit about the rest
of the work, and can you refute that criticism?
(Mr Tomlinson) First of all, remember, these are joint
inspections, there are two inspectorates involved in this. We
have responsibility for 16-19, the Adult Learning Inspectorate,
by its name, has responsibility for work-based training and provision,
indeed, for adults, i.e. post 19. So all of our inspections are
jointly with them. We have a profile of the college, and an agreement
is made between the two inspectorates about the balance of inspectors
into the college; so that, in fact, we do have the full range
there. The difficulty is that, of course, in numerical terms,
there may be more adults in the college than there are 16-19 students;
but, in terms of total hours taught and the equivalence that that
brings, that changes quite dramatically, because many adults are
there for one hour per week, or two hours per week. So, in coming
to a decision about the balance of staffing, we have got to make
sure that they are used economically and effectively and are not
sitting around for long periods of time, waiting for that group
of adults to come in for that one hour. It is never easy; but
I would say that we have looked at that balance. I think it would
be true, on one or two occasions, we might have got it slightly
better than we did, that is part of the initial process, but it
is something we now look at, at an individual college level, between
the two inspectorates, and come to an informed decision about
what the best balance of inspectors is for that particular instance.
92. And one last question, similarly, to the
early years; will you be able to tell us, from your inspection,
the value to a 16 year old to be in school, a sixth-form college,
and an FE college?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think the value is an interesting
question; what we have done with the school inspection framework
is modify it to bring it into line for our inspection of sixth-form
provision, into line with the common inspection framework that
applies to colleges, and that started for school sixth-forms this
September. And, therefore, we will be able to draw forward comparable
data and conclusions about provision for 16-19 year olds in schools,
sixth-form colleges, general FE colleges, or indeed for specialist
colleges, where those students are to be found.
Valerie Davey: I shall look forward to reading
Chairman: Chief Inspector, we have tried to
restrain her, but Meg Munn insists on talking about the appointment
of your successor.
93. That may be because I met your predecessor
for the first time, in the early hours of this morning, on some
late night television programme. Moving on to the appointment
of your successor, you may not know, Mr Tomlinson, that this Committee,
in a previous incarnation, took a view that they should be asked
to take an advisory role in the appointment, and have the opportunity
to take evidence from the proposed nominee to the post and have
that subject to a discussion within Parliament. From your personal
position, looking at this, do you think that some qualified candidates
might be dissuaded from applying because of parliamentary scrutiny
of their appointment?
(Mr Tomlinson) I really would not know. I am personally
not involved in the process at all, which is right and proper.
94. But you have got a right to speculate, Chief
Inspector. Would you be put off?
(Mr Tomlinson) No, I would not personally be put off,
but I cannot answer for anyone else, or I am not intending to
answer for anyone else.
95. Thank you, Chief Inspector; but, Judith,
you have been around in this organisation for a while, and you
are at the heart of policy, what do you think, in terms of colleagues
who might apply for the job, would a bit of parliamentary scrutiny
put off a good candidate?
(Miss Phillips) I would not have thought so.
Ms Munn: You have asked all my questions.
Chairman: We have got a few more questions,
and we are running out of time, so I am turning now to reducing
the burden of regulation, and asking Mark to lead on that.
96. Thank you, Mr Chairman. We were leading
to this issue earlier. Could I ask you what you have done to date,
Mr Tomlinson, to reduce the regulatory burden of the inspection
process, and what further improvements you think can be made to
continue that reduction?
(Mr Tomlinson) Back in March of this year, I set in
train, with the Department for Education and Skills, a review
of the demands of monitoring and inspection, because, of course,
part of the Department itself also visits schools and makes demands
on them, so I want to do it jointly. We produced a report in May
which had a total of 24 recommendations of ways that we might
reduce the burden. What we have done so far is that we have, first
of all, improved the pre-inspection forms, so that they are available
electronically, and can indeed be transmitted electronically to
the inspection teams/contractor, and we will continue to try to
improve that, so that there is not a large amount of problem.
Next term, we will, in the preliminary forms, put into the forms
the data we have before we send them to schools, so that, in effect,
schools are checking their data rather than having to find it
and insert it. Thirdly, we have cut back the quantity of data
and paper that schools receive, by merging the, I will use the
acronyms, PICSI report, which is the information given to the
inspection team prior to the inspection, and the Annual Performance
and Assessment Report that we provide for schools. We have combined
those two and the school gets one, and that has cut down enormously
the amount of paperwork that the school receives. We have also
got other things in train. I have stated, quite categorically,
in my letter last September what I did not want headteachers to
demand of teachers. We are reviewing arrangements for visits to
schools, such that we manage them so that no schools have excessive
demands placed upon them for inspection of different sorts at
different times, not just the full school inspection but other
visits that we might make. And we have established a group which
looks at all the demands that we might place on a school, because
I think it is the totality one has to look at, and those have
to go through scrutiny and are rejected if they are not appropriate,
or we do not really need to do that, or it can be combined in
some way. And we are also asking inspectors, from this autumn,
in inspections, to discuss with the school the current level of
bureaucratic demands on them and where they originate from, and
we will, in fact, in some cases, find that reports refer to those
demands and their origins and the extent of them within the school.
So we are very keen to play our part, and also to find out what
schools think about the actual demands and where they come from.
97. Can I ask a little bit further about that
last point you made, that the essence, to my mind, is that you
should be asking not just the inspectorate but also the schools
how they think they can reduce the burden and process of the paperwork;
that whilst also you have been able to do your job fully, as well,
I wonder, are you going through that process, if not, when are
you going to go through that process?
(Mr Tomlinson) We are; it is part of the judgement
about the management and leadership of the school, basically,
and that is a part of that whole area of judgement and inspection.
98. Very briefly, Chief Inspector, following
on from my questioning with regard to further education colleges
and inspection, and so forth, short inspections, is there evidence
to suggest that actually it generates less bureaucracy and paperwork
for schools preparing for short inspections, is there evidence
to suggest that?
(Mr Tomlinson) The requirements upon schools are the
same, whether it is a short or full inspection; what I think we
find with the short inspections are very confident schools, very
effective schools, generally manage that demand, as I think we
have just hinted at, very effectively, and do not impose additional
burdens on members of staff as preparation, because what is required
is already there; it should be. The idea that the school does
not have a prospectus, does not have a timetable, etc., is rather
silly, and they do; and if we can reduce it further we will.
99. Broadening this out slightly, with regard
to the burden of bureaucracy and paperwork on teachers generally,
we know there is a big issue here, we are all conscious of that;
do you think there is a stronger role for OFSTED in addressing
this issue, or certainly making recommendations about how the
burden generally can be reduced, because, at the end of the day,
it does affect a school's ability to teach?
(Mr Tomlinson) Yes; and in my annual report last February
I made the point that this needs reducing to an absolute minimum,
in order to release teachers to teach and leaders to lead. So
I am very much on your side. I think that what we are doing, in
the inspections since September, reporting on it, will enable
the Chief Inspector in future to be able to say, `what is the
extent of it and in what ways,' because the question is not just
about how much of it is there, but how is it affecting the school's
capacity to improve; that is what the inspectors have got to pursue.
And if they are saying in the report that the extent of whatever
the bureaucracy is and wherever it originates from is, in fact,
adversely affecting that, then I hope that inspectors will say
so, and I hope that evidence will be used by the Chief Inspector
to indicate what might need to be done.
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