Memorandum from the Association of Teachers
and Lecturers (OFS 07)
ATL COMMENTARY ON THE WORK OF OFSTED
ATL broadly welcomes the tenor of OFSTED's Corporate
Plan, the general direction of its plans for improving inspection
and the first steps made towards work in the early years sector.
Within that context it is true to say that there are areas which
we would hope to see emphasised to a greater extent than is currently
good practice guidance;
the role of assistants;
the impact of funding on standards;
issues of staff deployment in schools;
inspections and bureaucracy;
Bridging the gap between the annual report and
the good practice database
1. We welcome both the database and the
prospect of the promised ten reports on topics of interest both
to the government and the teaching profession. We know that secondary
schools have found the subject level guidance helpful in preparing
for an inspection. Nevertheless we consider that there is a case
for the preparation of good practice guidance that draws upon
the material held on OFSTED's database at a wider level than that
of the individual school. Because of the risk that almost too
much attention is being paid to literacy and numeracy, we would
like to see coverage of areas (such as primary Science) that are
at risk of becoming marginalised.
Evaluation of the role of assistants
2. We note (and welcome) the reference in
paragraph 36 but would wish to see evaluation that went beyond
the confines of the Literacy and Numeracy strategies. There is
scope for ongoing assessment of the deployment and training of
assistants both in primary and secondary sectors. We also note
that the present Handbooks are insufficiently explicit on this
issue; revisions will need to take account of rapid developments
in this area.
3. Paragraph 38 refers to OFSTED's role
as independent evaluator of government initiatives. We consider
that there is a wider issue which remains to be addressed and
that is the impact of extra funding on standards. We include in
this the impact of high levels of parental contribution, local
sponsorship and other forms of school level income as well as
initiatives such as the award of Beacon or specialist status.
While it is possible for an inspection to refer to this under
current procedures, it is by no means inevitable and many questions
remain. A government committed to evidence based policy would
benefit from OFSTED's evaluation of its data.
4. As our response to this document has
indicated, we think this consultation is potentially very valuable
in making the outcomes of inspection more useful to schools in
their development planning. We are also convinced that increasing
the amount of survey work will contribute to a more rigorous evaluation
of the plethora of government initiatives. There are, though,
serious disappointments. We consider that there is still the prospect
of superfluous inspection, undertaken extravagantly frequently.
Money saved by reducing the frequency to, say, every ten years
could have been better invested in tracking innovative approaches.
This is a missed opportunity.
5. Nevertheless, opportunities remain. On
the assumption that the Improving Inspection proposals
go forward, it will be necessary to revise the guidance that goes
to schools and inspectors. We consider that the Chief Inspector
could very helpfully consider ways to make it inevitable that
issues of teacher deployment and career development are being
addressed by school management.
6. We say this because one of the weaknesses
of the present model is that it allows these issues to be looked
at only on a discretionary basis. If a school is performing satisfactorily
in terms of outcomes, it is unlikely that, for example, any equalities
issues will be raised either during the inspection or in the report.
Thus the school's responsibilities for overall career development
are ignored in favour of a short termist concentration on acceptable
pupil outcomes. In view of the issues of teacher supply, OFSTED's
authority might encourage all Heads to take the long term view
characterised by the best Heads at present. Pre-OFSTED HMI inspections
looked at teacher qualifications and specialisms in a way which
provided valuable evidence about the profile of the teacher workforce.
Something similar now needs to be done in relation both to teachers
and to assistants.
7. OFSTED is to be commended for its continuing
awareness of the unduly demanding nature of inspections and for
its concern to minimise burdens. But more needs to be done to
ensure that schools stop wasting time and effort in excessive
8. We would very much wish to congratulate
this team on its work to date. We had the pleasure of welcoming
Maggie Smith to ATL. Everyone who met her was struck by her passion
to get things right for children. At this early stage there are
three questions it would be worth the Select Committee exploring:
how will OFSTED deal with the challenge
of ensuring consistency of inspection across the strands of daycare
and school, public and private provision?
how will OFSTED's remit relate to
the work of EYDCPs? Will it be that of data provider or of quality
is it planned that OFSTED's visits
will encompass family focused/extended schools or will the remit
be more restricted?